Losing my father was one of the hardest things I've ever had to endure. I feel lucky that I had him in my life for 29 years, but I still feel it was a little too soon. In July of 2006, he began to get sick on an almost weekly basis. After one trip to the doctor's office, he ended up at the hospital for testing. The initial diagnosis was pneumonia, and they had noticed something in his lungs. I knew something was up as I noticed from week to week that he was losing a lot of weight and getting weaker.

August rolled around, and things were getting progressively worse for him. He was in and out of the hospital a couple of times, and I had made sure to visit him. Once he was back out for the second or third time, he took me into the kitchen and hugged me, telling me he had cancer. I hugged him back, and told him we were going to get through this and not to give up. A few days later, he ended up back in the hospital.

The final stay at the hospital was for a week or so. I stopped over to see him, as did some of his friends from the fire department. I can remember the last visit to him in the hospital I made. I had passed the pastor of his church, who just gave me a reassuring handshake and told me he was resting well. I went up to the room and found him, sitting on the edge of the bed with a family friend. He wouldn't look at me directly, and the friend just looked at me. I asked what was wrong, and my father looked at me and told me I needed to go talk to my mother.

Reluctantly, I left the hospital and headed for my parents' house. During the fifteen minute drive from the hospital, I prepared for the worst. I could just see the look in my father's eyes, the pastor's eyes, and the friend's eyes. I knew things were going to be quite grim. I arrived to a house with my mother, my sister and a couple of friends. They told me what I had already feared, that my father's cancer was terminal. The doctors had given him two weeks to two months to live, and that there were not going to be any more hospital stays. Hospice was already contacted and preparations were made to bring my father back home, which is where he wanted to be.

He came home in good spirits, and we kept him comfortable. I stopped over to see him every day after work, but I could tell the cancer was rampant. As each day passed, I watched as my father faded away slowly. Each day he would get a little worse, the cancer moving through his body, affecting things. The final days were just spent by his bedside, watching him and telling him that I loved him as he slept. I left the night of August 30th, and at 1:30am on August 31, 2006, I lost my father, two weeks to the day of his diagnosis, and about two weeks after his birthday.

I got a phone call right after he passed. As soon as I was awake enough to realize the phone was ringing, I knew what had happened even before answering it. On the other end was my sister, letting me know what had happened and that I should come up to the house. I arrived to find my family gathered around my father, in bed. The image of him lying there, not moving, is forever embedded in my mind. The following days were rough on the whole family.

The week following his passing was filled with a lot of things to do. Funeral preparations, notifying other family members, visitors and phone calls, just to name a few things. It was decided that we were going to bury him, and I thought it only to be fitting that his casket be carried to the cemetery by a fire engine, since he was involved with the local fire department. One phone call and the department was more than happy to do so. On September 5, 2006, we laid my father to rest in the cemetery. I made it a point to visit his grave every weekend, until I moved away.

It's been rough on me to say the least. I miss him every day, and now that I have a new daughter, it makes me miss him all the more, since he didn't get to see his youngest son become a father, but I have the memories that I can share with my daughter, so she'll at least know of her grandfather.

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