I’ve started to write this so many times but have yet to finish the letter. I couldn’t bring myself to complete something I can’t send or get a reply to. This is our fifth Christmas without you and I thought it would be easier by now. I can’t believe you’d lost both your parents by the age of 28 and could still get out of bed every day; let alone raise two children, hold down a job and maintain a marriage.
There’s so much I want to tell you, so much you’ve missed. I want to believe you still exist in some form and that you’ve seen all the good things that have happened in your absence but that feels cruel. Like being on the outside of a great party and not being able to join in. Of course, if you’d seen all the good things you’d have seen the bad. I’m so sorry, I’ve spent a lot of time not being the daughter you raised and blaming you for everything. We both know I was broken before you got sick and losing you became my Get Out of Jail Free card for everything. But I’m clawing back some of my sanity and I’ve given up drinking, the source of so many problems (348 days sober today!)
Something happened earlier this year that I thought was impossible – I forgot what your voice sounded like. I went from hearing you telling me you loved me every day (even in my head, after you’d gone) to silence. You know Dad’s not much of a talker when it comes to feelings and without anything resembling a functional relationship “I love you” has pretty much disappeared from my life. Last night I dug out the Christmas books you read to us when we were little and as I held them and started to read I heard you again and it was the best Christmas present I could have asked for.
I need to tell you that although the last few weeks of your life were so traumatic I am finally able to let that pain go. I had three years of flashbacks, nightmares and sometimes I thought the pain would kill me but I am still here. Early next year I am speaking to a trauma counsellor to deal with what went on in my brain after you died. I held off for so long because part of me needed to keep reliving what happened because letting it go felt like letting you go. But I’m only letting go of the anger and hurt. You didn’t abandon us, you raged against an aggressive tumour and doubled the pitiful life expectancy doled out by your doctors. You were a bloody hero and I will never tire of telling people that.
Christmas will always be hard, it was your day to shine. You made it look so easy and it was such a perfect holiday for you – food, family, laughter – your three favourite things. I never told you but I spent most of my first Christmas without you as an adult in my own home crying. It just didn’t feel right without you. And it still doesn’t. Grief is a physical presence in the house. There’s a seat we still don’t use because it’s your seat. A side of the bed that remains untouched. Pristine pillows missing your usual drool stains (we even miss your snoring!) Dad misses his best friend, I miss my annual gift of giant knickers and socks that are too tight.
I think I am finally inching towards acceptance. So much of what happened doesn’t seem fair but then life isn’t fair. You taught me that. Damn you for raising a pessimist.
I love you. I miss you. Until we meet again…