This Is What Happens When Your Dad Dies Without Warning


What happens when your dad dies without warning at 47 is that you realize tomorrow is not promised, like for real. 

People use and reuse the phrase “life is short,” but it’s dang hard to understand this when that short four day week due to a holiday Monday felt like 27 million years. It was indeed just four days. Four days in which anything could have happened. Like death perhaps. We’re getting dark now.

You see, 10 years ago this year, my dad was taken from this earth without one ounce of warning. I heard what turned out to be him taking his last breath and tried to wake him up. My mom fell asleep on the couch downstairs that night and I ran down the stairs hysterical at 4 a.m. screaming, “He won’t wake up! He won’t wake up!” He never woke up.

The weeks following his death were a blur. I remember hearing my high school had set aside a classroom for grieving students because he had been a coach in town. I remember drifting in and out of sleep on the couch downstairs, being visited by friends of mine who tried soothing me with their words. But I can’t remember a thing they said. I remember a lot of soup and pasta that I didn’t eat. And I remember watching my basketball team play from the stands the day afterwards and crying during the National Anthem. I remember bits and pieces of the wake and reading three-quarters of a eulogy called “The Coach of My Life” at the funeral. And I remember dealing with it all as well as one could, though maybe some evidence of my inner turmoil can be found in pictures during the time in which I appear to be very, very thin.

Now at age 25, I live in Los Angeles, 3,000 miles away from where that all happened in New Jersey, and I can’t help but feel mortality creeping into my daily moves. I’m not completely satisfied in my career and I constantly tell myself to “get out!” Because tomorrow could be the day. More often than not I complete a day asking myself, is this how I want to go out?

But time is supposed to heal all wounds, not create more!

I recently talked to a friend who heard this and said “So, you’re scared of death.” And I immediately said “No!” How could I, someone who knows death could happen at any moment and who uses this to drive her life, to keep her priorities in order, to make sure to take that sick day when she needs it because she won’t look back on life and regret that one day, be SCARED of death?

So, it turns out I’m scared of death. 

I’m learning that it’s healthy to be motivated by the idea that we each have but one life to live, and that to be unhappy and not change something would be silly because our time here is limited and if it’s happiness that we’re all chasing, the time to move towards that is now. When this feeling consumes you, however, it’s unhealthy and debilitating, which is the exact opposite of the whole dang idea. I’m learning that it’s not normal to drop dead at 47 without warning and with no cause of death besides that your heart just stopped. Still, 10 years later, I’m learning that this was an anomaly.

It’s tough to come to terms with things you can’t explain or see, and sometimes that’s where fear creeps in. But admitting your fear is the first step, right?