Last weekend I went home to visit Dad (and to pick up the new iPhone he bought me-- I'm still Daddy's Little Girl at 22!). I know you thought that choosing to die in our house instead of the hospital would make us not want to ever be there, but at least for me, I find all the comfort in the world inside those walls. I'll admit I didn't always feel this way; I used to have a lot of anxiety about going home. It was hard; so many great memories heavily overshadowed by the painful mental images of your last two months of life. But I think a lot of things contributed to me overcoming my nerves about being back in the place I spent my entire life in:
1. Dad has pretty much remodeled the whole downstairs area. He knocked down entire walls in the kitchen and moved the bathroom completely. It looks like it's straight out of a five-star hotel (we finally have a bathtub and not just a shower, a fan that doesn't hum, ceramic tiles, and even a heat lamp over head!) The kitchen is so open and inviting. I can't wait to see it when it's finished. We also have a brand new living room set that Dad got the week before I visited. It makes the room look COMPLETELY different! It has made it almost impossible to picture the hospital bed that was in its place just 2.5 years ago.
2. Now when I go home, I actually stay home. It's almost like a mini-vacation! I get a chance to chat with Dad, relax in front of the big screen, never get out of my pjs, and let the Casino touch screen game upstairs kill millions of my braincells and consume hours of my life. It's the perfect getaway from the big girl life I wish so badly you were here to enjoy with me.
3. I look through old photographs and letters. It still makes me cry every time, but I think it is healthy. I allow myself to let go of my composure and strength, and it feels good. I used to try to be so strong while I was home, and then I'd be crying on my way back by the time I reached Portland. This is much better for me (and safer!). I never thought letting my tears fall would feel so rejuvinating and cleansing. They used to be tears of sadness and pain, and although sometimes they still are, they are ever so slowly turning into tears of admiration for your strength and of happiness for having you in my life for 19 amazing years.
4. I stopped allowing myself to feel guilty if I didn't have enough time to visit the cemetery (I did make it last weekend during my trip home. Here's the first picture I took with my new phone!). I know you feared that we wouldn't take the time to do that, so I would work myself into a panic if I got all the way back to college and remembered I never went. Don't get me wrong, I go 9 out of 10 times I am back home, but it was that one time I forgot or didn't have enough time to go that I'd dwell on for days. But I don't now. I know that you know how much I love you regardless of where I am or where I am not; I know that I don't need to be talking to your headstone in order for you to hear me. Your body is there, but your soul is everywhere.