Growing up I always thought that my Dad was invincible; and I’m pretty sure that he thought he was, too. But if I were him I would think the same thing after surviving a traumatic stroke leaving half of his body numb. He had the best sense of humor about it though; every time he stubbed his toe or hit himself on that side, he’d say zap! Because apparently, that’s how it felt. Like a lightning bolt coursing through the storm of a man he was.
May 24th, 2016 was the day my entire world shattered. I was 19 years old. My dad, 6 years after his first stroke, had a heart attack as an aneurysm exploded in his brain. They said it was instant, no pain, but the only person who will ever know is him. He was on his way home from the airport after a business trip, which wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; just another week, another trip, another place he would return from. Instead I found myself rushing to the hospital upstate at 2:00am, followed by cursing out nurses and family members for feeling like they were giving up on him. I was too blind in the beginning of the day to realize that what they were trying to tell me was true: he had no brain activity. His body was warm, and a machine kept his breathing, but he was gone. I remember collapsing on the floor, cursing God, begging to go with my Dad. I could go on forever about how much that man meant to me and how truly amazing he was, not just because he’s my father. All in all, he was, and always will be, my hero. Dad passed away at 46 but left a bigger impact on this world and the people around him than any 100 year old could.
Everything after his death was a blur. I hardly remember the funeral, which was rushed into by his money-hungry family. I distinctly remember being evicted from his home by those same family members, though, who “so generously” gave me 12 hours to take everything and leave. I was broke financially and broken spiritually. I cried every day and all the trauma I faced even after his death only made it harder. But here I am, almost 2 years later, living in my own place with my boyfriend, about to graduate from college, knowing my dad is proud of me for how I handled things. I feel him with me every day, and I know I dealt with everything the way he always taught me; by being strong. What still eats me up the most is the fact that we never really got to say goodbye– I was in a rush May 23rd and yelled goodbye from the door, and he was out of my sight. I said my final words to him in that hospital room, and I sure hope he heard me, but he couldn’t speak in return. Looking back, I guess that’s one of the things we always had in common; neither of us were ever good at goodbyes.
A Note From the Author: I just want anyone who is experiencing any grief or trauma in their lives to know that it does get better. I was in a very dark place after going through the loss of my dad, my home, and my family. I never thought I could make it through, but I did. I’m here. And I’m happy. I live my life in a much more positive way now because I realize how short it can truly be. I live for myself, and I live for my Dad. Please don’t give up on yourself or your situation; we are only victims until we choose to be the heroes.