Yesterday I promised you a story about gratitude from my life this week. It is a bit of a long story but I believe it is worth your time.
It all started 11 years ago when my father died. I had been estranged from him for the year prior to his death for many complicated reasons. I was finishing college after a long ten years of struggling to put myself through school. I had one three-week summer school class left to get my degree. I took the final exam on a Friday morning and flew from San Diego to the Bay Area late on Friday night so I could visit my father.
I spent Saturday with my dad in the hospital in San Francisco and was shocked to see how poorly he was doing. He could hardly speak but he was definitely surprised and happy to see me. I told him that I had finally graduated. Around 9 p.m., I went to a nearby market to get a snack. I asked him if he wanted anything and he squeaked out the word, "Sprite!" I brought him his drink but little did I know that was the last thing my father would ever say to me. I don't remember what time I went to my hotel room that night but I woke up at 3 a.m. and could not sleep. I wanted to go back to the hospital but I was intimidated by figuring out how to get access to him after hours. Eventually I fell back to sleep and at 5:30 a.m. I got "the call." It was Sunday, June 21, 1998 -- Father's Day -- and my dad had died.
It was about two days later, it's all a blur, but I had to return home to San Diego. To say I was distraught is an understatement. It was very difficult to be out in the public, with the regular people and regular activities swirling around me. Somehow I got myself checked in and to the gate. I was totally unable to hide my grief. I don't remember much of the flight, only that I was miserable and wanted to be somewhere private. I was unaware of anything but my heartache. As I was sitting in my seat waiting to disembark, a woman handed me a card silently. I remember feeling jolted by the realization that other people could see me. She left the plane and I opened the card.