How Losing My Dad 12 Years Ago Shaped Who I Am Today

Lukas Budimaier

12 years.

It will be exactly 12 years since you were taken from me so suddenly. 12 years since I was watching the news seeing your plane torn in half which was hard to recognize because of the wild flames surrounding it along with the horrific images going through my mind how excruciating the pain was for you and what must’ve you felt while that was going on. It has been 12 years since I questioned a lot of things I was too young to be asking: Why you? Why did it happen? What did I do to deserve this? What did you do to deserve that? Will I be able to move on someday?

I remember asking myself how can I graduate middle school without you, who will help me with my projects because it has always been you, how do I go over and over with the story of what happened without breaking down after? I remember being alone in my room, crying while hugging my knees on my bed thinking how unfair everything is, how I started to question if I’m really strong or not because I felt I cry too much, and was always so sad because I won’t get the opportunity to see you and hug you anymore. I remember looking at old photo albums thinking that I now only have photo papers to remind me of you, and to remind that you, an amazing person who I didn’t get the luxury of being with for a long time, has existed in this cruel world even if it was just for awhile.

I remember in 4th grade, I still used to text you “I miss you” and “I love you” and secretly wishing you’d somehow magically reply even though you’ve been dead and your phone had been off for months. I remember being bitter with the fact that I was the one who had the shortest time of being with you since I’m the youngest in the family. I remember pretending that I don’t see Mom crying in her room so I can be strong for her. I remember learning grief doesn’t have a proper process- because finally after 8-10 years without you I feel okay, and next thing I know I find myself breaking down in the middle of the night because I miss you. Grief comes in anytime without knocking, making me remember what I felt when I learned you’re not going to be with us anymore.

I remember being on stage a lot of times for recognition, performances and achievements without someone beside me or cheering for me and feeling that that’s okay because I got used to it. I remember bitterly wishing I had enough time learning how to cook from you because you make the best dishes for us. I remember spending my debut the nontraditional way because I have no parents beside me but I did it anyway for myself. I know I lie a lot especially when I’m asked if I’m okay, but there’s truth when I say there’s part of me that’s happy you’re not here. I’m happy that you don’t get to see me like this. I’m happy that you’re in peace now, away from this world. I don’t want you to worry about me that I’m taken away from my comfort zone after spending 21 years of my life in Philippines and forcibly moved because Mom remarried. I know I don’t get to be selfish in that part because it’s mom’s happiness, and if she’s happy, then I’m happy. I’m sure you are too for her. It has taught me to be selfless, to put other people’s happiness first before mine. I think no father wants to hear his baby girl is depressed, is tired all the time, feels lonely too often and is anxious about almost everything.

I don’t want you to feel that everything would be better for me if you were here. I’d rather have you in peace than to worry about me. I’ve survived a lot of downfall, heartbreaks, and disappointments without you here. Despite all that, I want you to know that there are good days, and I cherish each and all of them. Truth is, I don’t know how 12 years just passed. I know I just keep going every day.

A lot happened in 12 years without you which made me the person I am right now. There’s no expiration on missing you, no end date on loving you and hoping I’d get to see you in my dreams to feel like I’m with you. I’d like to be able to teleport by your side, knock on your urn to let you know I’m here and that I remembered you and just sit there beside you, wanting to make you feel I didn’t forget. I want to make you feel you are and never will be forgotten. I want to be there and talk to you in silence about what’s going on, tell you about work, talk to you about my first car, tell you the list of places I’d like to go to and so much more but for now, I can only dream of that- and I hope I do get to see you even if it’s just a dream.

I’ve been always worried as a child with what if I forget you someday. Now I know that that’s impossible because with 12 years I spent without you, I feel like you never left beside me reminding me you’re just somewhere over there in your own little world far away from all the negativities. I miss you a lot, Dad. I think I will never get over losing you… and that’s okay. I’ve realized the importance of appreciating the people who come and go in my life, especially the ones who stay. I’ve realized most people go, just in different speeds. I’ve learned that I can’t and never should beg people to stay because you taught me how to appreciate and how to accept things that are beyond my control.

I have learned to pick up the pieces by myself of what the world throws at me that I am never prepared for. I have learned that no matter how great my achievements are, there’s a feeling of emptiness inside me that wants to be filled by your recognition, to feel that you see what I’m doing and that you’re proud. I have learned to survive without it, to move forward and to shift the emptiness into giving to those in need. I have learned to be more generous and to think more about other people. I have learned that a lot of people are in pain too and that it completes me whenever I get to help. I have learned to see through people and to understand them more. I have learned to accept and let go.

I have already let go of the fact that I lost you too early, but learned to accept you’re just there. I have learned that I’m not at fault for feeling incomplete and to share the love that I have for you to the people I care about. I see you in the places I go to, the mini adventures that I have and the people who care about me. I promise that I’ll be okay and that I’ll make you proud.

See you in my dreams, okay? TC mark

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