Note to Reader
This is a twelve month project which aims to bring to light the individual pain experienced by young women and to show how their unique stories make them who they are. We ask you to feel with an open heart and respect their stories.
I am from Briarcliff Manor, New York and I am 28 years old. My childhood was great. I had loving parents and also grandparents that helped raise us. My brother and I were inseparable, and we are still extremely close. My mom, my brother, my grandparents and uncle, you know, that’s my heart. We were all really, really close. I have a lot of wonderful memories from my childhood but I also have some painful memories.
I am currently working in hospitality; I am the Director of Hotel Services at one of the largest hotels in Northeast Florida and one of the largest and most well-known hotel chains in the world. I don’t really remember what I wanted to do as a little kid but when I was in high school I dreamed of opening a restaurant and working in hospitality. So that was definitely something my heart desired when I was a teenager. I never swayed from it when I went to college; I studied hospitality and knew this was what I wanted to do. As far as dreams, goals, aspirations of mine, I still want to own a restaurant, possibly become a General Manager within the company I currently work for. As you grow and learn, sometimes visions and dreams change or better yet, evolve. The idea of the restaurant I want to own has changed a little and desiring to be a GM is new, but yes, I am definitely living what I wanted to do!
When I was seven years old, my mom woke my brother and I up early in the morning to tell us some life altering news. We were in the room next door, when she explained that our dad had died. My brother immediately began crying, as soon as I saw his face, I began to cry. I didn’t fully understand what was happening, you know, being seven, but if my older brother that I looked up to was crying then I knew it was bad. It took awhile to process everything. I remember being at the funeral, I remember viewing his body, I remember being sad knowing that I would never get to talk to, hug or play with my dad again. That was without a doubt the most traumatic and painful time of my childhood that has impacted my life.
...the pain of a loss like that never “goes away”...
As I grew older it was still difficult and painful to deal with; the pain of a loss like that never “goes away”, it just becomes manageable. But I’d say knowing Christ has changed a lot for me. There was a really long, painful, drawn out grieving process for me that I believe was more internal than external because I am one of those people that keep a lot inside. The death of my dad was obviously something really hard to deal with for years and even now as I talked about it I get tears in my eyes. But it’s one of those things you learn from and grow from.
When I think about pain, the things that come to mind are: definitely the loss of my father, the loss of my maternal grandparents, and a lot of loss in middle and high school. As I mentioned, I grew up in New York where there were a lot of car accidents that friends, some close and some classmates, died in. I probably went to ten to fifteen funerals growing up. And honestly, just certain flower smells make me think of my father’s funeral. That’s one of those things that you think would be fun because everyone loves flowers, but there are certain ones that remind me of his funeral.
Death has definitely been a big part of my life. I also relate pain to some of the things I’ve done to mask the pain, like the void of not having a father. I’ve used different things to mask that, like different people, men, habits. I realize that nothing can fill that void but Christ, but it’s still a struggle even now. I’ve definitely gotten better and grown, but I know death has been the biggest cause of pain in my life.
It was painful to lose my father simply because every child needs and wants their father, but not having a father figure in your life, the affirmation of who you are, telling you that you’re beautiful and loved, cheering for you on the sidelines for various events and in life, knowing that my father won’t be walking me down the aisle or dancing with me at my wedding, knowing those things will not happen, is heartbreaking.
One of my struggles even now at 28 years old, if I’m at a wedding and the father-daughter dance takes place I almost always start crying due to the thought of not having that pleasure. Sometimes, I’ll have to get up and walk away because people will be like, “What’s wrong with you?” One day I’ll be getting married and knowing my father won’t be there is a really difficult thing to think about. Part of it too, not having that affirmation, was one of the things that I dealt with and still struggle with; not having self-confidence.
“God, what is going on right now?”
This past year, 2016, I received a really big promotion at work, I turned 28, I started Crossfit competitions, a year or so before that I bought a house, these were big things for me. The anniversary of my father’s death was May 10th, and it was a really hard day. It kind of caught me off guard, I was just eating in the cafeteria and tears welled up in my eyes. It was one of those things like, “God, what is going on right now? Why am I crying like this?” And I realized just all of these new, great things happened in my life and I didn’t have him to share that with. I mean, I had my other friends and family to share it with, but I didn’t have my dad, and well, a girl needs her father!
I was actually the last person to see him before he left for work that day. He took me to school because my mom and brother left at 5am for Jamal’s school trip. My dad worked for NBC News and he had recently returned from a lengthy business trip covering the Oklahoma City Bombing. Dad went to a bar after work to help a colleague who was having marital issues. He decided to drive home to us rather than staying in a hotel in the city. On his way home he was in a bad car accident, his car wrapped around a telephone pole and he cut his liver, causing him to bleed to death. Knowing he was drinking and driving, as I got older and understood it, I just got frustrated, like, “You had a choice. You didn’t have to do it. But you decided to drink and drive. And as a result, you are no longer in my life anymore.”