We were away this weekend. We went to the Dells to spend the weekend with Maggie’s Shen sisters. We’ve gone the last six years and this was an important year for Maggie to go. I’ll say more on the weekend and the Shen sisters in later posts.

But coming back, the house was so empty. It was so quiet. I woke up early to take out the trash and looked back to the window. I knew Elena wouldn’t be there watching, but years of habit are hard to break. It was such a beautiful day. Still wintry and a bit cold but you can feel spring trying to poke its head out. Can you smell it? Can you smell that it’s almost spring.

I worry.

I worry that I will miss Elena every day and that I will look for her knowing she won’t be there.

I worry that there will come a day when I don’t think of her at all. When a day goes by without my thinking of her.

I worry that I will continue to wake each morning with the image of Elena asking one of her many questions.

I worry about the day when I will try to picture her but won’t be able to. When I will try to hear her voice but can’t.

I worry that I am worrying about all of this instead of embracing this day that I should be living fully.

Published in: on March 6, 2006 at 10:09 am  Comments (14)  

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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Dan,
    I’m a reader from Uruguay and I wanted to let you know that people are reading what you are sharing. Having lost my father recently I really know how is it to lose someone.

    Thank you.

  2. Dear Daniel,

    As a parent of four beautiful children, three of whom are still living, and one who lives only in my heart and memory,I can honestly tell you that you will never forget what needs to be remembered. You will always be Elena’s parents. She will always be your daughter. The memories of her life will be forever ingrained in your being. They will live on with you. I promise this. Details may fade–as they do even with the details of our living children’s lives–but the lessons learned and taught, the funny and the sad, the immense love and joy she brought to you every minute of every day that she lived, will ALWAYS be with you. They will be as much a part of you as the blood that runs through your veins. Keep writing, keep talking, and journalizing exact memories will always keep them fresh in your mind.

    Let me also just assure you that there is no set time to stop grieving or remembering or talking about your daughter. People will want you to stop st some point down the line. People will at some point think–“well, hasn’t enough time passed?”. They are not cruel–they just haven’t experienced such loss and they only want you to be happy and healthy. And you will be. You will laugh a little more and be able to rejoice life a little more as time goes on. But, you will grieve and remember every day. And that is okay. It is expected. Talk about it. Six years later, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t remember my little girl–some days are just small moments and thoughts, others are longer and harder. And others are wonderful days filled only with happiness. But I haven’t forgotten–neither will you. We are living for them now–not alongside of them—but for them. You will never forget her face. You will never forget her spirit. It is right there with you–a part of your body, of Kim’s, of Maggie’s.
    I promise you.

    Charlotte Neel
    3021 Warrington Road

  3. Dan,

    I can’t help but think that maybe you should take a page from Elena’s book and sleep with a photo. It wouldn’t have to be a photo of her, just a photo that helps you remember and think of her. It would be there everyday to help you remember and keep you from worrying.

    Hugs and love,
    Gretchen (& Jerry)

  4. I’m so sorry that you have to worry. I’m so sorry that you and your family have to go through this. I wish peace and blessings for you all.

  5. Daniel…..when my dad died, some one asked me if I were afraid of forgetting him or not think of him….Dad will be gone for 3 years this April…every day I think of him….every morning when I have my cup of coffee, (I make it so strong) I remember my dad sipping his coffee and commenting on how strong but good it was, I smile when I smell a cigar, or when I am cooking, when I was at work, I used to think, I wonder what my dad would think if he knew what I was doing right now with my career, or I wish I could call him at his office because I have so much to share with him and/or I need his advice….

    Brooke had her first violin competition on Saturday, she got first place….I thought right away how proud dad would be…

    Nicci loves to write and take photos, she wants to be a photo journalist, I know how proud my dad would be….

    Jeff and I went furniture shopping and ended up in an Adirondack Furniture Store….every piece reminded me of my dad….

    Embrace every day and every memory….

  6. Daniel, Kim, Maggie,

    19 years have gone by, and I still remember my sister. Thinking about it, more time has passed than I shared with her… I also remember my Dad a lot, and several years have gone by…

    I think it is easier to picture people on places and situations you shared with then, so, the more new things I live, less I expect to see them where they are not. I remember my sister more these days when I play with my kids, then I did when I was going through college. I remember my father a lot, because he is part of everything I am, but it is harder to picture him playing with his grandchildren that he would have loved, but that he never met…

    For me, all your wories have come to pass at some point, and at the same time, none of them express the reality…

    I do miss then every day, because they are part of what I am, in everything I do. But days goes by that I don’t think of them, because there are parts of me that I do want to forget from time to time…

    Their images are with me everyday, in pictures, words, gestures. I can see then in the games I play with my children, in the jokes I tell my friends, and in the sadness I feel in your story… But there are moments that I can’t picture them. Maybe I’m too busy to notice or maybe they wouldn’t be part of it anyway…

    They are part of me, their story is part of my story, my memories keep them close. The knowledge that I’ll meet then again makes those memories special. There is much more joy in meeting someone that you think of often and that’s close to your hearth.


  7. I too have the same fears, Daniel. I am scared I will lose what precious little I have left of my son. His smell, the way he sounded when he laughed, how he felt when I kissed that soft part between his neck and his jaw. But it’s been four months, and while I am losing some of the more small details like what he did and what he wore, I find I still remember the good stuff, the important stuff..

    It is just so hard to loose what little remains. And the guilt you feel for moving on, having a moment where you aren’t grieving. I find that now as some time has passed, it gets easier. The hard grieving still happens, but not as often. The soft grieving is still a daily process, but becomes a part of who you are. And it gets easier to laugh, and to move on. And to not feel saddened because you are moving on.

  8. I’ve been thinking about what to write, and since it’s not getting easier with each passing day, here I go with one of my favorite memories…it has helped me to remember and I hope it helps you too.

    Kim and I share a love for the book, “Memoirs of a Geisha”, so needless to say, we were very much looking forward to the movie release. Kim had received passes for a screening of the movie at Case and had invited me to go with her.

    I picked Kim up on the way, but came inside while Kim finished getting ready. Maggie, Elena, and Daniel were eating dinner, but when the girls saw a visitor, it was time to entertain, dinner forgotten (although they were still chewing).

    Maggie showed me one of her “Meows”, and Elena, not to be outdone, said, “Guess how many time I can jump up and down…” and right in the foyer she began jumping…and jumping (Maggie had also joined in by this time).

    Kim came down the stairs then and told to girls to stop jumping (you might aspirate!) and eat dinner.
    The impromtu show was over, so Kim and I left for the movie.

    Each time I think of Elena, which is very often, I think of her with a big smile on her face, jumping up and down (SO proud) and I find that I also have a big smile on mine.

    Daniel, Kim, and Maggie – I love all of you and hope to see you all soon.

  9. Dear Dan,
    I am one of the many silent readers of “Dear Elena.” I return to it day after day, not just because it is a beautiful ode from a grieving father seeking to preserve memories of his wonderful daughter, but also because Elena deserves to be known. This journal is an extraordinary gift to Elena and to the world. You are giving your daughter back part of the future that was stolen. If Elena had grown up, she would have touched the lives of many. Through your words, she is touching the lives of many. We are getting to know Elena, and because of Elena, our lives are enriched.
    Dora Rose
    Shaker Heights

  10. I wish there was some way I could help soften all the hurt you are feeling, take away the worry. Elena will always live on in those of us that knew her and thanks to your writing to many people who did not. She continues to touch many lives thanks to you memoir. It is ok to to still look for her in the window, listen for her giggle or questions and even try to smell the smell of her after a bath. As time goes by you may have moments when you do not think of her, eventually you might even have a day when you don not think of her but I don’t think that she will ever be truly forgotten by you. As you told Maggie at the service, people grieve in different ways it doesn’t mean that you are terrible person/father if you have a time that Elena doesn’t dominate your thoughts. As I tell Jenny quite often there is no right way to feel or grieve. Elena would not want you to put your life on hold to miss her, she was to full of life for that. She will always be a part of you. It is ok to have fun, laugh and be happy and to be sad 2 minutes later, you may think that it is disrespectful or that you are a bad person for that, but she is so deeply ingrained in your persona that whether you are conscious of it or not you will remember her smile, things that she loved to do or see, her laugh her everything. So try not to worry Daniel, worry is just something to get in the way of us living our lives. Love, Kathie

  11. Dear Daniel,
    I just discovered this blog and I had to read it from the first word to the last stop. I think it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read and I’m sure Elena is SO proud of you and the way you’re going through this.
    February 22nd was the third anniversary for my grandpa’s death too and I assure you I can still remember the way he talked, his voice, his smell, his skin… and I can’t look his picture without actually crying…
    I think you’re much more brave than I am, letting everyone participate on this, letting us to know Elena and imagine how beautiful and happy she was…

    Thank you for writing this, seriously,

  12. From a father from approx. the opposite side of the world, thank you. Thank you for me making me think of my role in life. Thank you for giving me a completely new view of fatherhood. Thank you for letting all of us be with your family through these moments.

    All of this is wonderful. You are simply honoring life itself.

    Once again, thank you. My English is not good enough to express as I would like to.

  13. For me I was worried about losing my Dad\’s voice. Speaking to him had been so comforting for me, and I was afraid I would forget the sound of him.

    Well, its been six years and I can still hear him :-)…although I\’m not sure that what I touch now in my memory is really his voice or just a distillation of the feeling it gave me. I\’ve managed somehow to hold it in a form I can access, and so I can go forward.

    Like many of the good folks who have commented on this post, I\’m also confident that you\’ll find your process (of which this website is one component) and that you\’ll be able to hold whatever you most need to remember. None of us knows what you need except you, but we can help by holding a space for you. We do that now by reading and commenting here and by learning from your experience how to live to minimize regret in our own lives. This blog is both your process and a gift of opportunity to all of us. Reading here has made me laugh and cry and has also shown me where I am now with respect to my own process of loss…which is something I\’d not connected to recently (since its been \”so long\”).

    So, my promise to you (and Kim too) is that as your friend I\’ll always be willing to talk about/ hear about your process. Even after you\’ve stopped posting here and everyone expects you to have moved on, call me up. Its small service in exchange for all the feelings I\’ve connected with here.

    Much love,

  14. Dear Daniel and Kim,
    I have read all your entries tonight. Jill was in the store today, and I want you to know that I am thinking of you alot since the sad news came of Elena’s death. I did not know her, but have a wonderful feeling for all of your family thru your entries here. I am deeply moved, and wanted you to know that I am thinking of you. Daniel, you are a gifted writer! I’ll keep on checking in…

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