While I'm extremely grateful for all that I have in my life, this Thanksgiving there will be missing one thing: My father.

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I've been reluctant to write about losing my dad, Tony, back in early September. Although he was 70 years old, his death was sudden. My world changed with a phone call from my mom one Saturday morning saying she couldn't wake him up. I've spent the last two months processing his absence in my life, and feel kind of in a state of nothingness these past few days as I prepare for holidays without him.

My friend Matt Ryan, who lost his father a few years ago, told me that the 'firsts' of a year without a parent are the hardest. Traditions that once included that parent suddenly change. And I've been feeling that as Thanksgiving approaches. I know that tomorrow I'll be sitting at the table with my mom, brother, and husband, feeling like a vacuum sucked all the air out of the room while I try to stay in the moment and be present for those around me.

Heather DeLuca

But when I arrive to my mom's tomorrow, my dad won't be there to great me and say, 'Happy Thanksgiving, baby.' I won't hear my mom hollering for him to help get something down from the cabinets for her, or run out to get something for dinner she's run out of or forgotten. Instead I'll be missing him immensely, while staring at an empty chair.

My dad was my everything. My hero. My partner in crime. The one and only person who ever truly GOT me. And the hole inside my heart now sometimes feels like it's going to swallow me up. While I look up at the sky every night and think of him, I'm still feeling hollow. I hope during Thanksgiving tomorrow, my family is able to tell memorable stories about my dad, and not be so sad. He was wonderful, and maybe I'll tell you more about him some time. But it's one day at a time.

Heather DeLuca

At a time when so many of you have experienced loss of your own due to the pandemic, I know I'm not alone in my grief. Just know I'll be thinking of you and your loved ones while I celebrate with my own.

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