On Christmas Eve, a well-meaning person told me that “he’s not in pain anymore so you can’t cry and be sad.” I beg to differ. I most certainly CAN cry and be sad. I can rage and be heartbroken. I can scream inside my head because nothing will ever be the same. I will never be the same. A piece of me died when I watched my Daddy take that last breath. He carried part of my heart with him to Heaven, and I will never get that back. I won’t – and can’t – be whole again. I’m so happy that he is no longer suffering on a daily basis. I’m grateful he’s not in so much pain all of the time. I’m glad he doesn’t have to go through tests and procedures and surgeries and treatments. But those things don’t negate the pain. It doesn’t make it okay. None of that makes me feel better about my Dad being gone. I knew it would hurt badly. I had no idea, though, just how horrific this would be. I had no clue that I would feel so completely lost and broken.
Tonight while crying, I told David that I don’t know who I am without my Daddy. I don’t know how to be without him… how to act, how to get through the days without calling him for a laugh or some advice. No one understands the bond that Dad and I had. Yes, I was a Daddy’s girl. Yes, he always ALWAYS put me first. Yes, he was my hero. But he was also my best friend, and I mean that literally. We called each other nearly daily, just to laugh about something, gripe about having a bad pain day, discuss various health options, talk about the grandkids, worry about bills or trade stories about the old days. We leaned on each other when something wasn’t right and we took turns applauding each others’ accomplishments large and small. We loaned each other money. We griped about a loved one who drove us nuts, those who made us angry and talked up the ones who made us happy. We shared EVERYTHING. Heck, I even called Dad when I first started having female problems. It may seem weird to some that Dad and I were this close, but it worked for us. I’ve been his little princess since the moment I was born and that never changed.
I’m not kidding when I say my Dad always put me first. Unfortunately, I believe he put me first at the end, when his life depended on it. He never bounced back after that stupid Cryoblation. When Beka and Camden and I left on November 1st to go to Connecticut, I knew he was still feeling a little poorly. He swore to me it was nothing to worry about. He promised me he was feeling a little better each day. I made him swear he would call me if he got worse. I told him in no uncertain terms I would come home early to help him, take care of him – make him see a doctor. He chuckled and thanked me like always for taking such good care of him.
I called him several times while we were there. He loved hearing about our trip. He couldn’t wait to see the photos I took of the leaves turning out East. The last conversation we had while I was there was the night before we left to head back, when I excitedly called him from the beach to tell him I had seen a whale. He was so excited for me. I told him he sounded a little down but he said he was just sleepy and about to take a nap. Stupidly, I believed him. Maybe I just wanted so badly for him to be okay.
When we got home on Monday the 18th of November, I called to let him know we were back and all was well. We talked idly of my coming over later in the week to show off all of the pictures. He still didn’t sound quite right, but he assured me once again he was okay. On Thursday, he called to let me know an ambulance was on the way to get him because he had excruciating pain in his leg. I met him at the hospital and we found out he had a clot running the entire length of his thigh. His INR was off the charts. He had Sepsis. The cancer had spread beyond his lungs into his lymph system. He wasn’t very lucid those next few days. When he did wake up the evening after the doctor gave us his final prognosis, Dad was so awake. He made me sit on the bed and explain why we were there and what was going on. He didn’t remember any of it. He didn’t remember answering all of the questions, talking to various doctors and going through all of the tests. He asked me point-blank if this was it… was he dying. I had to look my Daddy in the eyes and tell him that this time, they couldn’t fix it. I explained that the doctors thought we’d have about six months. He gave me that half-grin of his and a huge hug. He had tears in his eyes when he promised me we would make the most of that time. We would spend it together, and I promised him I wouldn’t let him be in any pain. I swore I’d do whatever it takes to make it as easy for him as I could.
We got five days after bringing him home. Five short days later, he was holding my hands as he slipped from this Earth. He never was in pain, and didn’t have much trouble breathing. He was very aware that last night… right until the end. He couldn’t really talk, but he was able to let me know in other ways that he understood things I said – with a hand squeeze, a nod of his head or even a grunt of “uhn uhn” or “mmhmm.” About half an hour before he died, my Daddy turned his head and looked me in the eyes. He said “I love you” as clear as day. It was like he saved up his energy by not talking those last few hours so that he could get that out. He knew I needed it, and he needed me to know that even as his life slipped away, he was thinking of me. He was putting me first once again. He knew how much losing him would tear me apart. The stubborn man refused to tell me while I was gone that he was slowly getting worse… he didn’t want me to miss a single moment with my grandbabies. He put my happiness before his own health… and I will never let go of the deep sense of guilt I have over that.
If he had told me… if I had only been home… we could have gone to the doctor much sooner. Sepsis wouldn’t have set in. They could have fixed his INR so that he didn’t clot the way he did. There are so many if’s here. I know intellectually that he very well may still be alive if only he had TOLD me. It makes me angry, I admit it. I want him to have TOLD me so that we could DO something. I do not for a moment believe that he wanted to leave. I know for a fact he didn’t. He didn’t want to die yet. I truly believe if he had known this would happen, he would have DONE something much sooner. I have to believe that. But I hate myself in some ways for allowing him to put me first so much. I shouldn’t have basked in the feeling that someone on this Earth – my Daddy – loved me more than anything and anyone else. Maybe if I forced him to tell me more often when he felt badly (he would brush me off a lot so I wouldn’t worry), maybe he would have told me this time, too. I know I’m not making a lot of sense, and that’s okay. I just have to get this out before my head explodes into a million pieces like my heart has.
I’m scared. I’m lost. I’m broken. I NEED my Daddy. I need him here so badly and I don’t know what to do without him. I don’t know how to be me anymore. I don’t know how I’m supposed to live the rest of my life. I need to hear him again… “I love you, sugar.”
I love you too, Daddy. I miss you so much – every single second. I know I have to go on, and I’m trying so hard. I know you would want me to laugh and love and be happy. I know you want what’s best for me. I just hope you know how very much I love you. I promise you that somehow I will figure it all out.