I wish I could tell Meghan McCain that it will get easier.

I was her age, 33, when my dad died. He was a military man like her dad.

On Wednesday, as I watched Sen. John McCain’s memorial at the Arizona Capitol, I saw Meghan’s eyes go to the casket draped in an American flag. I saw her fold like she’d been hit in the belly and her face crumple.

I cried, standing in front of the TV because I remember that feeling. It seemed impossible that my dad could be in that box.

Well-intentioned people will tell Meghan and family that time heals all wounds. That’s not true.

It’s been almost 20 years since my dad died.

Like her, I was not ready. Like her, I was scared, and my dad wasn’t.

At first, the grief is blinding, and physical, that blow to the belly. Then it is only mind-numbing. Grief has left an ache in my chest that I’ve gotten so used to carrying around I don’t feel the weight of it so much anymore.

But it never goes away.

When I least expect it, something will remind me of my dad.

A can of Bud Light. A cowboy hat. A flag-draped casket.

And then it hurts as much as it did in those first days after he died. 

As her brothers Jack and Jimmy get older, they will look more like their dad. It happened with my brother Danny.

I hope it makes Meghan smile, through tears. 

At the memorial service, I watched Meghan reach for her dad, one hand on his flag-draped casket, and I could feel it under my fingertips.

Well-intentioned people will say at least she didn’t lose her dad until she was a grown woman. I think a girl needs her dad, no matter her age.

So this is going to be hard, always. There’s a reason for that.

Reach Karina at [email protected] or 602-444-8614. Read more at karinabland.azcentral.com.


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