My father passed away four months ago. He should still be here. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 47, and he battled with the disease for over 3 years before losing his fight.
The thing is, my dad was the picture of health. He took care of his body; he ate healthy foods in moderate quantities. He was active his whole life; he surfed and played soccer weekly up through his diagnosis. He was happy; he loved his family and friends, and he loved life.
My dad should still be here, but he’s not.
See, my dad wasn’t just my father, he was my friend. We learned to surf together, and we woke up at 6 almost every morning to head to the beach from the time I was 12 to the time I was 17. We had our differences at times, but for how rough those years usually are on a father-daughter relationship, we maintained a solid friendship. Surfing kept us together, and the lineup served as our common ground where we could both understand one another.
When my father first passed, I expected to find comfort in surfing, but I didn’t. Instead, I felt his absence in the water more profoundly than anywhere else. Although I hadn’t surfed with my dad in a couple years, it still felt that this “cancer thing” was all temporary. I remember floating in the lineup, bawling, the first time it really hit me that he wasn’t coming back. I was never going to look back to the beach to see him watching, or running down the stairs with his board to paddle out. I felt so incredibly alone.
For weeks after, I put off surfing. I’d get in the water every once in a while, but I felt no joy riding waves. I surfed more out of boredom than anything else.
I was heartbroken, and I felt like both the sport and the person I love most had been taken away from me.
However, one session, that all changed. There was swell that day, but the waves weren’t particularly good. It was a little windy and overcast, and there were just a couple people out. There was no magnificent sunset, incredible barrel ride, or powerful dolphin swimming under me. Rather, all it took to turn my thinking around was one duck dive. I was in the wrong spot, and realized I really needed to dive deep to get through this double-up section. That’s when I remembered my dad’s voice:
“You’ve got to press your foot hard on that tail pad and scoop through the wave like you’re scooping ice cream.”
That duck dive took me back to when I was probably 11 or 12, learning to duck dive a short board for the first time. I’d brought a board up to the lake where my family vacations each year, and my dad would tease me while also telling me pointers from the dock. A dorky memory, no doubt, but one that made me realize that surfing would be at the core of my healing process.
From that point forward, I began to feel something each time I surfed: connection. With each duck dive, I felt the love and energy my dad embodied. With each late drop, I felt his courage. Each wipeout, his laugh. The joy of which cancer had robbed me began to return to me through surfing.
I think grief comes primarily from two elements: the pain that comes with the fact that life will never be the same again and the fear that somehow you’ll forget the way things used to be.
I will never get over the loss of my father. He should still be here, but he’s not. I’ve been working as The Inertia’s Health Editor for 7 months, if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that he should still be here. He did all the right things. All the things the doctors and experts recommend. No green juice would have stopped him from getting cancer. I can move forward, and I can accept that things will never be the same, but I’ll continue to miss him every day for the rest of my life.
However, surfing has helped me realize, I can never forget the role my father played in my life. It simply is not possible because he is built into my surfing. Everything I’ve learned to do on a board, I either learned from him or alongside him. He was there every step of the way, and by surfing, I am able to keep his spirit alive in my life in an active and dynamic way. I have no fear of forgetting. This has been the most powerful realization for me on my path to healing.
My dad should still be here, but he’s not; however, I have found peace in the fact that he is in me and with me every time I surf.
Thanks to The Inertia for giving me the opportunity to help people live healthier lives. Working as Health Editor the past 7 months has been an honor and a learning experience I’ll never forget. Over and out.