It all started on March 12th, 2020, when I received my Ancestry DNA test results. I believe everyone has a burden they carry, and if you’re lucky and/or brave enough, you’re given the grace to own that burden so you may start the healing process. For me, not knowing who my biological father was, was one of my greatest burdens.
For my 45th birthday I gave myself permission to start that journey and embrace wherever it may lead. The results on March 12th led me to find out information that would help me locate my Dad, James E. Kelley. Little did I know within that same week, I would also be closing The SoakingPot, indefinitely. Dare I say, COVID-19 was a blessing of sorts, for it gave me time that I might not of otherwise had to get to know my father. As a new business I was all out, 7 days a week, with no relief in sight, and stuck in the classic Entrepreneur mindset of “I have to be here”.
It took me about a month, to find someone who knew my father and had his contact info and April 22nd I dropped the bomb on him. He welcomed the news and was quick to request a paternity test, within a week we had those results and he knew without a doubt he had a daughter. -Ironically, as I was sitting here debating whether to put this out there, cause it’s a lot and could go either way, I look at the computer clock and it says 4:22.
I would also learn that within days of my getting my initial Ancestry DNA test results, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, in the middle of a worldwide respiratory pandemic!?? There were so many blessings and curses all at the same time. I am grateful that at this point in my life I was able to find gratitude where some might only see grief.
You can imagine we feverishly tried to catch up on the last 45 years, and create a father-daughter connection that is hard to put into words. I am so grateful he stepped in to be my Dad from day one, without hesitation. He told me he likely had a year or two, and as much as we both wanted that, the reality was he only had months. When I found out how short our time would be, I questioned a lot of things. Why bring me to this point only to take it away?!
During one of my rides down to visit him, on a day that I really didn’t want to go, but I told myself to do the thing I didn’t want to do and show up, the answer came in a moment of clarity. Maybe this wasn’t so much for me as it was to comfort a dying man and fulfill his lifelong dream of having a child. Little did I know this visit would also be his “rally moment” where he was as lucid as any other day, joking and telling stories as we held hands. I remember leaving there thinking, ok, we have a few months here.
Four days later, on July 20th, 2020 my Dad passed as I held his hand and told him it was ok and I was right there. It was a very peaceful experience and I am grateful that I was present for that moment and all the others.
My Dad visits me often, in different ways and lets me know he is always there for me. I believe this was one of those visits. I had been missing him a lot that morning and just got off the phone with my “new” cousin Danny. Engrossed in my work, I see the door open, but no one comes in, so I stood to see if maybe a child went by. I stared at the door for a bit and with slight disbelief, said “Hi Dad”.
I can tell you I have spent many thousands of hours at The SoakingPot, and never once saw the doors open on their own. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, after a loss we are often more aware and present, seeing “signs” we would otherwise miss. It offers us comfort and hope and shines some light on a dark moment.
I personally have grieved many different losses at The SoakingPot, from a career I spent 20 years building, to my comfort zone, to beloved pets, and most recently, my Dad that I barely knew. I have seen many guests come to The SoakingPot to grieve and many that have emotional releases that they never saw coming. My hope is that you find a place that you can just let go and have a moment and heal a little in the process, even if that means believing in ghosts.
Happy “First” Halloween, Dad.