Recently I've really been missing my dad. For any of you who don't know, my dad passed away a little over a year ago. It's not like any particular things have made me miss him, but it's just a general feeling of missing him. Part of it is that this season of winter depresses me in general, and so it's easier to get down about even the littlest things like having a fingernail that gets caught on your sweater and snags it or like spilling something all over your kitchen floor. But missing someone in this season of winter is especially hard, because life just feels generally cold and all I want to do is wrap up my heart in a big fleece blanket and warm it with a hot cup of tea.
It's hard to describe not having someone in your life anymore who is a major part of who you are. It's hard to help people understand if they have never lost anyone important to them. Most days it's not something I talk about or even realize in a tangible way, but it's always there in my heart. It just sits in you like a hollow space, this empty hole that used to be filled by someone, but nothing can ever fill that void. Memories and pictures and stories might come close, but they're like puzzles pieces that just don't fit. They're in the same shape, but they're just too small. There's still space left to fill.
When I imagine the sound of my dad's laugh it is the closest thing I can hold in my heart to filling that empty space. It doesn't fill the void, and in fact, sometimes it just reminds me of the void that's there. And sometimes we just need to trudge through the ache of that empty, hollow, wordless place of missing someone...as hard as it may be.
The other night I was working on a puzzle with my 4-year-old niece, Maddy, and I told her that I used to do puzzles with her Mimi and Papa (my mom and dad) all the time in the winter. To that she said, "Sometimes I miss Papa." And I told her, "Yeah, I miss him too." Then she said, "Sometimes I wish we could go see him. But we don't know how to get there." (She couldn't actually remember the word for heaven, so she was stuck until I reminded her of where it is that he is. And she also thinks that heaven is a place you go on an airplane...but she's starting to realize it's not.) So I told her, "Yeah, well we can't really get to heaven yet. Someday we will though and we'll get to see Papa then."
I look forward to that day, and I think sometimes that's all that you can think about to get you through times when you feel empty and like all that's inside of you is frozen, dried up, and hollowed out.
On a much funnier note, here's another story from Maddy that hopefully my sister won't mind me sharing. Last week Cory (my sister) called me hysterically laughing to share with me what my niece had just told her. Cory had given her some change and a dollar to put in her piggy bank, and Maddy pointed out that George Washington was on the dollar. She told Cory that "He helps the people." And just before that, she had looked at the penny and said, "That's Abe Lincoln. He's died." So Cory said, "You're right! That is Abe Lincoln, and yes, he died a long time ago!" In response to that Maddy said quite seriously, "Yeah...I really miss him."
And so it's a season of missing people. Even a 4-year-old senses it. Whether it be Dads, Papas, or Abe Lincoln.