The Milans in My Life

Today marks the 9th anniversary of my father's death. 5:31pm. I held his hand as his heart stopped and he took his last breath.

I have a confession to make: that moment changed me, because of course it did. But it catapulted me into 9 years of recurring panic. The inability to sleep at night, invaded by thoughts of death. Panic simply driving around because it might end in a crash. Panic especially during my pregnancies and births and tending for tiny babies.

My thoughts were not ruminations I indulged or invited as much as they were invasions - terrifying thoughts that would rob me of lovely moments, peaceful moments, or utterly mundane moments. Moments where I should be restful could become unbearable when I was visited by these thoughts.

Afraid of death. Afraid to die.

But two events changed that. The first was moving to China - I felt like that was a journey I took with my father. He was an immigrant, a world traveler, an intrepid explorer. I often imagined I was living the kind of life he lived. I felt proud of myself and I felt he would have been proud of me. It lessened much of my pain - I felt joy again, I felt closer to him.

And then when my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, it was like all my fear of death just vanished suddenly. Death wasn't just a spectre or a vague threat. He was standing right next to us and I had to confront Him head on. My son could have died during his weeks of misdiagnosis and lack of proper treatment and he didn't. My God I am thankful my son is alive. Every single day I feel that gratitude.

And while I am skeptical that things really work this way, my fear of death is now gone. Perhaps it is because I dance with Death daily now. It's like He's my new companion on my life journey. (But it has never been otherwise for any of us, has it?) I'm just more aware of Its nearness.

My son is always, every minute of every day dealing with a serious, chronic, potentially life-threatening illness. Since May I have had a crash course in keeping him alive and have to calculate every move he makes or doesn't make to ensure he continues to live. Every day. I have only had a full night of sleep a handful of nights since his diagnosis.

I say none of this to complain or seek pity - you will never hear me complain that I have the privilege of keeping him alive. I am beyond grateful I live in a time where medicine and technology allow him to have a mostly normal life.

And so, on this 9th anniversary I have a new perspective. I walk with Death and I hope I'm living my life more fully and with more awareness and gratitude.

I love you and miss you Daddy.