On this very day, December 12th, 19 years ago in 1997, my father passed away laying in hospice in the family room of my childhood home, the only home I ever lived in before moving to Los Angeles.
He died 3 years after I moved away. He was 77 years old, had me when he was 50, and was my biggest supporter, my biggest fan and my biggest cheerleader.
My father never met the man whom I would one day marry. I never got to do the father-daughter dance with him at my wedding. And he never got to meet or hold either of his grandsons, who he would have adored.
It also hits me in smaller moments. Like ones I’ve had this month, when I didn’t get to call him and tell him that I’m guest-starring, playing a pilot, on Grey’s Anatomy (he was a pilot in WWII) or that I booked a recurring role on a new Netflix comedy series and will be shooting 3 episodes before mid-January.
I know he would have been proud. He always encouraged me to “keep going.”
But his spirit has lived on within me every single day of my life. Guiding me, nudging me, quietly whispering to me to “keep going” despite setbacks, to get up when I have fallen and to keep shining my light, even on the cloudiest of days.
I grew up near the Glenview Naval Air Base, in a suburb outside of Chicago, and he and I would spend many mornings having breakfast nearby, while watching the planes take off and land. As a former Navy Air-Sea Rescue Pilot, the the sky was my father’s most joyful and greatest escape.
No matter where we were, he’d always stop and notice the small planes that flew through the air and could tell you exactly the name, make and model of each one.
Losing a parent is one of the hardest things you will go through in your life. And there’s really nothing else to say to someone who has lost theirs except, “Yes, I know, it sucks.”
And when those milestone moments come along without your biggest cheerleader there to physically root for you, I have found messages often come in a divine way.
I always thought of my father as a wise owl. Quiet, patient, all-knowing. He was the kind of man who would think before speaking, listen before talking and always wanting to show you how to do something, so you could then do it for yourself.
When I was pregnant with my first son, and we lived in the Hollywood Hills, perched high above the valley, I never once saw an owl.
It was December 2008, I was 9 months pregnant and December 12th, the anniversary of his passing was almost upon us. I thought, wow, how cool would it be to give birth on this day – as a way to honor and remember my father through the birth of my son.
I went outside for a walk, as they tell you to do when you’re 9 months pregnant and want to “move things along,” and a full moon lit up the entire street. And there, perched high on a telephone pole right outside our home, was an owl, hooting.
It stopped me in my tracks. It’s as if my father appeared to say, “yes, this is the time, I am here with you. I am rooting (and hooting) for you.”
Well, long story short, I went into labor that evening, but my son didn’t arrive until December 16th.
Yes, 3…..long…..DAYS of labor….later.
Looking back, I still think the owl was a sign of my father’s Divine wisdom, but instead of translating it from my ego’s point of view, wanting what I want when I wanted it, I think what he was really saying was this….
- Let go of your ego’s need to control the outcome.
- Life is unfolding perfectly and in divine order.
- Your son will come when he’s ready.
- Your son is here to ignite joy within you and teach you surrender.
- The more you find inner peace, the more everything you want will find you.
I hear my father’s wisdom every single day. And have taught my sons to notice little reminders that the grandfather they never met is always here with us.
And although the holidays can be tough without the physical presence of those who we hold dearest in our hearts, reminders of their wisdom and their love are everywhere.
And it’s moments when I’m playing with my children in our back yard as the sun is setting on a wintery day in LA, where my soon to be 8-year-old son, the one born on December 16th, will look up and see a small plane fly overhead and say, “Look mommy, you’re daddy’s here right now,” and I will know that he’s right.
And that I can access my late father’s wisdom and feel his love anytime I choose.
I’ve also heard that when you’re thinking of a loved one whose passed, it’s actually because in that moment, they are thinking of you.
i have found comfort in that idea + will be smiling at the small planes in the sky today.
Hope this helps bring added peace to your December….or maybe inspires you to call your dad.
Sending you big love, deep gratitude and inner peace this holiday season.
(And yes, I teared up many times writing this one)
be sure to download my latest guided meditation Permission To Be At Peace (Letting Go Of Inner Chaos).
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