I remember what I was doing 18 years ago today. I sat at my Aunt JoAnne's home with my younger brother at my side. We were informed that at nearly 1:00 in the morning, my father had passed away. July 24th, 1994. He was only 39 years old.
Less than 12 hours before that where I was exhausted from being at the hospital, Aunt Jo asked if we'd like to stay at her house with her over night. My older brother who had no fear of being home alone chose to get dropped off at home. Drew and I went to stay with Aunt Jo. I went to say good bye to my dad, to say I would see him in the morning. By this time he was already in a coma, and as I went to give him a kiss good bye I knew it was the end. Despite all the signs, the words, the "understanding", this time I knew it. When I kissed him good bye, the last time I ever would do so, he didn't return the kiss. I'd watched him in a coma for at least a day or more and had no idea really. This time I did. I would never converse with or gain affection from him ever again.
I said good bye, I touched his face, and I walked out of the room where I pressed my back to the wall and sunk to the ground in an uncontrollable fit of tears and sadness hoping no one saw me. I calmed down to a point and remember (of all things) a nurse asking if I wanted a Popsicle.
18 years later I still remember the lack of response the last time I said good bye. I still regret not being a more loving child, a more supportive child, just a better person in general. I still regret mean things I said to him or about him. I've learned that you can't live life in such a way that allows these regrets to seep into you. Sure, everyone has passionate bouts where they say or do the wrong things...but I had more of those than most, and perhaps some justified. By the time I got to say goodbye, my father didn't know. Now all I can do is show up at his grave and remember the last place his body ever was...
Dani will never know him; he never got to see me graduate high school or college (twice!); nor was he able to walk me down the aisle and have a father-daughter dance with me. These things are what hurt. But to every sad thing I know there are positives. My father was unhealthy and now that isn't an issue. He met Holly before he left us, a very rare opportunity for fate to show its face. Our lives could have been tragically different if things were the way the had been the last year's of my father's life. A thousand "what-ifs" are all we can speculate.
I suppose my father's passing has made me a better person, more understanding, and watchful of the horrible words I may say. It made me grow up at 15 years old. It made me appreciate the things I had and things I earned. It made me proud to talk about my dad, to honor him. To this day, 18 years later, it isn't easier, I've just gained more understanding.