Seven years. My daughter has grown from a mewing infant into the tall, gregarious child I see before me as I type this. In the same time that her life has progressed, your life with us has been over.
There have been a million times I’ve wished for you, wanted you or needed to hear your voice. I have craved your guidance, your support and your love. I’ve wondered out loud if you know anything that’s happened and, sometimes, in my happiest and weakest moments, I’ve hoped you were watching. I’ll never know whether you are or not but I have felt my heart come home when I remember something you once told me.
One evening over books and tea, I had my feet tucked under yours as usual, we talked about life, the universe and everything in-between. You expounded upon your own theory of how life carries on once someone passes on. To you, people carry on through their genes and the funny quirks we all inherit from our parents. You said it was like your DNA left a trail that muted over time, but was always there. Even when generations have passed and children grown, the faintest trace of your genetic code lives on within the generations beyond you.
It is this very theory, and the thinking over it, that’s drawn me to a place where I am okay today. It’s strange that as the years have passed, I’ve seen your theory come true. And that evidence has given me comfort.
When you were ill, you would keep a picture of one of my baby scans next to you, at home or in the hospital. You’d refer to Cam as “your little friend”, and you’d tell me that she was the future and that’s all I needed to worry about. We’d talk about it and I’d tell you I was scared of this parenting notion. You’d remind me that a child needs four things – good health, infinite love, the ability to trust and the opportunity to learn. I’d doubted myself then but, you believed in me. You believed in my motherhood more than I did and you trusted that I’d do it with love. You taught me what you could and told me to go with my gut when I didn’t know what to do.
I have missed you most in my motherhood. I have missed you most in my family life. The family life I have been lucky enough to be able to build, with love and memories being made every day. It is those times, over dinner or when the house is full of people and sounds suspiciously like a Jenkin household, that I wish you and Mom could witness. I wish you could be there and laugh with me. Smile with me. Squeeze my hand and tell me you see it and it’s wonderful. Marvel with me over how I got so ridiculously lucky to find love in a man who loves Cam and I as though we were made for it. Laugh with me over the times I’ve been confused and wound myself up inside my head. Berate me for my sometimes grumpiness and celebrate with me every time I got it right.
But there again, I find my comfort. I see you carry on in the expressions of my child. I see your toes in her toes. They’re the same shape. I see your hands in her hands. And that mischievous glint in her eye just before she pulls a prank on me (this happens often), that glint is the very same one you’d have when you were pulling my proverbial leg.
They say it takes twenty-one days to break a habit, thirteen months to grieve and seven years to digest chewing gum. Whether any of that is true, I have no idea. It is also said that it takes seven years to work through the loss of a loved one. Whether or not this is true, I don’t really care.
But what I do know is this… In these seven years, I have missed you. In these seven years I have built my life up, taken it all down, started again and made it better. In these seven years I have grown, been anxious, been scared, been amazed and been sad. In these seven years I have learnt friendship and trust. In these seven years I have hurtled through loss and fallen into love. In these seven years I have missed your speeches and pored over finding the right words to say them myself. In these seven years I have been able to move beyond feeling the loss of you, to feeling the part of you that carries on. In these seven years I have learnt to see it when it’s in front of me, and find it when it hides. In these seven years I have discovered the parts of me that are so typically you, and seen those same characteristics of you reflected in my siblings.
In these seven years I have seen you carry on in the eyes of my daughter and I’ve noticed a spark of you in my nieces. I’ve seen your tenacity in myself and I’ve felt the infinite love of a parent in my own heart. In these seven years I’ve learnt that the cornerstone of being a parent is that infinite love. In these seven years I’ve learnt that the cornerstone of being myself is found in the places and spaces where I am ultimately much like you.
So Dadadadadad, I guess what I’m saying is…
Your theory is correct.
And my life is the proof.