by Crystal Mullins Prater
My daddy smoked since he was a little boy and I knew some day it would catch up to him. I'm a very spiritual person, so my prayer has always been that God not let him suffer when it comes his time.
Me and daddy were always so close. He taught me how to fish, how to love, how to pray, how to live. I was (am) so proud that he is my daddy. He was a Baptist Preacher by heart and a barber by trade. I can't imagine anyone in the entire community that could have a bad word to say about him.
My mom always yelled at him for various small things. So much bitterness from her and still, he loved her to the ends of the earth. His life didn't exist without her.
Momma was put in the hospital on Christmas Eve for double pneumonia and daddy stayed one night with her. He became ill and my sister took him to the doctor the next day where he was diagnosed with flu. Both parents sick, Christmas was postponed at their house.
Mom got better and was released but dad just kept getting weaker. He wouldn't eat, and that's one thing my daddy loved to do. I took off work and took him to the ER on January 9, 2014. We planned on going out to eat after we got a shot of something to push the flu on out of his lungs. It was always a good day when it was just him and me. We talked about everything.
After a few hours, some chest x-rays, blood work and CT Scan, the doctor came in and told us he had cancer in his lung and it has spread to his liver. Boom! Just like that...CANCER. I'll never forget the look on my daddy's face, it was as if he was saying, "What about them apples"....trying to keep me calm, I'm sure. I was shaking so much, trying to process that sentence we just received...trying to wake up! I knew it was going to happen, but not right now. He's only 67 years old.
He refused to be put in the hospital that day because my mom wasn't with us. He wanted to go home and tell her and figure out what to do. With the doctor's diagnosis of Stage 4 (already) she let us leave with a prognosis of a week to a month.
Long story short, we went back and were admitted the next day. Testing started immediately. Brain scans, bone scans, more x-rays, blood work, marrow testing...all of this happening to my daddy who would before leave the room if someone was getting an IV.
I stayed with him almost every night. I watched him yell at me because I would stand outside the shower while he was in there and wouldn't let him go to the bathroom unless I was right outside the door. He said, "They are taking everything else. Please let me keep my dignity". That was the first two days.
The third day, we had to get a bedside toilet because he couldn't walk to the bathroom. He hated that I was there and had to lift him out of bed and help him make two steps.
Next day, he got a catheter. This is the day the pain started in his liver. The tests started coming back in. "The liver is completely replaced with cancer and the top lobe of the left lung; completely collapsed with a tumor." All the while, daddy keeps hearing this news and continues to say, "It's in God's hands. I'm so close I can almost hear the trumpets."
He did, however, want to fight it. "When do we start the chemo? Do we need to do radiation? Will they be coming to get me to start that soon?" Finally an oncologist came in. Our family was standing around Daddy, reminiscing and laughing a bit. She told us that there was no treatment that could be done. His kidneys were shutting down and treatment for his lungs and liver would speed that up.
Then the words that will forever live in my mind and weigh on my heart. My daddy looked up and said,
"So am I dying?"
A week before, he was working on some pipes under his house. This week, he's being told there's nothing that can be done. My daddy, the strongest man in the world...that could move a mountain if I REALLY wanted him to, reduced to this fear of the unknown; this knowledge that he will soon be separated from this world and his family, and all he's worked for and built with his hands.
Though I know with all of the faith in God he had and taught me and so many others about, he still told us he'd miss us. He KNEW there's no sadness in Heaven, but in his last days, he forgot that and was saddened by the fact he would miss us. Through all of this, he was still strong enough to wipe the tears from my eyes and grumble at me, "Don't you cry for me!"
On January 19th, 2014, ten days after we found out he had this terrible disease, he passed away. Quietly and in no pain. His pain medicine had kept him sedated for the last 18 hours or so. No gasp for the last breath, no jerk, just quietly, all of the machines went to zero.
Although my prayers were answered and my daddy didn't have to suffer much more than a week, the fact that he lost his faith (if only a little) and was so afraid to die haunts my soul every single day. I miss him so much! While I wouldn't bring him out of Heaven for all the gold in the world, I miss him. My heart hurts so much and when I close my eyes or have a slow minute at work, my mind goes back to the despair I saw on his little face when he finally accepted everything and asked, "So am I dying?"
How can I keep my faith strong when the strongest man I ever knew thought he would miss me when he went to Heaven? Will this vision of his fear ever leave or fade even a little? I don't want to forget anything about him, especially our talks at 3 a.m. those nights he woke up in pain, but I think I would like to shake this vision, this image of his lack of faith when I needed him to have it the most.