A Letter From Dad

Dear Ruby,

I love you so much. Four and a half months later, I cry less but I miss you more. I sit in your nursery when I can’t sleep until I can convince myself that I hear you.

My mind tells me you’re lost but my soul knows otherwise; I can feel you with me everyday.

Five years ago, hours before Mom and I drove 2,000 miles from Chicago to San Diego, we ran the Chicago Half Marathon. It was your Mom’s idea. Chicago Half MarathonWhen we started training, I couldn’t even run one mile without throwing up. Somehow, miraculously, we were able to work up to our 13.1 mile goal by September 2009. Crossing the finish line was an accomplishment I’ll always remember.

A few weeks after you passed away, Mom found another half marathon for us to run in your honor – the Celebration Run. I knew I wanted to do this even though it meant starting from scratch again. And, just as expected, running that first mile was a doozy. After working up to a couple miles, “Aunt” Meg sent over a running program with long weekend runs. Sunday’s were 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. Oy.

Sometimes I’m pretty sure you’re with me and other times it’s simply undoubtable. Setting out for the 3 mile run, I had my gps app and spotify playlist all queued up. Just as I started moving, my phone froze. The apps kept closing and none of my songs would play. Irritated, I turned it off and ran with no mind numbing distractions. During this run, my gasping for air was so loud that I couldn’t ignore it; it was clear, unmuffled. Struggling up hills and trying with all might not to stop, it hit me. Each breath I gasped for were breaths you couldn’t take. These were breaths I was privileged to gasp. I decided that each inhale and exhale were for you. Not only would I train to run the race for you, I would take each breath along the way for you. You were strategically reminding me why I was doing this.

I continue to feel you with me every mile. Sometimes I even picture myself carrying you in your ergo while I run. Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 5.01.46 PMThere is something undeniable about how working myself to physical exhaustion takes attention away from mental chatter and towards something greater. It takes me to a place closer to you where I can hold you again, just like I did on May 13th. Recently, I’ve been so exhausted after my runs that I notice myself talking out loud. Paying closer attention, I’m talking to you. How much I love you, how I want to be a good dad to you and a good husband to mom. It’s in times like these that you don’t seem lost at all.

I’ll run with you always. Please don’t stop letting me hold you.

Love,

Dad

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Universal Truths

Dear Ruby,

I’ve been thinking lately about how I have a lot of reasons to be mad at the universe. Most obviously, the fact that you didn’t get a chance to have a full, beautiful, complicated life (and all of the domino heartbreak following that one simple fact).

But also, for all the other non-“you” things it robbed me of.

Like the innocence (or ignorance) of knowing pain like this existed. Like playfulness or the ability to be carefree – I’m so much more serious and introverted these days. Like the ability to be unselfishly, unabashedly happy for friends around me having beautiful, healthy, babies.

That one really gets me.

I find myself wanting to say, “You have no idea how lucky you are and I pray that you never do.” And while I don’t feel an ounce of bitterness or resentment towards them, its impossible not to feel profound sadness that our story ended so, so differently. It’s envy, period.

Yesterday, I finished reading The Fault in Our Stars on the plane home from “Aunt” Susie’s bachelorette party in New Orleans. It was a quick read – taking only the 4 hour plane ride to finish. The story was beautiful and tragic – one where you know exactly how it will end, but you read with idle hope nonetheless.

One part in particular sparked this letter to you and closed the proverbial book on my “be mad at the universe” moments of late. The main character Hazel, who is dying of living with cancer, asked her Dad if he believed in Heaven. He said:

“Sometimes it seems the universe wants to be noticed…I think the universe is improbably biased towards consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys the elegance of being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it- or my observation of it- is temporary.”

Days later, Hazel gets lost in thought during support group and writes:

“I was thinking about the universe wanting to be noticed and how I had to notice it as best I could. I felt that I owed a debt to the universe that only my attention could repay and also, that I owed a debt to everybody who didn’t get to be a person anymore and everyone who hadn’t gotten to be a person yet.”

Hazel’s reflection about her father’s philosophy mimicked the feelings I had in the hospital bed on “the worst day”. I felt (and still feel) like I have a duty to be conscious of everything moving forward. Awareness of life’s ups and downs and experiences and “eerie coincidences” is observing the universe…and you. The only thing that would make you not being here worse would be refusing to acknowledge that you were here ever.

I am eternally grateful that I get (present tense) to love you. And I get to love you because you were real in this universe and now, in another.

Be a good girl in your universe – I miss you,
Mom