When I was ten-years-old my Dad died.
I was in the 5th grade at Ottawa River Elementary school. It was a split class of 5th and 6th graders. I came home from school and called my Dad’s house like I did every day to talk to my Mom. My parents were divorced, but my Mom was at his house helping with his care.
My brother answered the phone and he said, “You haven’t heard, have you?”
But he didn’t SAY it.
So, if he didn’t SAY it, it didn’t happen today, right?
So, I changed my clothes. I remember what I was wearing (of course, I do.) It was the white-t-shirt that I painted with the art therapist who came to talk to me once a week about having a dying parent. (I humored her. She told me about the loss of her parent and I thought I was there to help her. Smile.)
Anyway, I was playing with a friend in the front of my house… (I think she even knew)… and the rest of the day was a blur.
I don’t remember who told me that he had died.
I just remember feeling hollow.
I had only felt that once before.
I wasn’t a kid, really. I was always a 35-year-old. (Ask my family – they can attest to this.) I’ve grown up with two not-well parents and some other circumstances that propelled me prematurely into adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go kicking and screaming. I always felt more at home with adults and talking about serious subject matter.
So, I understood all of this. I was fully aware of life versus death.
I had seen through a delicately protected prism what cancer does. Of course, I had seen this through my little girl eyes – but I remember it like it was yesterday. I saw how my Dad changed. I saw how his body changed. I heard how his speech and voiced changed. His skin changed. His hair…
Before he died, my Dad sat down with me in my room. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was holding my teddy bear, “Tedit.” (He had bought it for me on one of his many trips to Bethesda for his experimental cancer therapy.)
He just came right out and said it:
“Kylee, I’m going to die.”
And that’s when I felt hollow for the first time.
And that’s when I cried.
I cried because no daughter ever wants to lose the strongest person they know.
No child should have to witness her Dad lose his battle.
Now I look back at that conversation and my eyes well up with tears because I’m a parent now.
And I can’t imagine looking at my baby girls and telling them what he told me.
Oh, how brave.
How brave he was to do that.
And how thankful I am that he did.
When he died, I wasn’t surprised. I understood.
Why? Because he told me that this was going to happen.
I wish more people had the opportunity I had.
When he died, I got his eyeglasses. I’d put them on every now and then and I remember the year that our prescriptions were almost identical. I could see through his eyes.
When someone you love dies, you always want to feel close to them, don’t you?
So on this day, I remember my Dad. And I thank God for those ten years that I got with him. And I thank God that I have siblings who remind me of him.
I look at my brother and I see my Dad. Sometimes, and I love these times – I can hear my Dad’s laugh when he laughs.
Ah, it’s just another way to feel close to the one you lost. Thank God for those times.
Life goes on, doesn’t it?
Hug your family today.