Since I feel as though I know a lot of you, I feel like I should share with you that awful day. For some reason, it feels therapeutic to do that.

It was Sunday, April 26, 1998. Dad was out of town with Grandpa, celebrating his birthday and they went to play for Grandpa's friend Don, who was dying of cancer. Mom, Cassie, Jimmy, and myself were at home, doing our usual things. Dad eventually got back home, and we ate dinner and watched TV together. Before we knew it, it was time to hit the sack, as we had school the following day. We said our good nights.

But a couple hours or so after we went to sleep, everything changed. A distant cousin, Kim, woke Jimmy and I up, told us to get ready, because our parents were on their way. I'm so tired and puzzled, I'm thinking, "On their way where?". After getting dressed, Kim told us the folks were on their way to the hospital, as my father was sick. Being 9, I was optimistic and hopeful he would get better. As soon as we got to the hospital and went to the waiting room, Cassie was already there and was crying. Mom and Aunt Patty were in the OR with Dad. As young as I was, I immediately noticed and felt that something wasn't right.

It takes me to what happened in between all that. Dad had woken up feeling a pain in his stomach, and figured all he had to do was go to the bathroom. Dad went downstairs, as the upstairs bathroom was occupied, and just as he got to the bathroom, he fell backwards. Mom, having been startled, went downstairs to check it out. Seeing Dad on the floor, she freaked out. She immediately called 911 while staying with Dad. Dad told her, "I don't wanna die", and Mom assured him that he wouldn't. As Dad was being taken in the ambulance, he told Mom he loved her.

After everyone had gotten to the hospital, we waited for what seemed like hours. I asked Kim if Dad would be okay, and she didn't think he would be better. I lost it right there and cried what felt like enough tears to fill the Grand Canyon. Hospital rules normally didn't allow children in the OR, but made an exception. As soon as we got to Dad's room, he was hooked up to a couple of different machines, with a nurse tending to him, and it looked nothing like the dad I knew, who was always so active.

We went back to the waiting room, and a while later, Mom came to the waiting room, and told Cassie, Jimmy and I that we had to say goodbye to Daddy. It was just after midnight, Monday April 27, 1998. At the young age of 36 due to a heart attack, Daddy was gone.

The moment Mom told us, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. We went to Dad's room and told him goodbye. I literally realized, never again would I see Dad, hear his voice, exchange jokes, nothing. All I had were the memories that I still cherish to this day.

After some time had passed, we went back home. Uncle John had arrived some time earlier and was there to let Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle Jeff, and Uncle Joe in. Aunt Debbi arrived a few minutes later with my cousins Holly and Travis (Uncle Rich was off town, but showed up a few days later). After exchanging hugs and tears, the grandparents and uncles went to the hospital with my aunt where Mom and Aunt Patty still were. Different people had come and gone through the night, but I was asleep, and didn't see them as a result. The day Dad died, so many people lost someone important. Mom lost her husband and best friend, Jimmy, Cassie, and I lost our dad, my grandparents lost their son, my paternal uncles lost a brother, my maternal uncle and aunt lost their brother-in-law, my cousins lost an uncle, and countless others lost a family member and a friend.

The funeral and burial both came and went. One would have thought that Dad was a celebrity with all the people who showed up at his funeral, including relatives on both sides of my family and the countless friends Dad had.

To this day, I don't know how Mom did it, being a widow at 34 with 3 young children and having to do more. I really applaud and admire her for doing so. I love you so much, Mom!

Life was never the same after that. Each of us had used our grief differently. Even after 19 years of Dad not being here, it's still hard and I've been thinking about him more with the events that have happened and that are coming up. It saddens me that my nephew (and my future nieces and nephews and my own children) will never know their Papa Jim, Brandon and Lizz will never know what an awesome father-in-law/second dad they would have had, and so much more that could have happened with Dad.

To all of you who still have parents alive, whether it be one or both, reach out and let them know how much you love them. Because, you never know what may happen the next time.

God bless you all!