I honestly still can't even believe so much time has already passed. These last 6 years have been one big combination of time moving quickly, yet also standing still. I can't help but think back to this day when I sat by my father's side, held his hand and watched him slowly slip away. I felt his heartbeat for the last time and I heard his final breath. I literally watched his life being taken away from him. It was so difficult for me to even comprehend that he was about to leave this world. He was about to leave me and my family. In those moments I knew that I would be forever changed. I carry that image in my mind every day and I will never forget it. After all these years, there is still so much to say. There is still so much that I feel and hold on to. These emotions won't ever fade as they will be apart of me always.
I talk so much about how losing my father changed me and that's because it honestly did. It sparked something deep within me, almost as if it awakened my soul. I sometimes don't even remember what life was like before he passed away. I don't even know who I was at that time, I just know that I needed to be better and I needed to find myself. And this, it all made me better. It had me so lost, but in the midst of all of it I was able to come out on top knowing exactly who I am. I found my way. I have my father to thank for that. Even though he is not physically here, he's still finding ways to teach me and help me grow. I believe in myself because he believed in me and all I still want to be able to do is make him proud. Sometimes I can still see his smile when I close my eyes and it fills my heart with peace. I see him in my dreams and they just feel so very real. In those moments, all I want to do is stay asleep. Being able to still have that connection to him is powerful for me, especially knowing all that he has missed.
My solo trip last November to Ireland for him set the wheels in motion for a new chapter in my life. Since then I've been to 3 more countries, 2 of which I traveled to alone, and this is just the beginning. Never in a million years would I have expected to achieve these personal goals. I owe it all to him. His absence just makes me want to live my life in every possible way. He's been the driving force behind me chasing after my dreams, building something from nothing, and hustling every single day to create opportunity. He's one of the main reasons why I take leaps of faith. It's funny too because I found an old email from him back in 2006 when I was miserable at my job. I cried all the time to him and wanted to quit. In the email he said, "Natalie, fyi... just look before you leap. Love, Dad"
He was always a cautious man. He played by the rules. I often wonder what he would think of the life I have made for myself. I never got a regular 9-5 job again. I've gone to foreign countries completely alone. I'm in my 30s and still single. I'm just a free spirit still searching the world for answers. I hope he's looking down on me and smiling because even though I don't always look before I leap, the most important thing is that I'm leaping. I keep moving forward. He's probably thinking, "Natalie, what am I going to do with you?"
Losing him was my biggest struggle in life. It broke me and I had to pick up the pieces. It forced me to create the life I wanted instead of living one that didn't make me happy. That's what challenges and heartbreaks do to you. They leave us with a choice. We have to decide which direction we will take after someone leaves us. I'm thankful that my father guided me this whole way. When people ask how I got to where I am, I always say I owe it all to him. Not a moment goes by when he is not on my mind. I will continue to miss him for all the days of my life. He is my strength. He is my inspiration. He will always be my first love.
Dad, I love you with all of my heart. Thank you for everything. Until we meet again... <3