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Happy Father's Day

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It was a normal morning the day of July 17, 2008. I woke up around 10:30 a.m. to the dreadful, never-ending beeping of my favorite alarm clock. I got out of bed, took a hot, refreshing shower, got dressed for work, and began my boring summer day. After eating my delicious chicken flavored Ramen noodles, I made my way to the couch and started flipping through the infinite list of channels. All of a sudden, one of my friends, Gabby, texted me, which was unusual because I had not talked to her all summer. I clicked to view the text message and read, “Do you know what happened to Shelby’s dad?” It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized this one simple text message would change my best friend’s life forever.

“No,” I responded. “What happened?”
“I heard from some people that her dad died this morning…is that true?” Gabby answered. It was this very moment that I could almost feel my heart sink into my stomach. The very moment I had been dreading all summer.
“No, I haven’t heard anything yet, I’ll call her,” I replied to Gabby nonchalantly, pretending everything was fine, and I was just calling to ask her to meet me for lunch or something. I picked up my phone and dialed Shelby’s number. No answer. I knew then that her dad had in fact passed away that morning.
Questions and more questions began scrambling through my head. Is this really happening? Should I go to work today? Should I go visit her? Should I call my mom? Should I try calling Shelby again? What do I do!?!? Holding back my tears as I walked out the door to leave for work, I yelled goodbye to my sister and headed for my new 2000 silver Honda CRV. Thoughts and questions, questions and thoughts boggled my brain the entire way to work. Just as I pulled into the parking lot of Ivanov’s Gymnastics and searched for a parking spot, I noticed my phone vibrating in the small compartment right above the radio. It was a text from Shelby.
“He’s gone, Stephanie, gone forever…” I read, trying not to cry. Should I call her back? No, she probably doesn’t want to talk right now.
“I love you Shelbyyy. I’m always here for you no matter what. Don’t you ever forget that. I’m sooo sorry,” I answered her numbly, almost glad she had not called me back. After waiting about five minutes for a response, I walked out the car and prepared myself for a long and stressful day of work.

After work, my mom informed me that the funeral would be Thursday at 9 o’clock. Not even answering her, I stormed up to my room. I cried and cried and cried while unanswerable questions surfaced again in my head. I cried and cried and cried until I could not physically cry any longer, until I dozed off into a peaceful sleep.

The day of the funeral proved to be one of the hardest days of my life. Seeing relatives and close friends of Daryl crying in disbelief, seeing his own mother so shocked and lifeless, and seeing his two daughters yelling with anger did not help. However, the hardest part of all was being there with Shelby at the side of his casket: seeing, smelling, and touching her father for the last time, the very LAST time. All I remember thinking was that a seventeen year old should not have to go through this. Should not have to go through the loss of a father. Should not have to look at a dead, lifeless father lying in casket. Should not have to ask herself who is going to walk her down the aisle. The sight of Shelby crying, and almost yelling in anger, of course, made me cry. In addition, my mom, sister, best friend Angela, and myself cried our eyes out the entire day. The endless photos of Shelby’s father being shown on the television screen and the numerous Happy Father’s Day balloons made everything even worse. Something I had not thought was even possible.

As I hugged my best friend for the last time that day, I whispered into her ear, “Everything is going to be ok. I promise. Stay strong.”
The struggles of her father’s death are still noticeable each and every day of Shelby’s life. She gets very uncomfortable when she hears the word dad, she talks about him constantly to help get her through stressful situations, she wears all his oversized Hawaiian shirts and sweatshirts, and she even visits him daily at the cemetery, bringing him notes, cards, or anything personal. If there is anything good to emerge from this heartbreaking story-- Shelby is my hero. My hero who taught me to live everyday to the fullest, my hero who taught me to appreciate the small things in life, and my hero who taught me to love, even when I may not want to.





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