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Years ago, my mom gifted us a small statue. It depicts a father standing behind his two daughters, his arms draped over their shoulders in a loving way. 

Sitting on the couch, I stare at it, trying to return to a sense of normalcy. I study its lines, how the light falls on it, and its underlying message of protection.

I can’t remember what set me off, which is par for the course. All I know is that the room is filled with negativity, and I beg the universe to release me from my shackles of rage. I long to rewind, take back the things I said and did in anger, and return to a sense of normalcy.

Ava sits at the other end of the couch, warily observing me. Livi, on the other hand, stands facing me, her expression a combination of confusion and caring. She approaches, puts one of her tiny hands on my knee, and studies my reaction.

Then, she climbs onto my lap. She puts her face in front of mine, stares into my eyes, places her hands on either side of my face, and says, “It’s okay, Daddy. You don’t need to get so mad. Everything will be okay.”

Such a beautifully kind gesture sprung from innocence. I well up. Tears fill my eyes. My vision is blurred as I reach out and hug her tightly. I’m crushed by her act of brave compassion, which continues weighing heavy on my heart.

To this day, she’s so sensitive to my moods that she often recognizes my spiraling before I even know what’s going on. She always walks up, looks at me with her beautiful innocence, asks me if I need a hug, wraps her arms around me, and doesn’t let go until I do. I take a deep, releasing breath. It works every time.

I’ve been living on my own in Sedona for a month now while Jamie visits family in Texas. I took a few items from storage to decorate my apartment, one of which is a large, shaggy rug that’s really good at hiding anything you drop into it.

Before we moved away from Denver and embarked on a two-year RV adventure, this rug was on the tile floor of our finished basement. The floor was hard, so it offered lots of cushioning while the girls played with their toys.

Now that I’m set up in the apartment, the rug sits in the living room underneath a coffee table. I frequently find small memories of those days trapped inside the rug, such as tiny scraps of paper and different LEGO pieces. 

Every time I find something, memories of those days wash over me. So, I memorialize them by placing them atop some books inside the table’s enclosure, where I can see them whenever I need.

So far from my wife and kids, they’re like a tether that helps push away the crushing loneliness. They buttress a sense of longing that I’ve never felt before. It’s physically painful.

With time and mindfulness, I can see that my life is chock full of huge blunders and mistakes. So many, they’re like pebbles lining a gravel road. But there’s no map to life; we’re all just bumping around while trying to do our best. In this, I find comfort. 

Still, I regret all the little moments and memories depression has stolen from my girls over the years and how my actions have impacted them. Every day, I think about what they’ve been through and how I failed to lovingly protect them. To wrap my arms around them like the statue.

Hopefully, with a new perspective on my depression, they’ll allow me to make it up to them with my remaining years.

  1. All children are fortunately resilient and forgiving. Their love is unconditional. You have done no harm that can’t be reversed and corrected. I have had to look at some of the same mistakes made over the years with my children. Stage 4 cancer causes you to be forced to take stock of the things you wished you would have done differently as well as the things you will do differently moving forward. Luckily, you are not in a life or death situation Derek. You have time. Your bond will be repaired to its natural state of beauty just like the statue.

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