I remember the time when I was five. I tell the story so often that most of you reading may even know it. I had just graduated kindergarten and I was on top of the world. I was so excited to get home. It was a warm and sunny day in June. My gifts were a tall cup filled with Pepsi and a slip and slide. A slip and slide is a toy that is a long sheet of thin plastic connected to any garden hose making it wet when you slide. You slide from one end until you reach the end. You do that until you are too tired or in my case, until you are injured.
That day, I was prepared. I was ready for my graduation gift to be set up in the yard. I waited anxiously. I was so excited when I heard my parents call me into the yard to play. I ran and I slid. Joy! I ran I slid. Happiness! Then I ran and slid my knee right through a nail. I was in so much pain. My father set up the slide as he did with all of things in our home. I was so mad. I screamed out to my mom “dad is trying to kill me”! Ever since that day, I really thought he was. I was mortified and refused medical treatment. I did not want to speak to my father. I did not want to see him. I was angry. My parents thought it was funny. I know they felt terrible about what happened. Now, at 32, I still have a beautiful scar on my knee from that day and an awesome story to tell people about that day. But there was more to it. Throughout the years, I learned that my father was not trying to kill me at all. That is when all the fun began.
Dad took me on trips to Six Flags Great Adventure Amusement Park, the movies, had barbecues and made life enjoyable every summer of our youth. He would take us on emergency heating calls late at night during the winter to ensure others had heat. He would get out of bed at 2:30 a.m. if anyone needed him. He rescued many of his family members from dangerous life threatening situations. He took in many of my cousins as his own. He always had a smile on his face. One summer he took all of the kids that lived on our grandmother’s block in Bushwick to Six Flags Amusement Park. He rented vans so family and friends could all attend together. He loved to drive and drive fast!
Dad often worked hard, long hours six to seven times a week. For that, I often resented him. He did not come to my plays in schools, dance recitals or band practice. I remember all he did and didn’t do. When my parents separated I didn’t think it would last. My parents have known each other over forty years. I could never imagine them living without each other. I was so upset when dad left because he abandoned our family. It was unthinkable. It was not real to me. I did not speak to dad for about five years. I often wondered where he was. What he was doing. Who he was with and where he was staying. And why didn’t he love us anymore. It was a difficult time in my twenties with him not being around.
My father and I finally reconciled after long talks, hugs and a lot of understanding. It was a wonderful feeling to have him back in our lives. He was doing his very best to maintain his relationships through calls. It was back to the fun again with him. We had fun times and began to hang out again often. Then he started getting sick. The illness was taking over as each day passed. In May of 2015, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer.
My sisters and I became his primary caregivers. My younger sister, Samantha took him in providing food, comfort and support. I handled his day to day activity including phone calls, doctor appointments, transportation and any other thing he would call for. Our wonderful cousin Daisy took time off of work and her social obligations to care for, provide and comfort him. Daisy was part of his late night calls and lifted him up when there was no one around. Daisy ensured proper care was taken of him by the nursing staff in every facility he was in. She played an integral part in his care, daily needs and spiritual support. Mervin, her husband, was there as well always providing a shoulder to lean on. My sister Alisha would cook, call and took extraordinary care of him during his last days of life. I am so eternally grateful and proud of their demeanor while he was battling his disease.
A few weeks ago, I could not attend a follow up appointment dad had. However, I wanted to be there to support. I asked dad to leave me on speakerphone while the doctor was talking to him. I didn’t hear much but I did feel it. I told my dad I could not hear. He said he would call me back but I refused to hang up the phone. Next, I heard tears and felt pain. I knew it was not good news. My father’s doctor told him he has weeks to live. We were all devastated.
The next few weeks he was in the hospital and then transferred to hospice. Every day he fought. I remember speaking to him one day asking him how he was. He said “I have PMA, Positive Mental Attitude and that is all I can do. I have to live with this diagnosis and the cards life had dealt me with but I have to be positive.” He was and will always be Superman to us. Our hero!
Listening to the way in which he handled himself, the love he continued to give and the way in which he kept fighting to live made me realize how lucky I was to have him in my life. As he was fighting for his life, he continued to teach me lessons on how to survive, how to be strong, how to persevere and how to be a hero. I was so honored to be his daughter. I vowed to remain gracious and dignified during his last days as he would have wanted me to be. My dad’s last breath was on 7/27 at 4:20 PM.
I remember the night before I had a meeting to introduce Hey There Beautiful to potential Board members. I rented a conference room to maintain a professional decorum. I catered lunch. I emptied out part of my stock options with my current employer to make it happen. I drafted a PowerPoint presentation, began the process of our by-laws, created manuals for Hey There Beautiful, wrote our an operational guide, did research, made phone calls and really put everything together as best as I could. I still did not feel like it was enough. I then called dad crying in the parking lot of a Walgreens. I said dad, what advice would you give to someone who unsure about themselves. He chuckled because he knew I needed advice. He said “leave it all on the table. Don’t hold back and you got this. I have worked all my life for you to chase your dreams. I put businesses on hold for you girls. I worked so you girls could have. Now it is your turn. If I know anything at all, I know that you got this and you don’t need me to tell you that but I will. You are my daughter and because of that you are destined to do great things. You are made for this. You are built for this. You don’t need me to tell you that. I know you know that. I know that you know you can do this. I love you. You will never know how much I love you” I. I remember calling him the next day to tell him we were launching HTB! He was excited.
Without reconciliation, acceptance, encouragement, understanding, faith, support and love Hey There Beautiful Inc. would not be possible. My father’s pep talk encouraged me to move forward, be strong and believe in my intuition. I am so proud to be his daughter to carry out his legacy lighting the planet with the love he gave to me. I will always carry his courage, strength and love in my heart. Times when I don’t want to get up in the morning, when I feel discouraged or pained, I often think of times he was able to get out of bed after chemotherapy to just walk around. I remember how badly he wanted to do the simple things and live. For that I am forever grateful to be able continue to run Hey There Beautiful Inc. into the world of limitless possibilities of restoring communities, making new relationships and empowering the world to live their dreams. To you from the bottom of our hearts I say, dad I love you, I will miss you and thank you for carrying a torch so enormous I can now use your light to give light and hope to others who are in need of what you have given me, LOVE.
You will be missed and never forgotten! We love you dad!
Gracefully and beautifully inspired,
PS- Thank you to all those that took care of him, donated, loved, called and supported us during this time. There are so many people to thank and know that you are the reason I continue to move forward. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.