So…today has been one of those days. One of those days that I really miss my dad. As most of you know, I lost my dad a year and a half ago. February 25, 2013 was/is (to date) the worst day of my life. It was a Monday morning, about 2 weeks after Nick and I got married, and I woke up to my husband telling me to get up and get dressed. I was really confused, because he had left for work a few hours before that and I wasn’t expecting him home. I was about 24 weeks pregnant with Branson at this point and I had called out of work that day because I wasn’t feeling good. He said my dad collapsed at work and he was in the hospital and that was all he knew. He gave me no details, but I could tell that he meant business and we had to hurry. It is a feeling that I truly cannot describe. My heart dropped to the floor and all my worst fears were coming true. We had about a 25 minute drive to the hospital that he was at and it felt like hours. All i wanted was to hold onto my dad. I wanted to text him, call him, whatever. My phone was BLOWING up while we were in the car and Nick wouldn’t let me look at it or answer it (later I was so thankful i didn’t).
When we arrived at the ER entrance, there was about 20 of our closest friends and family standing in the grass beside the entrance. My sister opened my door and very calmly took my hand and walked me inside of the ER, just her and I. (Later, when I reflected on this moment, I realized that there was NO earthly reasoning behind my sister being so calm after she found out minutes before this that my dad had passed. I knew that my dad had taken over her body in those minutes. It sounds sort of crazy if you didn’t know my dad, but he was always very calm and collected and the most calming person that I knew. Thank you dad for giving Ali the power and strength to carry me in that moment. I wouldn’t have probably made it without her courage). I was screaming and asking to see my dad and she was calming me and basically holding me up. She took me into a dark room where there was a woman who asked me to sit down. I knew what she was going to tell me and I fell to the floor and just started banging on it. That’s all I could do. I was screaming and I was mad. That type of heartbreak is something that I would never wish on anyone. My heart truly hurt. I found out later that before I arrived, the labor & delivery floor of the hospital was alerted of the situation and was on standby just in case. To this day, I truly do not know how Branson survived. Babies are crazy resilient. I went through weeks and months of deep sadness & not eating and he hung on strong. I am so thankful he did.
To fully comprehend what had happened, I had to see him. I ran back into the room where he was and I could not believe it. I thought he was going to sit up and flash his warm smile and reach out for a big bear hug. As I sat next to him and laid my head on his chest, I prayed harder than I ever have. I was trying to make deals with God. I wanted nothing more in life than to have him back. I thought about how for 25 years, I was the luckiest girl in the world to have a father like him, but then I thought of the 50+ years more that I wouldn’t have him around. To laugh with, cry with, and see him hold my baby. He was my rock and the backbone to my family. (A few months later, I was trying to explain to a friend what it felt like to lose someone that close to you. I compared myself to a solider in war that looses a limb and has to learn to live and cope with only 1 instead of 2. That is truly what it feels like.)
My life has changed since that cold February day. I am not the same person as I used to be. I forgive easier. I am not as quick to judge. I take WAY more pictures. I always try to see the good in people. I listen better. And lastly, I love harder. I will say, of all the things I struggled with and still struggle with; blaming God has never been one of them. I know that there is an ultimate plan. Through all the awful pain my family and I have gone through, so much good has come from my dad passing suddenly and far too soon. Thank you for listening to my story and I hope that through all this babble, you take away two things. First, TAKE PICTURES!!! I know it can be so annoying in the moment to stop and pull your iPhone or camera out to remember it, but it is worth it, I promise!! At my dads viewing/funeral, we had a continuous slide show playing of family pictures. We had so many people approach us and comment on how many beautiful pictures we had as a family and how it showed our true love for each other & displayed the amazing fun we always had together. Second, LOVE PEOPLE. Between my dads viewing and funeral, over 500 people showed up to pay the respects to the man that they loved and more importantly loved them back. He touched SO many people, ones that I knew, and so many that I didn’t know until then. My dad served in the United States Air Force for 28 years and the amount of lives he impacted through the military was beautiful. We heard words like, “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasnt for your dad” and “He gave me a chance when nobody else did.” These testimonies were so calming and healing in some way, during this awful time. My dads previous boss even set up a flyover, where the pilots flew a flag in my dads honor and presented to my mom, sister, and I at the funeral. It was a beautiful moment and truly exemplified the impact my dad had on so many people. He loved them unconditionally and believed in them when nobody else did. His legacy lives on through his family and friends every day. I know that my angel watches me everyday and cheers me on his Heaven just as much as he did on earth. I love you daddy.
Below are just a few of my favorite pictures of my dad. I have hundreds, but tried to narrow it down. Some new, some old, some professional, and some crappy camera phone pics. Either way, it captures his infectious smile, goofiness, and most of all his beautiful personality.