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'Who am I if he is not here?': My search for identity after my father's death

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As I waited by my TV to watch the funeral of our nation’s beloved President George H.W. Bush, I couldn’t help my mind from wandering to his son, President George W. Bush.

Knowing he had been tasked with delivering a eulogy, a familiar pang resonated in the pit of my stomach. I imagined how he must have felt trying to write what his father meant to him, to his family, to our nation, and to the world on paper.

It felt all too familiar to me as I remembered the moments after my own father died. I sat for hours pen in hand and an ache in my heart as I tried to decide what I’d say about a man that meant everything to me. It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

It was in the deciding on the words to speak over my father's life that I recognized how much I placed the weight of my own significance in this world on his shoulders.

Since the day we are brought into the world, we are the center of our parents’ universe. Our parents’ love shines over us, pointing us in the right direction, giving our life significance, creating the safety and purpose for our lives that make us whole.

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When my father died, I then was forced to ask myself the hard questions.

Who will be my keeper, now?

How will I know which way to go without my compass?

Who will rescue me from the darkness when I am lost?

Who will care for me as much as he did?

Who am I if he is not here?

Whether you are a regular person like me or have had the honor and public life of being the President of the United States, the truth is that these are questions we all must face. We will have to grapple with how to find our identities outside of a person that prepared, shaped, and created that identity with us. We will have to figure out where we fit in this world on our own.

I’m not sure we can ever fully be our whole selves after losing our parents. They are a part of us, just as we are a part of them, and I do believe a piece of us leaves this world with them.

But as we pay tribute, as we remember and laugh about their lives, and as we honor ourselves by being the person they hoped us to be, we find their spirit lives on deep within us.

I was reminded by the Bush family of a hard day for my family, as it probably did for many people. I hope we all find comfort in understanding a universal pain.

God bless the Bush family, and God bless all those who know the anguish of saying goodbye to a parent.

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