Today (Feb 5th), marks 2 years since my father passed away. He had pancreatic cancer, and had to have a whipple procedure done weeks after his diagnosis. Because of that major surgery, he lost a ton of weight and was having trouble eating. If anyone who knows me, and knows my dad, y’all know that he could pack away the food and embarrass you at the buffet lol. He was hospitalized that January due to being so malnourished and ended up spending 2 weeks in the hospital. Right on the cusp of him coming home and finally having an appetite, he started to have sharp pains in his abdominal region, which induced an emergency surgery. He made it through that surgery, but the doctor let us know that if he were to make it, that it was going to be a long road to recovery. Knowing the fight my dad had in him, I was hopeful. A few days went by, and they finally had gotten him off of the breathing tube. They had to keep him on oxygen. He seemed to be okay, and just had a cough when I went to visit him. The next day, he was having trouble breathing, and the day after that… the day before he passed away, he was on a by-pap machine. When I walked into his room, he immediately said, “I can’t talk!” I said “it’s okay… you don’t have to say anything…” and we just sat in silence. He was in and out of sleep at that point, and still having trouble breathing on the machine. Doctors came in and out of the room checking on him, and I think at one point it had them a little shook because of how his breathing wasn’t improving. I stayed for an hour, and then I said, I’m gonna go but I’ll be back tomorrow after work.

I came home, prayed, and thought about how he was breathing on that machine. I tried to imagine what it was like to be fed air like that. Before I knew it, it was 2 in the morning, and I had to go to sleep because I had work the next day.

My mom started with the phone calls at 5, then 6, then finally… at 7 when I answered my phone again… her words… “Stephanie… he’s gone….” I just kept saying, NO!!! NO!!!!!!! And just balled and said I was on my way to the hospital… I don’t even think I brushed my teeth or anything… I just did my best to put clothes on, and kept pacing up and down the hallway of my apartment, screaming… NO!!!!!

I got there and she’s sitting down, crying, and making phone calls… and I’m a mess…. in disbelief… and just so heartbroken. I made a Facebook post and the calls started pouring in. I couldn’t keep it together at all. I just felt like a zombie.

In the days after that, they were spent crying, getting funeral arrangements together, crying, writing a letter to my dad, crying, receiving visits and condolences, crying, and getting pictures printed so that we can put them in the casket with him. My cousin and I bought wooden charms to represent all of the family to put in there as well.

His ceremony was in 2 parts. He was retired military, and the cemetery where he would be laid to rest doesn’t have ceremonies on the weekend. We had his first ceremony that Sunday, and then the burial that Monday. Both days, were difficult. Everyone who was around us was amazing. Family, friends, etc. Everyone made sure we were okay, although, we weren’t.

I have never had so much anxiety in my life. I just remember not wanting to do anything after the burial. I came back to my parent’s house… changed into some pajamas, and went to sleep on my dad’s side of the bed. My best friend since I was 5 and my other best friend since I was 12 kept checking on me. I just didn’t want to be awake. All of this felt like a nightmare and I wanted it to be over.

I just kept thinking, my dad would have loved this out pour of love that we received. He touched sooooo many lives. People I never knew he was an inspiration to, and people I never knew that looked up to him. He was an amazing man. He was taken from us too soon.

So onto the piece…

I started writing this before the year anniversary of his passing. The plan was to have it finished by the anniversary date and to have it memorized for an upcoming feature that month. This feature was actually cancelled and rescheduled for a later date. Which worked out perfectly because I really wanted to do this piece. This was the first time ever, that I would cry on stage. I couldn’t even give the intro to what the piece was about without starting to tear up. My phone was full at the time, so my best friend used her phone to capture this for me. (Thank you Neish!)

So without further ado, this is a poem to my dad entitled, I’m Still Here. It’s missing about 30 seconds of the beginning, so I’ll write the beginning here, up until when it comes in:

It’s been a year
And I’m still as broken as the morning you left
Your spirit didn’t leave
But the vessel that carried you
Is now absent
Your ship had not sailed
But your body was too frail
From fighting illness
An internal civil war
Where organs sprint
To outrun disease
A battle
Of wounded scar tissue
The last cancer left you
Complete with a new round of enemies to tussel with….

Although today was literally the worst day of my life… I’m so thankful to have had this man in my life for 31 years. He was taken from us way too soon, but nonetheless, I’m so grateful for his presence in my life.

Rest in paradise, Dad. I love you so much and I think about you everyday. I miss you, and I will continue to make you proud!