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It Wasn’t His Time: Parenting Without Your Parent

How am I supposed to write this? How am I supposed to write about losing my dad? Forget writing about it, how am I supposed to go on without him? How is my son supposed to grow up without his grandpa who loved him more than anything? How?

It’s been just over 6 months since I had to say goodbye to the greatest man I’ve ever known. 

Jameson is my first child, and my parents only grandchild. They are completely obsessed with him, to say the least. My dad doted on Jameson. Growing up it was only my sister and me and now my dad finally had “his” boy. He was elated to be a grandpa. He loved talking about Jameson to anyone that would listen and loved showing him off. My dad talked about all the fun things he would take Jameson to do as he got older like taking him into the woods to explore, taking him for Jeep rides and having him help him in the garage fixing cars. The only problem with these plans was – we all knew there was a chance they would never happen.  My dad fought non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for 5 years.  Five years of chemo, a stem cell transplant, and 3 remissions.  

The last goal my dad had in life was to see my son turn one.  It kept him fighting for his final year.  And he did it.

When Jameson’s first birthday came, we spent the evening at my parents’ house. I let my dad do all the things parents normally do with their kids on their first birthday. They blew out the candle together and smashed the cake together. My dad was smiling ear to ear the whole time, and so was my son. At the end of the night we were saying our goodbyes and giving hugs like we normally do. My dad pulled me a little closer as I gave him a hug and whispered in my ear, “I made it.” 

January 31, 2017. This was the day, 12 days after Jameson’s birthday. The worst day of my life. My mom called me that morning at work and said it didn’t look good. How could this be happening already? I was just at their house the night before, everything seemed fine – almost normal. I gave my dad a hug as I was leaving. He pulled me in closer and held me a little longer than normal. I should have known. I should have known it was time. He said, “bye, Rachel!” as I walked out the door. I responded, “bye, dad!” And that was the last conversation we ever had. The image of my dad in his final moments is permanently burned into my brain. At around 10:30 am on Tuesday January 31st, 2017 my dad took his final breath. My mom, my sister, my grandparents (his parents) and I were all holding his hand. This is a moment I never would have wanted to miss but wish would have never happened. I relive his final moments in my head daily. At only 57 years old, my dad, my everything was gone. 

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

As children, we all know we will have to say goodbye to our parents someday. It’s inevitable. But I am only 29 years old. I should have had another 20-30 years with my dad. He was 57 years old when he passed away and both of his parents are still here. My dad was an amazing individual. He lived every single day to the absolute fullest and never once let his battle with Cancer stop him from doing what he wanted to do. How could someone who is so full of life have their life taken from them too soon? To say I am bitter and angry is an understatement. 

I didn’t think I would ever have to learn how to be a parent without one of my own parents teaching me and showing me how.

My dad taught my sister and I so much growing up. From little things to big things. From useless knowledge to important life lessons. My dad was full of wisdom and insight. He was truly one of a kind and I wanted him so badly to teach Jameson everything he taught us. From the time I could walk and was old enough to hold a wrench, I was helping my dad in the garage. Yesterday my son was helping my husband work on the one classic car of my dads we decided to keep. As happy as it made me to see that, it also made me sad knowing Jameson would never be doing that with his grandpa. The best I can do now is instill in Jameson everything my dad taught me. I’ll do the best I can but I know it will never be the same. I would give just about anything to have one more day, hour, or even minute with my dad. One more afternoon to ask him all the questions I still want to ask him. One more day for him to teach me things because he wasn’t done teaching them. One more hour for him to hold onto Jameson because he’ll never get the chance to again. 

Jameson is 18 months old now. When I show him a picture of my dad he proudly says “boppa.” It is the sweetest, most heart wrenching thing I have ever heard. Losing a parent at any age is hard. Losing them before you’re 30 is even harder. Knowing they won’t be there to see some of the major milestones in your life is painful. I’m not done having kids yet, and my dad will never get the chance to see his future grandchildren. It’s been six months and on one hand it feels like a lifetime but on the other hand it feels like it happened yesterday. My dad always said “time is the great healer.” For the most part I do believe this is true. But in this instance, it doesn’t get easier. It just gets different. Some people have told me I seem to be doing well with all of this. I often wonder what they would say to me if I was sobbing uncontrollably. What am I supposed to do? My life still has to go on. I can’t stop being a mom. I put on a smile for my son even though sometimes I don’t want to. This is hard. But I’ll keep going. I’ll keep going because I know my dad would want me to. I now proudly wear a memorial ring with some of my dad’s ashes in it every day so I know he is with me in everything I do. My dad fought to be here every day for 5 years and fought even harder once Jameson was in the picture. I promise to make sure my son knows who his grandpa was and to make my dad proud.

8 Responses to It Wasn’t His Time: Parenting Without Your Parent

  1. Brittany G. September 1, 2017 at 10:07 am #

    Thank you for writing this Racha! My heart aches for you, your family, the community and everyone else your dad touched. It’s not the same at all, he made such an difference in everything he did and everyone feels a missing piece now. I know it’s not the same driving down court st without seeing people in the driveway at your place. I really am so proud of you. Your dad sure has passed down a wonderful legacy, you’re parents both did a beautiful job in raising you and Lisa! You’re all in my thoughts often.

    • Rachel Danks
      Rachel Danks September 1, 2017 at 7:35 pm #

      Thanks Britt. There is definitely something missing in the neighborhood without him. I still look for him in the driveway too when I come up the street. You are too sweet.

  2. Rhonda September 1, 2017 at 11:46 am #

    Thank you for sharing! I am crying reading this because I have a very similar story… lost my dad when I was 29 as well. He was 60 when he lost his almost 5 year battle with colon cancer, just 5 months before my wedding. He was a strong, positive person and also the greatest man I knew. I’m almost 36 now and he has missed my wedding and being grandpa to my two kids. It’s the worst part of losing him. You live with it, but there’s always a hole. Just know you’re not alone in your loss and your dad is with you always.

    • Rachel Danks
      Rachel Danks September 1, 2017 at 7:37 pm #

      I am so sorry for your loss, Rhonda. It’s the worst thing not sharing those special moments with them. It’s so incredibly unfair. As hard and awful as it is, it’s comforting to know we are not in this heartache alone.

  3. Tara September 1, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

    Reading your story was like reliving my very own. Brought me to tears. My dad died of cancer almost 2 years ago and it’s still hard. Yes, time heals and makes it a little easier to carry on with life, but each time I think of him, the feelings all still come flooding back. Thanks for sharing your story. Many blessings to you and your family!

    • Rachel Danks
      Rachel Danks September 1, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

      My thoughts to you as well, Tara. I’m so sorry for your loss! Time helps the healing but definitely does not fill that void.

  4. Bri
    Bri September 1, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

    Thanks for bravely sharing, Rachel. Our parents are such important people in our lives and irreplaceable. My dad died in a car accident when I was 10 years old. Our last conversation is forever imprinted in my heart, as well as the day my mom came home crying with the horrible news. Thinking of you!

  5. Jan Harrison September 4, 2017 at 7:48 am #

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful emotional story. Many of us can realate to the loss of loved ones and it it feels like a part of our heart is gone.
    Faith gets me through knowen our loved ones are at home with love, peace and forever unity in the love of our Lord. Also peace and comfort they are with us in spirt! God bless