Losing A Parent

September 06, 2015

As I was driving back to work from lunch on Friday, I got stuck in an insane amount of traffic. As I got closer to the epicenter, I saw that there had been an accident and there were sirens and lights everywhere. As I drove by, there was a single motorcycle laying in the middle of the intersection, with a pool of blood all over the asphalt.


I lost it.

Twenty-three years ago today, September 6 1992, there was another single motorcycle laying in a road, surrounded by sirens and covered in blood. That time though, it was my father's.


The timing of seeing that sight on Friday was so eerie, considering how close it was to today. I'd never even thought of what the accident scene looked like, but now I have an image forever seared in my mind. 

Very rarely, given the development of the brain, do we have memories from our first years. Thankfully, my young brain nearly perfectly preserved all the events of the day he died. The following are some excerpts from a post I wrote ages ago on an old blog, as well as some reflections from today.



Distraction is a good thing on September 6th. I generally try to fill this day with lots of friends and activities, so I don't have to think about it. Today, I didn't have many distractions: just a lazy morning, some scripture reading, and church in my new ward. I even bore my testimony in front of all these strangers in the new ward (yikes!). It was really scary, but I felt like I would be remiss if I didn't bear my testimony today, of all days. But I've mostly spent the day alone, and that's been difficult. 

It's hard to describe to others what it's like to lose a parent (or never really know one). It is SUCH a different experience to grow up without a mom or dad than to have one pass away when you're a grown adult. I've heard/seen two main reactions: 
"Aw, that's so sad for her/her sister/her mom," and go about their day.
"She was so young, she shouldn't be sad about this. She barely knew him."

That last one always gets to me. It's always frustrating for me to see others try to judge how someone should feel or react. Everyone's feelings are valid. Everyone has hard things and that should be respected, not judged based on age, perceived difficulty, etc.

(Sorry, I just had to get on a little soapbox there because I don't want to write this and try to justify to the judgers about why this is sad or hard or unpleasant.)

It's hard to believe it's been this long. I was barely experiencing life. Somedays it feels like I never had or needed a dad...and other days I am EXTREMELY aware I've missed something so vitally important. Sometimes I feel like I'm missing half of myself. I was created from two people and I only know one of them. What about the other half that created me? What about that man who loved me so dearly? What was he like? 

As a daughter, I've lost that essential element of protection and care only a father can provide. Whenever I hear a church leader or teacher talk about raising daughters, taking them to the temple, interviewing boyfriends, etc., I cry. Last night at a friend's wedding, I broke down listening to her father give his toast, reflecting on how much he loved her and how hard it was to watch her grow up so quickly. 

I have desperately wanted that all of my life. For years, I would pray each night to just have a father figure even just give me a simple hug. The hugs never came (I was too afraid to ask), but it was a connection I prayed and cried to the Lord for often.

I've looked for father figures everywhere (at church, work, etc) but they can never compare to having one of my own. Ultimately, those men always return to their real families and children at night, and you know they could never love you as much as their own. You don't want to be a burden to them or bother them too much for help, because you aren't their real child. 

So for me, I just have a small smattering of photographs, some background narration in videos (my dad hated being on camera), fuzzy memories, and daydreams about how things could've been different. 

It's more than an event for a biography, a footnote on my life, or interesting fact about me. That motorcycle laying in the road on September 6th has been a huge lightening rod in changing EVERYTHING about the trajectory for the rest of my life. From this day alone, I could write a complex series of discourses on human relationships, family history, behavioral neuroscience, divine intervention, abuse, love, confusion, anger, hope, the wisdom of God, why we've been sent to the parents we have, and the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I will say this though. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. His Resurrection is absolutely real. Of these things, I have unequivocally no doubt. Everything in my life revolves around that. Because of those two great acts of love, the bonds within my family will never be broken.

When I think about the great blessings of the Atonement & repentance and the power of sealing families together, this is the guy I hope it's true for. I have faith that my father died for a divine reason. And even more, I have faith and hope that, through Jesus Christ, the hole I've carried for 23 years will be filled and I will eventually know what it's like to have a father.

I didn't get to know him or love him much on this earth, but I eagerly look forward to that sweet reunion on the other side. I can't WAIT to tell him all about my life. Everything I saw and did. All the hard things, the great things. The tears I shed, the things that hurt me. The extreme joys and sacred experiences. I want to tell him everything. And I know he'll want to hear every little detail. I can't wait for that sweet first embrace in heaven. I weep whenever I imagine it. It's the hug I've been praying for for so many years. That first embrace, I'll feel whole again.

I am still the literal daughter of a man who lived on this earth. A man with thoughts and opinions, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Our mortal lives didn't overlap for very long. But I do have a father.


And I am always his daughter.

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6 thoughts

  1. My heart breaks again for you and Linsey, as it did that day long ago. I so wish that I could have prevented that from happening or somehow made the rest of your life different/better but couldn't or wasn't able to. I know how much Lee loved you both. Just remember that you and your sister are both priceless to me. I love you both to the moon and back and more.

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  2. Oh my gosh. As I read this, that day floods back into my head. I still remember where I was standing when my own dad told me this terrible news.

    Your father, my uncle, was such a huge personality - smart, hard working, wickedly funny, and dedicated to his family like nobody else. I so wish you and your sister had been given more of him - you were everything to him.

    I truly feel lucky to have known him and experienced his love.

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  3. 'I didn't get to know him or love him much on this earth, but I eagerly look forward to that sweet reunion on the other side. I can't WAIT to tell him all about my life. Everything I saw and did. All the hard things, the great things. The tears I shed, the things that hurt me. The extreme joys and sacred experiences. I want to tell him everything. And I know he'll want to hear every little detail. I can't wait for that sweet first embrace in heaven. I weep whenever I imagine it. It's the hug I've been praying for for so many years. That first embrace, I'll feel whole again. '

    My first thought when I read this was - 'But he already knows! He has been watching you all along!' I don't know why I feel as strongly about this as I do - but I am certain that your father has been allowed to follow you in your life - albeit at a distance. What a beautiful tribute to him though, and to the power of the atonement. Thank you so much for sharing this! I can't take my eyes off that last picture of the two of you. The love in his eyes is so evident. I came across your blog quite by accident, and have not been able to stop reading. You have a gift. Keep writing!

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    1. Hi Jojo! I'm so flattered that you like my blog! I'm trying to write more but sometimes life just gets ahead of me haha.

      And I definitely agree with your thoughts - he already knows! I'm sure he has been following me, I've had some spiritual experiences that have taught me this. What I was trying to say was just that I can't wait to talk to him about it myself! Just like how obviously God knows everything about our lives, He wants us to pray so we can talk to Him about it ourselves! I'm just looking forward to having those conversations with my dad that I don't get to have here right now.

      Thank you for your sweet thoughts Jojo! :)

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  4. Ramona Cashmore4/01/2016 11:32 AM

    Wow. Another great article. All I can say is I agree with JoJo. You have a great gift for writing and touching people spiritually with your words and reflective thoughts. I love the way you think and see things, and then find the words to express it. I also feel that this is such a sweet tribute to your dad, who I'm sure is so proud of you. Keep up the great work Elyse!

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    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate that!

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