When I was a teenager, death was not an option. No one could die I loved. I refused to allow it to penetrate my mind much less be confronted with it. Until… I had to come face to face with this cold hard moment of truth.

My dad was a diabetic, heart and cancer patient and not to mention the single most person of stability in my life besides my mother. No matter the Goliath, he’d have a stone. He was always there as a strict mentor and someone who weathered the test of time in faithfulness not only to my mother but to us four children as a whole.

He worked all this life without a good education but he kept food on our table, a roof over our heads and necessities. We didn’t get to eat meat often, we lived mostly on garden vegetables and beans, but we lived good. Our family was happy and healthy. Well, happy until that day.

I was 27 years old with two children of my own. My father was diagnosed with colon cancer and a tumor was also in the kidney. For 2 years he’d fought a long battle with radiation, chemotherapy, and herbs to try and extend his life but his battle’s end was drawing near.

In March 1997 his last words were to me stating in that firm voice, “Tammy, there’s a right way and a wrong way, you do right”. These words were like sharp arrows that shot right through my heart knowing he was putting his trust in me. “Why me”, I thought. “After all, I am the youngest, most tempered and most erratic of us 4”. But I shook my head yes and walked out of the small bedroom to the living room in shock.

The next day he slipped into a coma. I had to sneak and call the ambulance before he passed because our mother I thought was “too fragile” to withstand him dying in that bedroom they’d shared over 27 years since they bought the home I was raised in. I didn’t realize until years later, my mother isn’t weak, she’s like the rock of Jebratler. A soft-spoken high tower we go to in times of trouble and distress.

Two days after I called the ambulance my father quietly passed from this life in the hospital. My mother, my oldest son and I was at his bedside. It was almost like a peaceful, quiet fog surrounded his bedside after my mother told him she would be okay to go be at peace with his Lord, Mother, and Father. At the funeral, my grief could not be measured nor contained I felt. I was so upset until my sister said to me. “I am not upset”, “cancer had to die and he’s at peace”.

His words to do right since his death has help lead, guide and direct me. Not to say I’ve always done right because that’s far from the truth, but his statement has helped me through the years with a wonderful lesson in life, don’t take one second for granted. The ones you love the most could be gone either in the twinkling of an eye or with an extended illness. This is the holiday season and I believe the gift of giving oneself (love) is the greatest treasure on earth.