Life comes with it’s share of ups and downs, we all know that. There are the downs that we can breath through and the downs that take the breath from our lungs. There are days we wish we could repeat forever and days that will haunt us forever.
On May 1st, 2017, I was driving home from the grocery store with a million thoughts in my head. I’m a mother of four. My two oldest were in school and my two youngest asked to stay with a dear friend of mine for a few hours. I was busy planning my to do list of all the things I could accomplish before the bigs got home from school and the littles came home from my friends. Free time doesn’t come often and I was planning on taking advantage.
My little brother called and said ‘where are you? I need you to come to my house. It’s about Dad, Mom is here and I’ll tell you everything when you get here. Just come over now.’ I kept asking what was wrong and he wouldn’t tell me. Finally he said ‘Dad’s in the hospital, I’m so sorry, just come over.’ I knew right there, that this would be a day that would haunt me forever. You see in my family, there are no secrets. There is no ‘I’ll tell you when you get here’. I could hear the heartbreak in his voice. I knew in my heart, this was going to be bad.
When I got to my brothers house, I immediatly knew something was wrong. My sister in laws car was in the drive and I knew she should be at work. When I walked in the door, the faces of devastation I saw made me loose my breath. I’m not sure why but I walked into their bathroom and stared in the mirror. I told myself that whatever I was about to hear would be okay. I told myself to get my shit together and go back out there and face what was going on. So, that’s what I did. I sat down and looked into my moms eyes as she repeated the events of her morning. I was told that morning that my dad had lost his eye site for a few minutes and my mom made him go to the hospital. They found tumors throughout his brain. I’ve worked in the medical field for years and knew that once cancer spread to the brain there was little hope. I also knew my father and he would never go through chemo and radiation. All of this was swirling in my head and all I wanted to do was see my dad. I kept thinking is he okay? If I can just get there i’ll be able to put his mind at ease somehow. I told my mom how sorry I was. My heart was breaking for her. She just found out that the man she had spent her entire life with wouldn’t grow old with her. My baby brother held me and let me have my moment. I cried so hard in that moment, for everything we had and everything I felt we were loosing.
I went to my husbands work and broke down. I’m not someone who cries easily. So this was all new to me. I was trying to hold it all together. I was trying to talk with intelligence and strength. I just couldn’t do it. It was as if someone had a brick on my chest and I just couldn’t breath. My husband tried to calm me down. Told me he would take care of everything, not to worry. Once I knew my girls would be okay, I left for my dad.
You see my entire life, I had been a Daddy’s girl. He was the one person who could say anything to me and I would listen. He knew how to keep me in my lane. He was the person I ran to before making any decision. He was the hug I needed to make it through the bad days. He was the calming voice in my head when I felt alone. He would listen to me rant and cuss and yell when I needed to vent. He was my everything.
“The point of life is to love and be loved. I’ve had that in abundance. The only thing that makes me sad right now is that look in your eyes.”
– Daniel Brown
I can still remember walking across the bridge to the hospital. I don’t remember the car ride there. I walked by the labor and delivery waiting room. So many families smiling and showing each other pictures, I felt so sorry for us. The elevator ride took forever. When I got to the door way leading to my dad, I had that feeling that I couldn’t breath again. I walked in and gave him the longest hug. We both had tears in our eyes and we both just knew somehow that our days together were numbered. The next couple of days went by in a blur. They found tumors throughout his entire body. We would learn that he had small cell lung cancer that had spread. We were told he probably had it for a while. We were told if he did nothing he’d have weeks with us and if he decided on radiation to his brain he may have the summer. He ultimately decided he just wanted to go home. I spent most nights at the hospital with him and we would stay up all night talking for hours and going to the parking deck to smoke. He showed me how I was supposed to live and then he taught me how to die. That may sound strange but I’m not sure what I would have done knowing I had celebrated my last Christmas, birthday etc. I never saw him break down. Those nights were spent with him laying out all of the things I would need to do moving forward. His number one priority was my mom. He said ‘She’ll tell you she’s okay and wants to be alone. But don’t let that happen.’ Then my brothers, he told me all of the little things he does for them ‘when this one calls you upset, he doesn’t want your opinion so just listen’ and so on. He gave me advice on raising the girls. Two of my daughters suffer from genetic diseases and he told me he’d pull some strings when he got where he was going. He told me not to spend money on psychics or sit at the cemetary for hours because he wouldn’t be there. We planned his funeral like we were talking about the weather. We picked the songs we would play, Holding my own by Eric Church was one of them. We also joked about playing Willie Nelson’s Roll me up and smoke me when I die, we both agreed my mom would never forgive me. We laughed and cried and laughed again. I’ll always be thankful for those long nights together. Its not that we had unfinished business or anything that needed to be said. Those nights were just ours.
I drove my dad home from the hospital thinking, this could be that last time he’s ever in a car. What an odd thought during a time our entire world was crashing around us. My families strength during this time never faultered. My mother, brothers and I had one common goal and that was to make sure we were together and could take care of my dad. My brothers took leave from their work, and we all moved into our parents house. We all agreed that there would be no hospice aide, we would be the ones taking care of him. My aunt and husband took care of the kids. I would stay up all night with my dad, come home for breakfast and to get them ready for school and then go back to my parents. I was an emotional zombie. Reassuring my girls that everything was okay, Papa just didn’t feel good right now. My brothers and I being as strong as we could for my mom and dad, and spending more time together than we had in a while. It’s funny how life works. I would consider us all incredibly close but as life goes on, we are all so busy with work, spouses and kids, we don’t have a lot of time to just be together. They would stay up at night with me and I just loved the ball busting, jokes and sarcasm. It reminded me so much of my child hood. Sharing a lifetime of memories, day after day. I could share a million amazing and horrific memories of those days but there are some things that don’t need to be shared.
On May 13, 2017 my aunt woke me up and told me she didn’t think my dad had much longer. I walked downstairs and watched him in his hospital bed. My mom holding his hand. My brothers sleeping on the couches. Other family in and out of the living room. The t.v. was on and I can remember thinking, he hates this show. So I asked my uncle to hand me my phone. I pulled up Eric Church’s Holding my own. Set the phone by my dads head and held his hand. His breathing became so calm. We woke my brothers up, during that time I hit replay on the song. My dad took his last breath. It was peaceful and without a doubt made me believe there was a heaven. Thirteen days came and went from the time we found out he had cancer to the time he was gone. My entire world was shattered in thirteen days. My heart physically hurt for my mom, brothers and most of all for the four little girls I had sitting at home. He was still a young guy, 55 years young to be exact. He had so many plans for the future. Plans that would never happen now. I was 32 years old and didn’t have a dad here anymore.
My entire family loves Eric Church music. My brothers and dad especially. Music was always on in my house. We are always playing new songs for each other. Eric Church’s song Holding My Own will forever have a special place in my heart. It’s become my families hashtag of sorts. My dad passed the day before mother’s day. He’s now in heaven, Holding His Own. A torch was passed to me. I am still here grateful everyday to be Holding My Own.
I don’t think you are ever prepared to not talk your parents again. Especially for me, a man that I put on pedestal my entire life. My anchor and guiding force. He always told me I had a knack for writing and that I should do something with it. Maybe he was just being a supportive parent. You know, like those kids that try out for American Idol and can’t sing a lick?
Either way, I’m off now. Learning how to design a web site and social media. Writing my stories, opinions and advice. God help you all…. for better or worse, my hat is in the ring. Even if nobody reads what I write, I’m content with what I’ve accomplished so far.
This isn’t a woe is me story. It’s a story of love, laughter, strength and hope. Even on my worst days, I straighten my crown because I’m Dan Brown’s daughter. In my 34 years of life, he prepared me for everything. I still see him, feel him and hear him everywhere I go.
For my father, my family, my girls;
I’ll Live Love and Die, Holding My Own.