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one year.

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Dear Daddy,

Wow, I can’t believe it’s already been an entire whole year since I last saw you. It feels like you’re still at the hospital, getting treatment and complaining about how uncomfortable hospital beds are. I always catch myself finding something funny that you would laugh at too, but then remembering that I can’t share it with you. Some days are better than others, but every day is a struggle without you holding my hand through the tough parts. You would think that after a year, the pain would go away a little, yet I still feel the sting of a fresh wound on my heart whenever you cross my mind. Time doesn’t make the pain any less – it just makes it easier to forget.

But, I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget all the memories we shared together, all the weird habits you had that I slowly picked up without even realizing it. I don’t want to forget the way your hugs felt or how you always smelled like a combination of fresh laundry and cigarette smoke. Unfortunately, life has a way of sucking me into all the irrelevant things that are going on, and I tend to shift my focus. Today has been a really hard day, not just because it’s the one year anniversary, but because I won’t be able to visit you today. Instead, I’m in Austin, for a reason that’s pretty pathetic and shameful. What kind of daughter chooses to go out of town over her own dad? I feel like even after you passed, I keep making other things a priority over you – something that I did way too often when you were still around. It’s like, no matter how hard I try to be a good daughter, I subconsciously revert back to same old destructive habits. I can’t figure this out, and it’s driving me insane.

I did visit your grave on Father’s Day. People were everywhere in the cemetery with picnic stuff, which made it feel like a true celebration. I got there, and I didn’t really say much to you at all. I keep visiting you, yet I can’t even bring myself to talk to you out loud and actually say all the things I’ve wanted to say for the past 19 years. I’ve never been good at expressing my thoughts and feelings, so I guess it makes sense that I can’t tell you what I’m thinking or what’s been going on lately. This is one of the reasons why I made this blog, to put into words all the things I want to say, but can’t because hearing myself say them is too much for me to bear right now. I guess this is the best I can do for now, but I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to talk out loud to you and about you without blubbering all over myself. Until then, I’ll continue writing these letters to you, hoping that you can hear me and know that I still love you and miss you so so much.

 

So much love it hurts,

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birthday wishes.

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Dear Daddy,

Today is your birthday. I couldn’t figure out how to celebrate it without being a complete and utter mess, so I figured I’d just write another letter. It’s a strange day. The majority of people today are celebrating Easter while others are celebrating a completely different and illegal holiday. I find myself outside of both groups, and instead, I’m celebrating your life today. I’m celebrating all those years you were here and all the years to come in which you won’t be. It’s depressing, yet joyful. It’s hard to see the festivities going on today when all I can think about is how you would be 51 today – way too young to not be with us anymore. It sickens me how powerful cancer is. It’s not fair that it has the power to strip people of their lives without any qualms. Every time I think about the fact you’re gone, or that millions of people are gone because of this disease, I want to scream. Why? Why did cancer have to choose you and not some criminal? Why did you have to die when there are so many awful people alive and well? I feel like I’m going crazy.

This weekend was really hard for me. I felt like everyone thinks I’m this happy, outgoing, and friendly person all the time, but I’m not. I’m human too; I have my moments. And when I do have my moments, no one can even see through my lies and excuses of ‘being okay’. It’s like oh, of course Ria is okay, she’s always okay. But I’m not. I’m really not. People expect me to always be the one who listens, gives advice, and is just there for others, but I’m getting so tired of it. Sometimes I even scare myself with how hopeless I get. I kept trying to find ways to remind myself of you, and I realized that you’re here with me every moment of the day. I see you in your favorite things: I see you in the color yellow. I see you in cigarette smoke. I see you in the movie theaters. I see you in those Corn Nuts you would always snack on. I see you in frogs and frozen yogurt. I see you in the skies. I see you in my friends. I see you in me. You’re constantly watching over me, even if I forget that you are sometimes.

So, even though I let my grief overwhelm me at times, I won’t ever let it drown me. You’re gone, but that doesn’t mean I have to focus on your absence. Your life was full of laughter and love, and that’s what I want to celebrate. I want to celebrate the happiest moments of your life. I want to celebrate your influence on me as a person. Looking back on all those years, I’m reminded of how much your character built mine. My personality and beliefs reflect yours, and I can’t think of a better way to honor your life than that. Our time together was cut short, but the time we were given is more than I could have ever asked for with the best dad ever. Happy birthday daddy, I miss you.

 

Love,

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bald.

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Dear Beautiful,

You don’t know who I am, and I don’t know who you are, but what I do know is that you are beautiful. You are beautiful no matter what color your skin is, how tall you are, or what your face looks like. You are beautiful because even though you have cancer, you are still strong and smile as though nothing is wrong. You are beautiful because you wake up every day having to face this awful disease, yet you live life passionately without regrets. It doesn’t matter that you’re bald. It doesn’t matter that you look different from all your friends. It doesn’t matter because you are beautiful, regardless of what anyone else says.

Recently, I became bald too. It was an impulsive decision that I made on the day of the St. Baldrick’s “Brave the Shave” event, but I am so glad I made it. If you had told me a year or two ago that I would be shaving my head to support the fight against cancer, I would have looked at you like you were insane. Honestly, I thought I would regret shaving my head – that I would miss having my long hair to hide behind. Instead, I feel like I have never been more beautiful or confident in my life. Even though having no hair makes you vulnerable to the world, it’s actually really refreshing. People don’t tell you all the awesome things that come with being bald, like super fast showers and feeling the breeze on your scalp. They only focus on the negative: the stares and whispers behind your back when they think you’re not looking. Sure, people do stare, and people do whisper sometimes behind your back. But, you know what? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because they’re not brave enough to face the world with nothing but a smile on their faces. It doesn’t matter because they don’t understand what it’s like to have cancer. I don’t even understand what it’s like. But I do know this: I know that just because you’re bald doesn’t make you any less of a person. Being bald doesn’t make you any less pretty or attractive to other people. Being bald doesn’t change who you are.

I hope you know just how beautiful you are, sweet girl. And I hope you know that everyone else knows it. I’ll be riding for you and your family all the way to Alaska.

 

Love,

Ria

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regrets & resolutions.

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Dear Daddy,

2013 was one eventful year. Half of it was spent saying goodbye to a chapter of my life, and the other half was spent welcoming a new one. It wasn’t an easy year, but it was a year that I learned more about myself than I ever did before. I had to face becoming an adult, even though I wasn’t ready yet. I never knew how much I would miss the comforts of being able to rely on you to provide for me until you were gone. When I look back on those times where I complained about not getting an allowance each week like some of my friends or not getting a lot of gifts on my birthday or Christmas, I feel so ashamed. Being financially independent and having to pay for tuition and all my bills myself now, I regret taking advantage of the comfortable life I led. I’m sorry for all those times I was ungrateful. I know now how much it takes to earn enough just to get by. Thank you for spending all those years working so hard to provide for us; I know I didn’t thank you enough when you were still here. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express my gratitude adequately.

Coming to college and being on my own has made me realize more than the fact that I took your earnings for granted: I took everything for granted. I always chose my friends over you, spending more time and sharing my life with them instead of you. Even when you were sick, I couldn’t stand the fact that I was just watching you die, so I would go out with my friends – something I could’ve saved for much later. I lost so much precious time with you, and I regret every second that I chose not to be with you. You’re my dad, but I don’t even know about what your life was like before I was born. I never took the time to have meaningful conversations with you, to find out who you were when you were in your 20’s, to learn everything about you. And to add to my regrets, I never got to let you know who I really was. I never got to tell you about my first kiss because I was scared you would get mad at me. I should have realized that yeah, you probably would’ve yelled at me, but at least we could’ve have shared that moment together: that typical father-daughter moment where you finally realize that I’m slowly becoming a woman and that you need to interrogate every boy I associate with from then on. I never got to confide any of my feelings or secrets to you because we weren’t close enough. I could tell everything from hating a particular teacher to going though an eating disorder to my best friends, but I couldn’t even imagine telling you any of it. Now, I’d give anything just to tell you what I had for breakfast this morning. I wish I had opened up and shared all of my life with you, not just the parts that I thought you would want to hear about. Maybe then, it would be easier now not having all of these regrets chewing me up inside.

As 2014 progresses, I want to make sure that I never have these regrets with anyone ever again. I’m going to make time for the people I love, especially mom & 언니. I’m going to stop wasting my money on things I obviously don’t need, and instead save up so that I don’t have to bust my butt later. I’m going to make sure people know that I appreciate them and that I love them. I’m going to share my life with family and friends, even if I have to overwhelm them with all the things that are going on in my life. And most of all, I’m going to try to love myself as much as you loved me. It’ll be hard, but if I can love myself half as much as you did, I know that I’ll be able to do anything. With that comes forgiving myself, something that I struggle with the most. I am my worst critic, but I know that you would want me to be able to move past all of my regrets and start focusing on what I’m doing now. 2014 is going to be a really tough year without you daddy, but I know that you’re still right beside me, cheering me on.

Thinking of you always,

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six months.

six months

Dear Daddy,

It’s been six months since we’ve had to say goodbye. I still can’t believe it. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that you’re gone, and you’re not coming back. As I sat by your bedside when you took your last breath, I didn’t really comprehend what had just happened. It wasn’t until everyone around had cried out and rushed to the bed that I realized you were gone. At that moment, all I remember is that I was crying, but I couldn’t bring myself to speak. I couldn’t do anything except hold your hand and cry. I knew that you didn’t have much time left with us, but that didn’t prepare me for watching you die in front of my eyes and not being able to do anything about it.

The days leading up to your funeral were a blur of tears, plans, and silence. Even though I cried myself to sleep almost every night for the next few days, I didn’t really cry at the funeral. 언니 kept asking me why I wasn’t crying and if I even cared. Of course I cared. I just couldn’t bring myself to cry in front of everyone. I don’t know why, but I’ve always kept things bottled up inside of me instead of talking about it or sharing my feelings with someone. I know it’s not healthy. I know I need to reach out. But, Daddy, every time I think about you being gone, my heart breaks all over again.

It’s funny how this whole grief thing works. You expect to be a wreck right after the tragedy and then learn to slowly deal with it and move on. It wasn’t like that for me. After your death, I immediately started distracting myself. All the relatives had come, so it was easy to just immerse myself in their company and pretend that everything was normal. Like it was just another holiday where all of us came together to eat good food and spend time together. I went on with my life and hung out with my friends, prepared for college, and did normal teenager stuff. I made sure that I never had a moment to myself to even think about the fact that you weren’t here buying stuff for my dorm with me, yelling at me for staying out too late again, or watching the latest action movie in theaters with me. As soon as I came to college, it was easy to forget. I involved myself with my studies, spirit group, and making new friends. I didn’t have time to grieve. But now, six months after your death, all of those feelings that I’ve been suppressing are eating me alive. Finals are over, and there’s nothing else for me to do other than realize that you’re actually gone. Forever. I can’t sleep knowing that you’ll never see me graduate college, get into med school, or walk me down the aisle. I would do anything just to have one more day, hour, or minute with you. Just to say that I love you one more time.

I’m still grieving. I don’t think I’ll ever stop grieving. But, I’m going to try my damn hardest to live my life and make you proud. You always told me, “don’t worry, be happy”, and I plan to do just that. It’s going to be hard, but I know you’ll be watching over me every step of the way, rooting me on like you always have. I couldn’t have asked for a more loving, supportive, and selfless dad. Thank you for all the years you’ve spent loving me. Thank you for everything you had to sacrifice just so I could have a better life. Thank you for teaching me that sometimes life sucks, but it goes on. You can either get swallowed up by it or ride the waves.

Love always,

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keeping records

So, I’ve decided that it was finally time for me to start a blog and jot down all my thoughts that have been just floating around in my head. If I don’t, I’m scared that I’ll forget people, experiences, and emotions that I don’t want to. Most of these will be letters addressed to various people, but some will not. I’m not sure. This is all so new to me, so I guess I’ll just go with it as it progresses. Here’s to hoping for the best.

xoxo

Ria.