My dad passed away 10 years ago on June 16th, 2002, at 4:45PM; it was Father’s Day and he was 70 years old. It was also the last day of a family reunion his side of the family was having somewhere; I can’t even remember where it was. It was a pivotal moment in my life, so much so that just writing this little bit and seeing his picture almost makes me want to cry now. When this post goes live I won’t be here; I’ll be at the cemetery where he lays, and I’ll be thanking him once again for the years I got to spend with him and what he tried to impart on me.
For my dad’s funeral, I wrote a tribute, which I had read on that day and which still sits on my main business page to the bottom right. To this day, just under 10 years (since I didn’t add it to the site until a couple of weeks after the funeral), it’s still the most visited page on my site every month. To me, that’s a second tribute to him and to fathers in general; it seems to touch a lot of people in some way.
What I’ve never talked about is that final day and what led up to it. I don’t want to make this morbid and depressing, but there were some things that happened on that day that have stuck with me, and I figure that I want to talk about them now.
The first thing to mention is that Dad had cancer, lung cancer, that had spread to his brain and other areas of his body. He was in pain for the last 4 months of his life. He also had renal failure, and had been doing dialysis every day for over a year. Dad smoked for more than 30 years, but he was also exposed to Agent Orange while in Vietnam; terrible combination.
Dad had said very few things that were cognizant over the last 4 months of his life. He came out of it one night when I was having an argument with a cousin of mine to defend me, then went back into a netherworld state. He came out of it for about 5 minutes when a congressman he used to do some work for and a couple other people came to visit him; that was amazing.
And he came out of it when I forced his doctor to come to the house to visit him at least once, and it’s a good thing I wasn’t there that day. They started talking and, according to my mother, 5 minutes into the conversation the doctor asked my dad how he wanted to live out his remaining days; Dad never talked again after that.
Until the day he passed away, and once again I missed it. I was in the shower. My wife and I had come up to visit Dad for Father’s Day and I’d just awakened and went for a quick shower. My wife went downstairs and Dad greeted her, and supposedly was talking to both my wife and mother. Then suddenly he started having problems breathing. My wife yelled up to me as I was drying and I came downstairs, looked at him, and told Mom to call 911. They were there within 10 minutes, hooked him up, and took him to the hospital. I knew he was never coming back to the house and for the first time in almost 34 years I cried.
It was tough in the hospital emergency room that day. I wouldn’t cry in front of Dad so I kept going out into the lobby or out to the car to cry. Mom called for some help, people who worked at her church, and they did what they could for us. I talked to Mom and said Dad couldn’t come back home, and we started talking about a nursing home for him, as Mom had made herself sick by trying to take care of him. My wife knew, but I didn’t; Dad wasn’t leaving the hospital alive that day, but I still had my hopes up.
Throughout the day, I had heard other people crying and screaming as some of their loved ones didn’t make it. I had some fears, but never thought it would go that direction. They put something on Dad to help him breathe, and he kept trying to take it off. I kept asking him to keep it on, but I wasn’t totally sure he understood me. But he did look at me. I took multiple opportunities to tell him I loved him, and to thank him for everything he did for me and Mom in my life.
But it wasn’t meant to be, and the emergency room doctor taking care of Dad came into the lobby to tell us to hurry, that unfortunately it wouldn’t be much longer. Two minutes later, Dad stopped breathing, his eyes still open, and I marked the time and cried.
And cried, and cried, and cried. After about 30 minutes I went to the car and started calling a few people. I was able to reach a relative finally to give them the news. This was weird; they already knew. Seems that just as the reunion was ending a young cousin, no one ever told me which one, suddenly said that Uncle Lloyd had died. And they believed the child, but were just waiting for the phone confirmation. The other strange thing is that his twin brother didn’t know; they’d always had a strong bond but in this case it didn’t happen.
That was that. On that day I had to grow up some. I had to call to help make funeral arrangements. I had to contact everyone. I had to cry with Mom. I had to go home the next day to get more clothes so I could stay with Mom. I had to decide that Dad was going to be buried in his uniform, and I had to let the military know so he could have the military show up to do the color guard ceremony, which comes with a 21-gun salute.
And, if anyone needs to know why I keep going every day, why I keep trying to become successful, why I feel the need to try to be a positive example… this is why.
On this day before Father’s Day I hope you take the opportunity to thank your father for everything and to tell him you love him. This is something I didn’t start doing with my parents until the last couple of years of his life, because we weren’t a demonstrative family; I wish I could take that back all the time. Also, be sure to tell your mother you love her as well; we don’t have our parents for long once we’re adults; at least it never seems long enough.