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Today is the three-year anniversary of the death of my dad. In life, my dad taught me many things, but in death, he continues to teach me, although he is physically no longer with us.
This year, the lesson is mindfulness. Last year, I failed to completely unplug from technology on March 14th, which disrupted the way I wished to honor my dad on the anniversary of his death and left me reeling, enraged, and struggling with unforgiveness for the rest of the year. At first I blamed others for violating such an important day to me. If they only knew what I had been through and what my family had endured after my dad suffered from Alzheimer’s for 12 years, they would not be bugging me via PM on Facebook.
Now I realize I have control over what I take into my life, and what I choose NOT to allow in.
This year, I have decided to completely unplug from technology on March 14th. My phone is in airplane mode. My Kindles are silenced. My email is set to an away message. I won’t be checking Facebook. I especially won’t be responding to private messages. My laptops are off. This very blog post is prescheduled.
Being in the present moment has always been hard for me. I often find myself worried about the future, about work, and about how others have treated me in the past. The Bible tells us not to worry. I’m still working on that.
This year mindfulness is especially important because I have my beautiful baby boy, Jacob Henry, who is 9 months old. Henry was my father’s name.
One thing that I have observed about Little Jacob Henry is that he lives in the present. If he falls and bonks his head, he cries. And then he gets over it.
He eats mindfully. Every new food and texture is an opportunity to learn and explore. He nurses. He clicks his tongue and smacks his lips when he’s done.
He naps. He plays. He drools. He crawls. He giggles. He sighs deeply when he’s bored.
The similarities between babies and the elderly before they part this earth are notable. Jacob Henry wears diapers. So did my dad before he died. Jacob Henry eats mushy foods. So did my dad. Jacob Henry is almost completely reliant on me and my husband as his caregivers. So it was with my dad and my mom, who was an amazing caregiver to him. My dad was a man of few words, but when he spoke it counted. So it is with Jacob Henry. Jacob occasionally says “mama and dada.”
In Jacob Henry is a little bit of my dad, Henry. I wouldn’t have it any other way. They never got to meet each other in life, but they sure are alike.
Today I’ve set the intention to do one thing: breathe. Breath is a gift from God. Now that I have seen my dad take his last breath and have also seen my son take his first breath, the breath has even more significance to me.
Today would have been the 82nd birthday of my dad, Henry, Jacob Henry’s namesake. When I look at Jacob, I see a little bit of my dad sometimes. My dad was hard working and intelligent, and he cared deeply about his family. I miss him terribly, but he has made me the person I am today and he continues to influence the way I live my life. I wrote my dad’s eulogy after he passed away 3/14/16 after his 12-year battle with Alzheimer’s, and although he is not here to celebrate his birthday today, he’s with me in my heart. My dad really liked shirts, especially blue ones, and we had an ongoing joke that when we gave him with his birthday present, I would say, “Here’s your present, and it’s not a shirt.” It almost always was a shirt. This year I can say it’s not a shirt…it’s a grandkid! https://ginaakao.com/2016/03/27/a-eulogy-for-my-dad/
Two years ago today, my dad, Henry Akao, passed away after a 12-year battle with Alzheimer’s. Today I chose to honor his legacy by standing up to a bully and deciding to line up a much-needed Tender Loving Care day with my mom, who was my dad’s caregiver for years.
My dad was a man of high integrity. He always encouraged me to stand up for what I believe in. This photo was taken in 2015 of me, my sister, and my dad during the last birthday celebration we had for my sister, who was born on March 1st.
My dad passed away on March 14th, a day I will forever remember going forward as the worst day of my life. You really never know the magnitude of death until you see a loved one die. I saw my dad take his last breath. I remember being terrified. My heart was pounding. I heard death’s rattle–it chilled me to the bone and traumatized me. I listened for his next breath. It never came. Silence. The last breath.
Before my dad had died, I had taken a mindfullness stress reduction course. It taught me how to meditate. You can never be in a future breath or a past breath. All we have is this breath. And this one. And this one.
It made me realize that each breath we take is sacred and a gift from God. I need to be very careful how I spend my time on this earth.
Today I set my intention. My family, God, and my health is important, so with those priorities in mind, I began my day. My mom and I knew today would be a challenge, given all we had been through during my Dad’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. I am grateful he is no longer suffering. In heaven, there will be no tears nor disease. There won’t be a need for doctors!
Although I have been volunteering for an organization for three years, earlier this week I had decided that with my precious baby boy, Jacob Henry due June 20th, I would end my volunteer work in order to focus my priorities on my family. I notified the organization in a kindly-worded email that I had enjoyed serving their community but that February 2018 would be my last volunteer month with them. I had given over 24 hours of notice to line up an alternative volunteer to fill the position I had been loyally doing for many, many, many years.
To my surprise, the one of the leaders of this organization reached out to me on Facebook this morning with a very rude tone. She lied and said I was being unprofessional for not giving her enough notice to fill her volunteer position. I told her that today was the two-year anniversary of my dad’s death, and that if she wanted to talk about this at another time, she may, but I would not be working today in honor of my dad. Instead of respecting that and leaving me alone, she started bullying me. She accused me of being unprofessional, even though I reminded her that there were three years of evidence of my good work, and if one day of short notice erased three years of loyal service to this organization, it was not one I would want to volunteer for anymore. I was shocked at how disrespectful, insensitive, and rude she was after all I had done to serve this organization. What kind of person would treat a grieving, pregnant woman the way she did? I was sad, angry, and confused how she could be so cruel in the face of my pain and grief. Grieving is something that never ends. Yet she found it necessary to defriend me, immediately remove me from all the groups in her organization, and call me unprofessional, which is untrue. Before she abruptly ended her message, I told her it was a shame she had decided to treat me so poorly on the special day of my dad’s passing.
I could decide to be resentful. To let her under my skin. But instead, I have chosen to do what Dad would have wanted, which was to say “no” to a bully and remove her from my life. I have decided to forgive her, and will pray that God will show me how to address her bullying behavior so that she will not continue to harm others. To my dismay, I learned she has been bullying many others. I need not harbor any resentment for this bully. But I do hope and pray she will not continue to disrespect and mistreat others the way she did with me today. I fear it is a trend. It makes me sad. But it also makes me proud that I am no longer associated with this person and that I stood up for myself, which is what my dad would have wanted. When you prune a dead branch off a tree, you allow for new growth, and new blossoms. Sometimes it is necessary to cut out the bad people from our lives so that there is room for the good ones to enter. As my coach, Kate Beeders, has always encouraged me to do, I chose to “return my old story to the library and write a new one.” So this is my new story. It is a story of resilience, of strength. Of courage, to stand up to bullies. Of grief. And yes, of life.
This is a picture of my mom and I outside of the Pink House, in Genoa, a beautiful place where we decided to have lunch today.
I enjoyed a fresh quiche while my mom savored her beef stroganoff. Today I choose a new beginning. A brilliant one.