The other day, I decided to celebrate myself by purchasing some flowers and concocting a small love note to myself. The intention behind this act of self-love was to acknowledge me for all of the hard work I have done over the past several months.
As I perused the flower section, I picked out a small bouquet of colorful delight which was also cost-effective. As I felt satisfied with my choice, I turned to leave, but felt called to look back one last time. As I glanced back, I noticed a small section of daffodils in the corner of my eye. Upon noticing these flowers, my spirit practically jumped out of my body and said, “Oh, I am a little daffodil, I simply MUST get those!”As I stood in line with my purchase, the woman ahead of me said, “Wow, those sure are some bright and cheerful flowers.” I smiled politely as I was surprised by the tears I had to blink back in order to choke out a “Thank you”.
You see, when I was little, I had a Godfather who used to call me his little daffodil. By purchasing these flowers, I thought I was acknowledging the hard work I have done in the way of personal growth, as well as my inner child. However, now I see I was unconsciously inviting in some healing I was not prepared for or didn’t even realize I needed.
As the days wore on and the daffodils sat in the kitchen window brightening my mornings, I found myself crying… a lot. With each day that went by, my energy dissipated more and just the other day, I realized I was truly in the depths of despair.
I tried to reach out to friends, but found it difficult because I didn’t understand why I was so sad. If I can’t say what is going on, it’s hard to ask for help.
I gave myself some rather valuable feedback as I worked through this process. I have noticed that I am truly a survivor and what has happened throughout the years when I go through something difficult and “survive,” is my inner warrior comes out and I fight to come out unscathed on the other side of whatever is going on. I am very good at this.
I honestly could not remember one time in my life (well past the age of 12) where I have gracefully allowed whatever has been going on inside of me to just do what it needs to, while trusting the process and practicing non-judgement with my own self.
Let’s face it, being sad is not comfortable, it’s inconvenient, and our society definitely pushes fighting it, rather than accepting it.
Upon this acceptance, I simply allowed my tears to flow and released the need to understand… and as I practiced this surrender, what I needed to understand naturally came forward.
As I laid on my friends couch sobbing yesterday, I said, “I can’t believe it’s been 18 years since he died.”
I told her how I felt the day I learned of my Godfather’s passing, and how I dealt with it as a 12-year-old.
I was picked up from school early and my father surprisingly was the one sent to retrieve me (he really was someone we just lived with… he was usually not someone involved with things, so I knew something odd was up). On the short drive back home, I pressed him relentlessly for what was going on. I knew it was a somber occasion because his energy was so thick with confusion, that it was hard to breathe… and as a result, I was filled with growing anxiety.
He finally said, “You know how that cop has been calling?”
I did know. I was usually the one who got those phone calls and instinctively brushed him off because I knew that in my house, cops coming by meant someone was in trouble for something bad, which created even more chaos and unrest in my daily life. My mom had thanked me for intuitively blowing off these calls without her even having to ask.
My father continued to tell me that the purpose of these continued calls was actually very important. The cop found our contact information in my Godfathers wallet the night he died in a car wreck.
“John is dead.” He said.
I sat quietly stunned for the rest of the car ride home. Or maybe I spoke… I honestly cannot remember.
When we got home, my mother was beside herself and drunk. She wobbled over to me to break the news and I told her I already knew, trying to make a b line for the safe haven of my bedroom.
She began arguing with my father for telling me when he promised he wouldn’t until I was home.
I was grateful for their arguing because it meant that I could go unnoticed into my bedroom to think about and feel the shocking news I had just received.
Unfortunately my mother caught me and wrapped her arms around me gripping even tighter with every tear that fell. I finally pried her arms off of me and promised I was really okay, trying to shut down the water fall that was building behind my own eyes and filling my brain with a fog which left me feeling weak and dizzy.
Image found HERE
I went to my room and locked the door. I decided I still wasn’t safe there, so I went into my bathroom, locked the door, turned on the exhaust fan as well as the faucet in order to drown out my sobs and I cried heavily, freely allowing myself to ask “Why?” aloud over and over again.
I then put myself to bed.
From that point on, if anyone asked me how I was doing, I always said, “I am fine. I am okay.” I mean, my Godfather was really like my parent. He was my mother and my father rolled into one vibrant and amazing person. He was the one I wanted if life was too much since I could remember. My family was not a group of people I trusted, or understood at all. My godfather was my tower of strength and now he was gone… just when I needed him more than ever. I had to be strong.
As I released this sad story yesterday, I sat with it and gently sent the judgemental thoughts away, “It’s been a long time… no need to feel sad now… buck up.”
As my friend continued to hold space for me, I went on.
I told her how awesome he was. From my first memory of him on Christmas on all fours, pushing a fire truck he had bought for my brother around on the floor, making a very loud and animated fire truck noise as my brother rode on his back giggling so hard that his face turned beet red.
I told her about how he used to play hide and seek with us all the time, right up until he died. I have vivid memories of him hiding so well that he was impossible to find and right when we got close enough, he would jump out and scream so loud that I would FREAK OUT.
Image found HERE
His gift was joy, laughter and a deeply animated personality. He did characters so well and tailored playtime to fit both boys and girls needs. He used to sit in our kiddy pool with us during the summers and taught us how to have a blast with the hose. He played dolls with me and bought us super soakers in which we all (including him) ran around the yard soaking one another.
If I got hurt, he was the one who would kiss the boo boo or kneel down to my level and in an overly dramatic voice say, “Oh, my goodness, you’re hurt?” I would sniffle, “Yes.” He would say, “Are you going to be okay?” I would tell him no. “Are you gonna live to see tomorrow?” Of course I would say yes and suddenly the importance of my “wound” was not so traumatic and I would join in playtime again.
He would brush my hair for long periods of time. He loved doing this. I would sit contented by his ability to gently and comfortably release tangles from my hair as I would brush and style my barbies hair.
He was even there for the not so pleasant times. When my parents broke out into one of their drunken rage fests and beat the heck out of one another in the middle of the night, and my brother and I would wake up to find my mother lying on the floor, bloody and whimpering, my Godfather was there to break it up. I remember him being the voice of reason, “What is the matter with you two? You cannot do this… your KIDS are right here.” He would put us back to bed. He would clean my mom up as well as whatever got broken in the midst of rage and I felt safe going back to sleep, knowing that he was protecting our house.
When my brother and I began to mimic my parents fighting. Me screaming at him, pushing buttons and him beating me up, my Godfather would put a stop to it immediately. I remember one day, we totally caught him off guard mimicking our parents rage and he very uncharacteristically scolded us, very seriously and took us to the store to encourage constructive ways to channel our energy. I remember him buying a model airplane, spending the whole afternoon very focused on my brother being a positive male role model building stuff together and talking stuff out.
I remember overhearing him talking to my mom, “You have to watch it, they learn this stuff from watching you two.”
He really loved us very well.
There was a period of time when we were not allowed to see him. My father was not fond of my Godfather. Maybe because I always asked my mom why John couldn’t be our daddy. I remember overhearing when he was coming back into our lives, that it was because he was a “faggot.”
I remember being shocked by this statement. I grew up in a low-income neighborhood for most of my childhood and the ignorance level was pretty high as a general consensus (obviously not everyone felt that way, but the only voices I heard about the subject were that of judgement). I had only heard derogatory terms to describe gay people. Kids on the bus used to use that as a way to make fun of and hurt other kids. So, since I never knew that my parental figure was actually gay, when I found out during a time when he wasn’t allowed near us, I remember feeling devastated that I couldn’t love him since he was gay. I had an irrational belief that gay people were bad.
I went to my mom to talk about it, feeling genuinely confused, and her drunken response was, “So what? If you’re judging, there is something wrong with you.” She definitely made a point to roll her eyes at me and accuse me of being wrong. I felt sad and even more confused after trying to talk to her and make sense of it all. Luckily, I had the sense to find another sober grown up to talk to. I went across the street to talk to a family I often liked to hang out with.
I delivered the news, I had just learned. “John is gay.” My neighbor said, “I know.” He was quiet and waited for me to say something else. ” Well, that means he’s bad, right?” He looked at me quite obviously spinning his wheels looking for the right response. He knew my family and knew whatever he said was likely to have a big impact on me and seemed to be carefully choosing how to impart his wisdom.
“Gay people are not bad. I want you to think about how much John loves you. Do you know how much he loves you?” I was quiet. He continued, “I happen to know for a fact that John loves you very much. I think you love him too.” I nodded yes. “So, just because John has a different lifestyle than you are used to, does that mean that he can’t love you?” I honestly didn’t know how to answer that. He went on, “John has been gay since the day you were born and he has loved you since that day and he will never stop loving you. That is what is most important. To love someone is to accept someone for who they really are without judging them. Does he do that for you?” I nodded yes. “Can you do that for him?” I said yes.
When I left, I felt lighter and happier knowing it was okay to keep loving my friend and I have never experienced feelings of judgement about the subject since that day.
Little did I know I only had a few more years to love him in person… and I’m glad that looking back, we really did make each moment count.
Yesterday as I told this story, I had an amazing realization. Though I often relate to my childhood as chock full of “character building” opportunities, I haven’t acknowledged other parts of my story. In the act of not fully grieving my Godfathers passing, I have accidentally disowned some truly happy and formative experiences from my early life. The time I spent with John gave me some of the happiest memories I have.
Though my childhood handed me a lot of lemons, I am aware that it all happened for a reason and it helped to develop the sense of compassion I have for the underdog and truly wanting to make a difference in the world. However, as I allowed myself to feel sad for the loss of a parent (though not biological, I truly view him as a parent) and honestly own what he meant to me, I was able to see that through the darkness, I was gifted a sort of earth angel.
What was even more amazing was that as I owned my happy childhood memories, I realized that I do carry a special inheritance from my roots. You see, I know that I am different, based on where I came from I have certain qualities that don’t usually come through so easily from trauma survivors. I know I still have issues, and I know I still have growing to do (and hopefully always will… what’s the point of it all if we aren’t learning and growing?), but friends usually ask where my positivity comes from. For whatever reason I have an authentic happy-go-lucky general approach to life, even when it “sucks.”
Like I said, my Godfather was pure joy. He often laughed until he cried, loved unconditionally and in my experience forgave easily. He wasn’t perfect and was confronted by his own dark side sometimes too… but he had such a broad perspective of the bigger picture, which I believe enabled him to enjoy life in the moment.
You know, sometimes I hear people say to their kids, “You’re just like your mom (or dad).” And those words are foreign to me because I am not very similar to my biological parents. I just can’t relate to them and have learned to be proud for becoming me on my own, by somehow having a stong internal guidance.
However, yesterday it dawned on me, I actually do have roots that I actually can relate to.
I learned how to smile and laugh and love unconditionally from my Godfather. What a shining example he provided on how to be.
Image found HERE
As I move forward with this new found awareness and celebrate a new story, I feel quite grateful to have had him as a role model in my life. I know he would be proud of me today, and though I would so love more than anything to share a hug with him in physical reality and tell him everything about my life, I am happy for what he left behind. As I finally allow myself to fully embrace the residuals of the grieving process, I am finding so much gratitude for the impact he always had and forever will have in my heart space.