Watching Your Loved One Pass

“I’ll be seeing you…”

Billie Holiday
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It was April 24, 2010. I was twenty years old. My dad was sick with pancreatic cancer and had just gone through his second major surgery in two years. Most of my days were spent between college classes and the hospital room in which I slowly watched my dad deteriorate.

On that warm spring day in April, I remember sitting at my kitchen table catching up on my college homework, while my mom was at the hospital and my boyfriend was at work. It was 3:30 in the afternoon and my phone began to ring. It was my mom – “I think you should come to the hospital. Dad is not doing good.” By the sound of her voice, I knew it was serious – yet I also did not realize what the rest of the day would entail.

I called my boyfriend, who drove my car to work that day. “I need you to come home and take me to the hospital – Dad is not doing well.” Without hesitation, he left work and drove the 45 minutes home.

By the time we arrived at the hospital it was around 5pm. When I walked in the room, I could see the difference and I knew something was wrong. He was not responsive and, according to the doctor, was on a high dose of morphine. I held his hand and told him I loved him. Within those fifteen minutes, his breathing began to slow down. I kept saying, “We need a nurse, something is not right”. I ran out and grabbed one. When she looked at him, she said “It won’t be much longer.”

With those words, a range of emotions went through me. No matter how much you know someone is at the end of their life, you are never prepared for that moment itself.

I spent the next five minutes watching as the breaths got slower and slower. His body was shutting down in front of my eyes, as his soul was preparing to move on. Breathing was shallow…then the last breath came…I watched his tongue as he breathed in and his body went limp. It was 5:20pm. Within twenty minutes of arriving at the hospital, my dad was gone.

I immediately dropped to the floor and screamed. My boyfriend leaned down and held me as I cried in disbelieve. I couldn’t even look at my mom because of the immense amount of pain I felt. Did this really just happen? Is my dad really gone?

I spent the rest of the night in a fog, yet to this day I remember odd details like what I was wearing, what food I ate, and what my dad looked like when I left that hospital room that day. My senses were heightened even though I felt like I was no longer in my body.

One of the last things I remember that day was picking up a picture frame I gave to my dad that said “Daddy’s Little Girl”. As I held the picture frame in my hand, I looked at the two of us and said, “I will always be daddy’s little girl”. All of a sudden, the lights flickered. Lights that have never flicked in the twenty years I have lived in that house. You can call it coincidence, but I call it my dad. It was a sign that no matter how far away he was, he was always going to be in my heart.

To this day, my mom questions if she did the right thing by calling me the day my dad passed away. My response? I was meant to be there. Dad waited for me. I would not take that away for anything. The hard part has been making peace with those last images of my dad in the hospital bed. While I am glad I was there, remembering him in that room is still hard for me to picture – even ten years later.

Watching a loved one pass for that reason is a very selfless act. We do it to help that person move on to their forever home in Heaven. But, for us, still on Earth, there is no amount of preparation that will help you with that moment you say goodbye.

What helps is making every day count up until that last day. Fill it with laughter, fill it with joy, tell stories, and say “I love you”.

When that day comes, remind yourself how strong you are and that it is okay to grieve. We need time to grieve in order to move on. You’ll feel numb, you’ll feel pain, and you’ll feel anger. Let yourself feel those emotions.

Then take a step back, fill yourself with the good memories, and say “I’ll be seeing you…”.


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Loneliness

“Loneliness is designed to help you discover who you are and stop looking outside yourself for worth.”

Do you ever have one of those days were you just feel misunderstood? Like no matter what you do, you cannot get your point across?

Well, what happens when this feeling occurs on a daily basis, leaving you feeling alone and discouraged?

Feeling alone can take up a lot of energy, especially as we tell ourselves how alone we are. But there is a difference between feeling alone and being alone.

Loneliness often does not come from actually being alone, but rather from feeling misunderstood or like you do not belong. So, the first step is to acknowledge that. Are you really alone or do you feel alone? If you are feeling alone, try to pinpoint why. Are you having trouble getting your point across? Do you feel like no one understands you? Once you have a clearer idea of what you are struggling with, you can begin to put together an action plan to heal.

First off, it’s important to note, that feeling lonely is much more common then you would think. Tons of people are trying to find their way whether they state it or not. And there are definitely times when many of us feel like something is wrong with us and that we do not fit into the world around us.

Once you figure out what is causing you to feel alone, I challenge you to see the power that you hold: “Loneliness is designed to help you discover who you are and stop looking outside yourself for worth.” Reread that one more time. “Loneliness is designed to help you discover who you are and stop looking outside yourself for worth.” If you can wrap your brain around this concept, that means our dreadful feeling of loneliness is actually quite powerful. So –

Step #1. Stop looking for another person’s approval – whether it be a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a friend, etc.

Step #2. Start appreciating yourself for everything you are. You would never tell a friend how terrible he/she is, so don’t tell yourself that either.

Step #3. Start filling your day with things that you love to do. What brings you the most joy? What brings out your inner light?

And lastly,

Step #4. Give yourself a break. We can often be our worst enemies. It is now time to be your best friend. You have so much to offer this world. Keep fighting through the negative thoughts; you are meant to shine.


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The Holidays Without a Loved One

“Those we love never truly leave us. There are things death cannot touch.”Jack Thorne

Rewind time back to 2010 – the year my dad died and the first set of holidays without him by our side. Each day that passed was challenging, let alone a group of holidays which seemed so empty. My dad was a staple of the these special family days, especially Christmas. Some of the things I remember are the massive breakfasts he would make Christmas morning, as well as him setting up the video recorder the night before to tape us unwrapping each of our gifts.

These are memories that will never fade. Cancer cannot take these memories from me, like it took my dad. But, sometimes these memories, can hurt and be debilitating because they are just that – memories. I cannot go hug my dad Christmas morning and thank him for everything he has done. And this – no matter how many years go by – is still hard to overcome. The emptiness never fully goes away. It is just something you learn to manage.

It took years to get here but now I try to picture my dad here at Christmas, just in a different form. I see him sitting in the living room with a huge smile on his face watching us with joy. While we cannot communicate or hold each other, he nods to us acknowledging his presence. He is now an angel that overlooks us, keeping us safe and together. He would be so proud of how far we have all come.

If you know someone who has lost a loved one this year, check on them – call them, send them a letter, text them a simple “love you!” message. Most likely they are not okay. It takes years to learn how to manage that emptiness.

If you are the one who lost someone, whether it was this year or not, it is important to acknowledge how you feel and then do something about it. Celebrate your loved one in a way that will be healing to you. I went to visit my dad’s grave and I also wrote letters to him. Maybe you make a special ornament or you plant a tree in their honor. Whatever it is, make it memorable and don’t be afraid to say you need support. It is okay to hurt, just don’t let it consume you. Your loved one would not want that for you.

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