How does one formulate their last words for someone they love?
When is the appropriate time to sit down and think about what they truly mean to you?
At the age of sixteen, I was gripping the little life that was left out of my father’s hand, as he lay still in that hospice bed. The smell of that room will forever haunt me. The smell that would forever change my life. That room. That room was not a room to me, but more of a war zone. Not in the context of guns and violence but every time I came near that room I was forced to sit down and fight myself on what to say, how to act for my family, and how to become that strong girl I was always told to be. It felt like a constant battle. Those four walls was where my father left his life behind to embark on a new journey. A journey that would take him away from me, but also away from the pain and reality of the life he tried so hard to escape from.
As I was told to say goodbye to the only man who ever showed me how truly beautiful I am, or how smart I am; amidst me believing otherwise, I could not muster up anything. I felt helpless. The only man to truly mean his “I love you, darling” will be gone, and his voice would be nothing more than a silence I long to fill. But, how does a father let alcohol take this all away from him? His family, his friends, his job, and now, his life? How does a father of twin daughters choose to hold a bottle of alcohol rather than their little hands which desperately reached up too him? How does a father choose to drink to the bottom of a bottle rather than explore the beauty that surrounds him? Most importantly, how is it that his daughter was scared to death to be alone with him, but at the same time, she wanted nothing more than her daddy to hold her and tell her “everything is going to be alright”?
Back as a child, alcohol was a curse word to me. It was a word that made every nightmare I endured, reappear. I understood what alcohol was, I knew the effects, and I knew the troubles that arose every time he took another deadly sip, all as just a child. That sip led to me having to speak to my father for one last time as the cirrhosis slowly stole his life away from him, and slowly stole a piece of me that I was not ready to give up.
So, what does one truly say, as she says goodbye? “I love you!” “I miss you?” Are they substantial enough to be the last words to the man who was supposed to be there forever? He was supposed to see my high school proms, my graduation, and even walk me down the aisle one day. Now, those will never be. They will all be a distant dream that will never be fulfilled. I would have never pictured at sixteen years old I would be trading in football games for hospital visits, homework for goodbyes, and smiles for tears that seemed to never cease.
All of this because of one too many mouthfuls of a beverage which has so much evil lurking at the bottom of it. My life turned upside down for the satisfaction that alcohol provided. A satisfaction that nothing else could fulfill, not even his children.
Thus, what does one say as their final words to a part of them that will forever be gone? A father who gave up his life at forty-two years old. A father who had the whole world left to conquer and yet, it conquered him just a bit too early and left me dreading those few holidays that are spent looking through photo albums rather than being face-to-face. Those few holidays that leave me feeling empty as I reminisce about his vibrant smile; the same smile that is reflected back at me every time I look in the mirror. The smile that keeps me strong and reminds me to never follow in those same footsteps.
As I sit alone reflecting on what to say, and what I should have said, a million ideas flood my head. Yet, none of it will truly ever be enough, and now, none of it really matters.