I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a beautiful, sunny October day. It was one of those rare days in Arkansas where you can actually be comfortable outside.
But it wasn’t comfortable at my house. My wife had returned from the hospital only a few days before, and we now had the help of the wonderful people from Hospice.
But on this Friday, we knew she didn’t have much time.
My daughter was in sixth grade at the time, and rode the bus home. We lived in a little subdivision outside of town, and the bus stopped about a block from our house.
Normally, she would get off the bus and walk home. But on this day, I knew I needed to meet her when she got off the bus.
When she saw me, she could instantly tell from the expression on my face that something was wrong. Of course, she knew her mom was sick. Very sick. And I’m sure her first thought was that something terrible had happened. It’s not the normal way kids want to spend their afternoons after they get home from school.
I didn’t say much to her. I didn’t need to. “You need to talk to mom.”
“Ok,” she said, not really sure what it was she was supposed to talk to her mom about.
“No,” I said. “You REALLY need to talk to mom. Do you understand? You need to talk to her as soon as we get home.”
She didn’t say much else as we walked home. What else could she say.
And what else could I say to her? What do you say to your 11-year-old daughter who is about to lose her mother.
My daughter did talk to her mom that afternoon for a while, which was a good thing. In fact, we all talked to her that day. We knew the end was near, just not how near. My wife went to sleep later that day. And although she didn’t pass away for three more days, she never regained consciousness.
That conversation with my daughter that day was a hard one. But I’m glad I told her, stressed to her, the importance of talking to her mother on that October afternoon.
And I’m glad she got to have the final conversation, a chance to say goodbye.
As you might imagine, my daughter struggled at times as a teenager. After all, a girl about to become a teenager needs her mom. There were a lot of things that I would never be able to teach her, at least not as well as her mom did.
And it’s safe to say that we haven’t had a typical father-daughter relationship. We’ve developed several common interests, our favorite being going to concerts. I’ve tried to always be there for her; and she has always been supportive of me.
I’ve often wondered over the years how I would have reacted if it had been me who lost a parent when I was that age. To be honest, I’m not sure how I would have done. But I doubt I would have come through it, survived my teenage years, as well and with as much dignity as she did. And I’m very proud of how well she’s overcome adversity in her life and become such a wonderful young lady and compassionate human being.