That day is emblazoned in my mind. I can tell you specific details like I am recalling the events of this morning. I'm pretty sure that will never go away. I wasn't supposed to be home that day. I should have been moving into my first apartment, but the former tenants weren't out yet and my move was delayed a week. So on May 14th, my dad picked up me and two of my roommates and we headed home for a few days before the move.
We awoke on the 15th to the sounds of my dad singing, "Come Out and Play," by Offspring at the top of his lungs. Yes, he was slightly crazy. My friend C rolled out of bed and just said, "Your dad is so cool." And I had to agree. In fact, his coolness was proven again just hours later when he set up the three of us with an appointment with his tattoo artist for later that evening.
The rest of the day was pretty typical. We would come and go as we pleased. Mom and Dad were busy around the house, but you could just tell that something was off with my father. He was extremely bloated. So much so that he couldn't make a fist. And he kept zoning in and out. But since he had been sent home from the hospital with a clean bill of health the night before, I think we all just thought that it was no big deal and he would be fine. It's crazy how thing are so clear in hindsight.
So that afternoon, before C, M and I went to get our new tattoos, my dad asked me to go pick up his paycheck. He proceeded to write me out directions with a map, an event that on a normal day would be a piece of cake. But instead, he was kind of loopy and almost falling asleep as he drew the map. All I could do was laugh, I mean, seriously, he was acting ridiculous. As I left the kitchen, with poorly drawn map in hand, I kissed him goodbye and told him to go sleep it off. Little did I know that would be the last thing I ever said to him.
The girls and I got back from tattoo shop just before 8 p.m. I was a Wednesday night and we were about to watch Dawson's Creek together. A tradition my family had ever since the series first aired. But my Dad was still sleeping, so my sister G, then 3 days from her 12th birthday, went to go wake him up. But she came back, completely white in the face, saying that he wasn't waking up. We called 911, and for all their effort he couldn't be saved. By far the WORST moment of my life. We cried and screamed and cried some more. It kills me just to think of it.
In that very moment, we all changed. How could you not? Losing someone that important to you really puts your life into perspective. You start to understand how insignificant all the little things are and that what really matters are the people we share our lives with.
And because of the awareness I gained from my loss and the person it has helped me to become, I can say that the most horrific moment of my life has also been one of the best. And there are hundreds of reasons why. Here are some of my favorites.
- It has made me appreciate the people around me more than ever - my mom and my sisters, while always important in my life, evolved into my best friends.
- I always try to say "I love you" even when "I want to kill you" is running through my mind.
- I have become more easy-going and I stress about so much less than I used to.
- I've adopted the healthiest lifestyle that I can, to ensure (as much as is in my control) that my children never have to experience what my sisters and I did.
- I've learned that being strong is good, but being vulnerable is better.
- I know that while life will never be the same and the hurt will never completely disappear, with time it gets better.
- I understand that love will get you through anything.
So, here's the lesson of the day. Hug your kids. Visit your parents. Let everyone you love know it. You never know what tomorrow will bring.
And because I know you all love pictures - Here are some of my dad and me.
From top to bottom:
From vacation, Summer 2001 (He wasn't that short. He just thought it would be funny if he looked like a dwarf next to us.)
Our last family picture, Christmas 2001
My favorite picture of the two of us. Summer 2001