My dad died a couple weeks ago on November 14th. He was 55 years old; celebrating his 55th on October 9th. I’ve been putting off writing about it. I guess I wasn’t ready to really get into it online. Not sure why, perhaps fear of losing myself again.

Before he died, in the post below this one, I’ve gotten numerous people giving me support and kindness, and many more through emails and phone calls when they had heard my dad was in hospice. One of the prevailing statements through it all was, “It’s going to be hard on you, but hang in there.” I didn’t fully understand the tough part, I thought I was doing well and I’d handle it alright. I was very, very wrong.

It hit me while at the hospice. I got there in time, too, because the day I got there was the last time he was able to talk, open his eyes, and tell me he loves me. The tumor was right under his eye, in front of his ear, and it was extremely painful for him. So he was on heavy pain medications. As a result he could barely stay awake for longer than a minute. He’d sleep, then wake up an hour or two later for a minute, then fall back asleep again.

During those precious minutes, I would hold his hand to let him know I was there. Everytime he’d manage a smile as best as he could, his eyelids half open/half closed as he made an effort to stay awake and tell me he loves me. He did this for my sister, Amanda, as well. He would grab her hand weakly, kiss it, tell her he loves her.

The next day the doctor told us that he could pass away any hour. We knew it wasn’t going to be long, but it was still a painful thing to hear. I was given a chance to talk to him alone. Even though he was asleep, the doctors said that he can still hear me. Walking in the room alone with just him and I, no family around, I let my guard down.

As soon as I came out with something to say, I just choked up. I felt my entire chest clench up, I couldn’t breath, and then it felt like I was about to burst. It was so painful sitting there next to him. A whole year of knowing he had cancer and was going to die still didn’t prepare me from such an intense feeling. I had no idea it can be that painful. That’s when I finally understood when people who had gone through a parent’s death when they say, “it’s going to be hard.”

When I was finally able to calm down enough to say something, I started off with thank you. Just thank you. You know — for bringing me into this world, for trying to be the best father he knew how even though he made mistakes, for giving me a beautiful and wonderful sister, and for loving me. I didn’t have to say all of those, because he’d know what the thank you was for.

I promised him that I am going to be a good man, and someday a good father and husband, the best I can be. That I’d look out for my mom and family. That I forgive him for all the wrongs he has done, and I hope he forgives me for the wrongs I’ve done. I kissed his forehead and told him I love him, very much.

The next three days, he never opened his eyes again. My uncle was there when he took his last breath. He said his face, filled with pain and weariness, then had a look of peace on him. He said he looked like he was on top of the world in his final two breaths. Like a signature of Heaven.

A month before he was admitted into the hospice, I spent a week with him, caring for him. As I was leaving to go back home, I knelt in front of him as he sat in the recliner that was also his bed. I hugged him, and I told him, “Thank you for being my father, and my best friend. I love you.”