In 2010 my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I immediately felt a knot forming in the pit of my stomach because I knew that diagnosis was a death sentence, it was only a matter of time. But I also knew my father, he was strong and resilient. He would fight for his life for as long as he could.
I was in college at the time and ever since that moment, being there was a struggle. I felt like I was wasting precious time away at school that I could’ve been spending with my father. However, the thought of dropping out never crossed my mind as I knew he wanted me to finish. I had 3 years left and I prayed constantly for God to allow him to live to see me graduate. God answered my prayers and in 2013 he was there to watch me walk across that stage. But cancer is a funny thing, it has an ebb and flow to it that nobody understands unless they’ve been through it or personally witnessed it. Within 6 months of me graduating my dad’s cancer had taken a turn for the worst. I found out on the day before my birthday that he was dying. I had just driven across the country to move to LA and pursue my dreams of working in the fashion industry. I immediately had to hop on a flight in hopes of having a moment with my dad before he left this world. I made it and sat with him but at that point he couldn’t speak. The nurses and doctors said he could hear though. I told him I loved him and watched him slowly fade away. One tear rolled down his cheek. It was a little after midnight, on my birthday, when he took his last breath.
Things were never quite right after that. I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I go back to LA and finish what I started? Should I stay here in my hometown with my family and hope for the best? Ultimately, I decided to go back to LA as I knew my dad wouldn’t have wanted me to sit around sulking at home. I could hear his voice saying, “staying here won’t bring me back” and with that, I left. I knew life would not be the same for me. I’d be “that girl,” you know the one with the “dead father”. The one who avoids questions like “How are your parents?”. The one who has to deal with people’s awkwardness when you tell them your father passed. Yep, that’s me! And now that I’m getting married, I have to tune out questions like “are you doing a father/daughter dance?” I have to deal with the “Who is going to walk you down the aisle?” question as my uncle’s fight it out wanting to be picked. What no one understands is, I don’t care who walks me down the aisle. None of these men are my father. In all honesty, I’d rather walk down by myself or with my mom, but I know my uncles are just trying to help.
Although, most would agree this story is sad. My dad passing on my birthday. Not having a father to do a father/daughter dance with. Having to deal with the awkward conversations that come from being in a situation like this. However, I have chosen to look at this in a different way. Yes, my father died on my birthday, but I don’t view it as a bad thing. I think it was his way of letting me know he’s okay now. It was the only gift he had left to give, and I was happy to know that he wasn’t in pain anymore.
I now have a newfound appreciation for life. This situation has shown me a side of people I had not witnessed much before. Professors who feel like your school work is more important than what’s going on in your life. Bosses who feel like two weeks is plenty of time to grieve the loss of a parent. I don’t believe anything should come before my family or loved ones. I don’t believe in the notion of “you have to work so you can’t go home for the holidays.” I will not take a job if it means I have to constantly sacrifice time with people I love. No job, situation or opportunity is worth it. Spend time with the people you have while you have them. Don’t take any moment for granted, even the bad times. Give them that extra minute of your time, that extra hug, that extra kiss and know that the day will come when they won’t be here anymore and that’s life. Don’t be afraid of death as it is inevitable. Focus on the time you have and use it wisely. Life is too short.
Candice Symone is a fashion designer, YouTuber and eCommerce guru who loves to travel, cook and binge watch Netflix. She believes in going for what you want in life and doing things your way.
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