I think we all have guilt.

Three years ago I heard the worst news in my life. I remember like it was yesterday. I was getting ready for work. Portland just got hit with a horrible ice storm. I walked into my room and looked at my phone and I saw that I missed a call from my dad.

Should I call him back now?, I thought. I’m running a little late. Nah, I’ll call him when I head home. I put my phone back onto the stand and walked back into the bathroom to get ready. But, I haven’t talked to him in a month. 

I used to love talking with my dad but over time I would become frustrated because our calls would often not end great. He asked about my life and what I was working on. I loved being able to tell him about my dreams and the B&B that I wanted to open up with a friend. I would tell him about my idea of a farm to table garden and wanted him to be our chef. He loved the idea. Then I would ask him about life and he would become frustrated and negative in one swell swoop. He talked about how much it would be better that he wasn’t alive, that it would be easier on people. It got to be hard to listen to so I got tired of talking.

But, he was still my dad and I loved him. So, I walked back out of the bathroom and hit callback.

“Hello. Pearl?”

“Hi! My dad called.”

When I was told my dad had a heart attack and that he was at the hospital my whole world began to spin. No, I thought. That’s not possible. Not my dad. I swear to you it was the longest four days of my life. My dad passed away on February 10, 2014. It was the family’s decision to pull the plug after so many times he was coded. Three years ago today I stopped celebrating my birthday  because I was too afraid to, too ashamed to, too guilty to.

I remember my sisters and brother refusing to pull the plug on my birthday. They didn’t want me to live with that for the rest of my life. But, I do. I understood why my siblings didn’t want to let my dad go on my birthday. And more than anything I appreciate them thinking about me. But, I didn’t want him to hold on or to be forced to hold on for me. I wanted him out of pain.

When this all happened I had just started my job and I regretted not being able to go to Hawaii to say my goodbyes. Since those days I have bore the guilt of feeling like a horrible daughter. Sometimes I can’t remember what my dad’s voice sounds like. I can still picture him saying things though, “Hun girl, you see LeBron last night?” Or, “I love you hun girl.” Those are the words I’d kill to hear again. To hear the words, “I love you hun girl,” from my dad would be amazing. I’ve heard it so many times before, I wish it could just be one more time. Sometimes I will look at his baby (his guitar) and see him playing Under The Boardwalk or Landslide or Top of the World. Sometimes I long to play another pick up game of basketball, since he claims everything I know came from him. I miss him.

Today, though, today is about turning 33. And today, I hope to continue to work on the growth of last year by letting the guilt of my past with my father go. There are a lot of things that I could have said. Or done. I could have called him and told him that he wasn’t alone. Or that I loved him. Or that he tried his best. I could have told him that I didn’t hate him. Or that he could always make me laugh. Or that I would always be daddy’s girl. But, I can’t. And I shouldn’t because that isn’t what he would want for me.

Three years ago I stopped celebrating because I didn’t think I could ever be happy again. How could I possibly celebrate my second favorite time of the year with out my favorite dad in the world? How could I celebrate without the finger of frosting heading towards my face after blowing out the candle? How could I celebrate without hearing him sing me Happy Birthday?

But, I can. He wouldn’t want me to live like this, holing up during the week it all happened. He wouldn’t want me to be unhappy. He would want me to forgive myself just like I know he forgives me for never calling him back when I promised. He would want me to share in the love and laughter that a new year of growth and knowledge brings. He would want me to bring his memory to light, to love everything he was and everything I am. He would have wanted me to gather with my family and friends to celebrate the life that he helped create.

And so today, daddy, I do. Today I will grab my life back and forgive myself for what I did to you. Or didn’t do. Today, dad, I hold you in my heart and tell you that this is the first step to my healing, to letting you go. And today, I can hear you say, “Happy Birthday, Hun Girl.” xoxo