I know a lot of people who have lost loved ones often question whether the person who has passed knew how much they were loved or how much the person who passed loved the ones left behind. It’s been one year (as of yesterday) since my dad passed away. Those are questions I have never had to ask.
The last year has been difficult, of course. How could it be anything but? I’ve had questions about how I’m “supposed to” feel or what I “should be” doing, and I know that everybody in my family has been going through the same. Am I grieving too much or not enough? Should I think about him more than I do, or do I dwell more than I should? And on and on… But I’ve never had to ask myself how much my dad loved me or whether he knew that I loved him.
My dad always did this thing from the time my sister and I were little. Usually, when people are leaving each other’s presence or hanging up the phone, they say, “I love you,” and the other person responds, “I love you, too.” My dad never did it that way.
“Bye, Stace. I love you, too.”
Every time, and he almost always said it before any of us could say, “I love you,” first. Whether I was leaving for school in the morning or after I was married and leaving after a visit when we wouldn’t see each other for a while, or if we were hanging up the phone when we talked about nothing more than why I couldn’t get my computer to run a game or something. I think he said it to me as I left from my wedding reception for my honeymoon. I know he said it to me the last time I saw him. In that phrase, by the addition of that one little word–too–he was saying that I loved him, and he knew it, and he made sure I knew he loved me, too.
I was out of town when my father passed. My mom tells me that he would have been glad. He wouldn’t have wanted either of us girls there for that. She would know, so I accept that and feel no guilt for being away. Because of that, the last memory I have of my dad is a hug and those four words.
I love you, too.
I’m sure he would be much happier knowing that that is my last memory of his life.
It’s funny what little things you don’t really think much about until later. I never realized everything that was wrapped up in that little phrase. When I was little, it was something that was silly and made my sister and me laugh. As we got older, it was just what we did. Once in a while, we’d beat him to it. “I love you, too, Dad.” (Giggle. Laugh.) It’s only now I realize how big it is, when you look at it closer. I said goodbye to him for the last time at the funeral home. He was to be cremated, so they just laid him out with a blanket over him in the chapel where they usually hold visitations. There was no casket to get in the way. There was no makeup to make him look like him-but-not-him. I held his hand and said goodbye. Then I leaned down, kissed his cheek and whispered in his ear, “I love you, too.”