#CandidConvoswithCecilia Vol. 1
“Cecilia doesn’t have emotions,” was a running joke between my mother and I throughout my childhood. Something she'd mention whenever a response I'd given her had especially touched a nerve.
Being that I'm not a robot, I can assure you that I feel things like anyone else. But while my mother is more passionate in some regards, I'm more reserved emotionally - inheriting my father's love of sarcasm and dry wit.
But I'm only human after all. A sobering reminder I received in July of 2016. That day started out like any other, busy as hell, as I assisted with a charity basketball tournament. I remember arriving back home tired, yet satisfied - ready to power down and enjoy the rest of the weekend.
Kicking my shoes off one by one I settled into the couch, ready to retreat into my little shell for the evening. And then the phone rang. Looking down, I stumbled to unlock my cell as my oldest brother's name flashed across the screen. Unsure of what was going on, a familiar knot of anxiety crept into my stomach as I put the phone to my ear, asking "What's wrong?"
“It’s dad. He’s in the hospital and it looks like he might not make it.”
In that moment, time stopped. My throat tightening as I tried to assess the situation and slip into Bandit mode, a technique I learned long before I even walked into a journalism class: Gather the facts then identify a solution. Breathing deeply, I steadied my voice to ask what happened.
I listened carefully as my brother tried to explain that an unexpected illness had landed our father in ICU - with doctors working feverishly to save his life. The words 'he might not make it' now ricocheting through my mind. Shit had just got real. As someone that's seen death young - and often - medical emergencies are intertwined with various memories in my life; including the two strokes and aneurysm my mother had by the time I'd reached high school. And the heart attack my father had shortly before I graduated college. Life isn't promised, something I've been reminded of on more than one occasion.
I don't remember much else from that call. With Cecil Jr. and I in two completely different states we scrambled to make arrangements to get to Ohio, not knowing just how much time was still on our side. For once, I didn't have a solution and had absolutely no control over the situation; which both angered and terrified me.
Unable to sleep and eager for a distraction, for the next few hours I paced through the house and fried chicken. Yes you read that right. I floured and dipped piece after piece while searching for last minute flights in my kitchen - a pile of golden wings piling high as I moved through the night at a manic pace. I was pulling the last piece out the pan when the phone rang; my brother's name illuminating the screen once more as I hesitantly answered the phone.
"Dad just died," he whispered. His voice faltering as I felt my knees buckle and waver. Tumbling to the floor, the phone fell and slid across the floor as I sobbed into the tile; hot tears splashing the ground as I struggled to compose myself. A raw memory I still find hard to share without reliving. I'm only human, after all.
By that point I’d already lost multiple family members – to cancer and other ailments – and had even lost a family friend to gun violence. Death had become an unwelcome, yet familiar, friend; and here he was again, stripping yet another person away. And the shit hurt. It's hard to describe what my father meant to me. My original superhero - armed with compassion and a voice of reason able to calm even the strongest of storms. If my mother is the heart and emotion, my father was the intellect - holding me accountable for my mistakes and motivating me when I soared.
And just like that..he was gone.
What followed quite frankly was, a lot - including the funeral and other affairs that took over a year to settle. Outwardly I was fine for the most part, forcing myself to return to work and go through the motions the best I could. Internally however, I was a fucking mess. I bitterly learned that life indeed goes on. Once the funeral has ended and the beautiful bereavement bouquets have wilted, the real grief kicks in. An experience that I foolishly thought I could easily get over and be done with. I was wrong.
As days turned to weeks I went through the motions so well that I almost believed that I was fine. But some days I laid in bed crying, listening to old voicemails over and over. Angry that I couldn't call him anymore. Other days I just wanted a shot of whiskey, something I later gave up altogether after realizing it did little to actually make me feel better.
Months later I was busy preparing for my wedding, pushing back feelings of resentment that my father couldn't walk me down the aisle while also learning to celebrate a new phase in life. In time I discovered I was ready to join the world again so to speak. I never stopped writing, but during that time I was also able to explore new skills like content creation, digital marketing and video journalism - things I've learned diving into.
Grief is a bitch, but eventually life does go on. I wish I could wrap this up neatly for you or end with a flowery quote; but instead I'll share what I wish I'd embraced earlier: It's okay, not to be okay. It's okay to feel sadness. Even the strongest of souls has a breaking point, myself included, allow yourself to experience those emotions and work through them - and if you feel you can't do it alone don't be ashamed to seek professional help, or counseling.
Losing a parent is a part of life for most, but it hurts nonetheless. You will have good days, and shitty ones too. And that's okay. Eventually, you will be okay again.
We're only human after all - and there's absolutely no shame in that.