Several years ago, I kept my promise to my husband that we would hold our annual Thanksgiving dinner in our home for close friends and family despite the special circumstance that year.
Thanksgiving was only two weeks after my father’s unexpected death and a week after his memorial service. I didn’t cancel. After all, we were expecting 24 guests and life must go on.
Every year for the past many, when the turkey is finally cooked, the dishes are warmed, and the guests are all sitting around the table, we traditionally give a toast to honor the friends and family who are unable to join us.
That year, that night, I gave a toast in honor of my father. No tears came. In its place a sad thought came to my attention, “Who am I if I am no longer Robert Chang’s daughter? Who am I now?”
Who am I now? I was a mother to a 7 year old and a new mother to a two month old then. I was a parent, but my own parent had just died. The parent who would pick up the phone when I called and tell me that he had all the time in the world for me. My father would let me talk without interruption, without prying questions, without me feeling I was taking up his time. My father was the strictest keeper of secrets and pretty much non-judgmental unless you directly asked him for his opinion and help, which I kept to a minimum.
That night, as I raised my glass in his honor I recognized that because he no longer occupied a place on this earth I could no longer point to him and announce proudly to someone I just met that I am his daughter and he my father.
That thought crushed me.