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The Last Night
Just like any normal school night, I was in my kitchen watching cartoons eating my dinner. I was sitting as close to the TV as I could with my chair pulled up to the countertop. My father had recently gotten his gallbladder out and was still having problems so he was at the doctors getting more tests done. As I was finishing up my dinner, the front door swung open and in walked my parents. Looking at the expressions on their faces, I could tell that there was something terribly wrong.
“Will you go get your brothers and meet us in our bedroom?” my mother asked me kindly with sorrow in her voice. I carefully got out of my chair and headed down the stairs where my two brothers were playing video games. They were sitting on the couch together laughing and yelling at one another playfully. After I finished telling them what was going on, we climbed the stairs in fear for what we were about to be told. None of us wanting to speak what was on our mind; we stayed silent and walked through their bedroom door. We sat there on their new bedspread they had purchased earlier in the week, still stiff from not being washed yet. We sat in silence for what seemed like hours. Scanning the freshly maroon painted room for something I could put my focus on instead of the teary eyes of my parent, my eyes landed on a picture hung up on the wall over their bed. It was a picture of the Latter Day Saint prophet Thomas S. Monson and all of the apostles; they were wearing white colored suits in a beautiful temple. Some were standing and some were sitting, smiling at what I could only imagine was the camera. The room they were in was a beautiful baptistery, pure and white. I was sitting there thinking about what it would be like to personally meet them when my father’s voice broke my trance.
Once he finished talking, I looked at my mother as tears stung in my eyes, “Is it true?” I asked her. “Does dad really have cancer?” As she nodded her head silently I could hardly breathe—the room began to spin and I felt like I was going to be sick. I stood up and rushed out of the room, running through my bedroom door and slammed it shut. Trying to block out the sound of my parents still talking to my two brothers, my hands flew to my head where they were placed over my ears. I suddenly went weak and I felt like I might faint right then and there. My knees buckled out from underneath me and I fell to the floor. I cried out in despair as I prayed to my Heavenly Father, begging him to please help my family and to help my father. Being angry with God and angry with the world, I got up from my knees and in an outbreak of rage began throwing things at the wall. Everything that was in sight I grabbed and threw across the room; my school text books, a picture frame, pillows, my lamp. With every swift throw, the items crashed into the wall and were destroyed. Carefully picking up the pieces of the picture frame that had shattered against the wall; I stared at the photograph that had been inside. It was a picture of my family, sitting together in a grassy field, with great big smile on our faces. Looking at it I felt a piercing pain in my heart. How did it so quickly go from a happy family with no problems to a family that’s falling apart? I felt like I was in a dreaming, I was in a nightmare and I wanted to wake up.
He was in and out of the hospital weekly, having tests and chemotherapy done. For every week that passed, he began to look more frail and fragile. The drugs seemed to be making things worse for him, not helping. He would come home, appointment after appointment, with an anguished look on his face and pain in his eyes. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I began avoiding him. I couldn’t handle looking into those dark eyes of his and seeing the pain in them, knowing that there was nothing I could do to help set him free from his affliction. Looking back on those days, I wish I had reacted differently. I wish I had taken more time to talk to him, had told him I loved him more often, and spent a little more time with him. Instead, I had avoided him in the house, staying in my bedroom or even staying out late with friends just to escape looking into those troubled and sorrowful eyes.
It was the night before Christmas Eve, and it was my turn to look after my father. Every day that week my family had been taking turns watching over him through the night and giving him his pain medications. Earlier in the evening we had celebrated Christmas together. That morning my parents had gone to the doctors and were told that it would be wise to celebrate early. “Just in case,” had been the nurses’ words.
I looked over and saw him wincing with pain. He was trying not to make any sound, for fear he’d wake me. Little did he know, I’d been awake all night watching him; trying to memorize every feature on his face. He had dark olive skin, chocolate brown eyes, thick dark eyebrows, and a smile that could melt anyone with just one look. I didn’t want to forget anything. I couldn’t let myself fall asleep or even close my eyes, for fear that he’d leave me.
I sat up as I asked him, “Do you need more morphine, dad?” He nodded his head yes. Carefully climbing off of the couch, trying not to disturb him, I grabbed the medicine off of the coffee table in front of me. With shaky hands I placed the drops in his mouth.
My eyes heavy with tears, I sat there and watched him. He’s in so much pain. Why him? Why would God choose him? This wasn’t okay with me. My dad was my best friend—I told him everything. Without him, who was I going to go to when I was upset or was having problems with friends or at school?
Suddenly, there was a noise coming from my father. I looked over to see him fiddling with his fingers, almost as if he were pressing buttons on a small device. His eyes suddenly flew open and he looked straight at me, “Sorry.” He exclaimed once he saw the scared expression on my face. “I thought I was texting Colbie.” (Colbie is my sister. She was living away from home but had come to visit after hearing the inevitable of his death.)
Oh no, I thought, it’s too soon. They told us he had another month. How can he already be acting this way? “It’s okay dad, don’t worry about me. Can I get you anything else?”
“I’m okay sweetheart, but thank you,” he replied. Through the night I lay there trying to cover up the hurt and struggle I felt with this situation of his impending death. It was so hard to just sit there are watch him literally wasting away. I wanted my father to think that I wasn’t scared. I wanted to be strong for him; I needed to be strong for him.
“Dad,” I said quietly. “Are you scared?” He looked deep into my eyes as they began to fill with tears yet again.
“Yes sweetheart, I’m scared. But not for the reasons you would think.” I looked at him questioningly as he continued, “I’m scared for you, and for you mother, and for everyone else. I get to go to a better place where there is no sadness, while you guys have to stay here on this earth and go through more trials and tribulations. I’m not scared to die, I’m ready.” He began to smile, “bring it on.” he said jokingly.
With tears streaming down my face I sat up and looked at him. I grew profoundly angry with him as he spoke those words to me. How could he say that? How could he just give up on life? “Don’t you dare say that, dad. Don’t you dare! How can you say that to me? How can you just give up? I don’t want to live without you; I can’t live without you. What am I supposed to do when I graduate? I want you to be there sitting in the crowd with mom, cheering for me as I get my diploma. I want you there in the temple with me when I get married to the love of my life. I want to have my daddy-daughter dance at my wedding like every other girl out there. What about when I have kids? They will grow up not knowing their own grandfather. Please, please don’t give up on me. Don’t give up on us,” I cried out. I lay there sobbing uncontrollably as he rubbed my back trying to comfort me. The roles had switched. Instead of me taking care of him, he was taking care of me.
“Ali?” he whispered, eyes glistening. “When you graduate, just have your mother save me a seat and I promise I will be there watching you, cheering you on. When you get married to your sweetheart, I will be there in the Celestial Room with a smile on my face, as proud as ever. When you have children of your own, I will be there to look after them. I will be their guardian angel. Ali, I will always be with you.”
Hours later, the time had finally come. Sitting together as a family, watching him in his last moment of life, it seemed so surreal. Every few minutes his eyes would wander around the room, as if her were searching for something. I tried to focus on what was happening so suddenly. I was curled up on the chair next to the couch watching. I was numb, stunned, and unsure of how I was supposed to react. These things only happen in movies. I don’t know what I am supposed to do, how I am supposed to feel or even react? My older sister and my two brothers were in front of the couch, crouched down by my father. He looked like he was in such pain and agony as he began to struggle for air. Swiftly but reverently, my brother, Sam, took my father’s hand in his and choking back tears he whispered, “Dad, it’s okay. Just go.” My father then took one last look around the room, and took his final breath. The sound he made before that last breath will be with me for the rest of my life. To this day, I can still hear it; exactly as it sounded.
Over the few months prior to my father’s death and the months that have passed since the incident, my family has become closer than ever. Turning to God, we all grew in the gospel. Sure, it was a struggle and a testimony shaker, but in the end it only grew stronger. I know that my Daddy is in a better place, with his own father and his Father in Heaven; all of them looking down on my family and I, watching over us. We have all grown in the experience and have come out of his better and stronger. To this day I still miss him and I always will. It will never be the same in my household without him, but now I have another angel on my team, watching me, looking out for me, carrying me, every single step of the way.