Gain from Lose

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August 20, 2011 was the worst day of my life: My father ended his eighteen month battle with cancer. I was right at his bedside when he took his last breath as I watched the blood pressure monitor drop from “50” to “0” in a matter of minutes. I lost it when the beats of his heart STOPPED. Mine STOPPED as well. I began to kick, scream, and throw a fit as if I was that same three year old who cried uncontrollably when my father would drop me off at daycare. We were inseparable. My father raised me as a single parent since I was two years old. After the family settled me down, I wondered what was to become of my life. Who was going to protect me? Definitely not my abusive, alcoholic husband! Who was I going to call EVERY day to discuss the ups and downs of teaching and the issues of a horrible marriage? What was I going to do without the only person who has always loved me unconditionally and who has always made sacrifices for me?

In addition to dealing with clinical depression (I was diagnosed about eight years ago), I had the weight of the world on my shoulders: my father was gone, I had to deal with family members who had their hands out and the resentment of my siblings, people wanted (this included close friends and neighbors) to feel important by telling me how to plan things, I couldn’t trust anyone, but my god sister and mother (who lives in St.Louis), and my husband was DRUNK EVERYDAY. I am proud to say that with the help of my god sister, I laid Daddy to rest with dignity and class. I was also awed by the number of people who came to his funeral. It was close to 250 people. Family members I haven’t seen in years came up from St. Louis as well as most, if not ALL, of the neighbors from 106th Place (the block in which I was raised) to pay their respects to my father. It made me feel loved and proud. My father was well respected by everyone he met. He had a way of warming others’ hearts; he had a HEART OF GOLD. He was known as Uncle Donald or God daddy to many of the children I grew up with.

After the dust settled, I had to make decisions about what to do with my home since I inherited my father’s home. I allowed everyone to talk me into moving into Daddy’s house. I decided to give my house back to the bank since I was in the process of filing bankruptcy and move into my Daddy’s house. This was another piece of the world added to my shoulders! I thought that moving into the house that I grew up in would be the best thing for me, but it wasn’t. It made me more depressed. It felt cold and empty. I couldn’t handle it emotionally. Plus, I had to leave. My husband had beaten me one last time. I made up my mind to leave Chicago and move to St. Louis to be with my mother (especially since she had a stroke a month after my father’s death on September 26th).This meant leaving my teaching career of ten years, lose my medical insurance (which means not being able to afford my antidepressants), and leave the only place I’ve known for thirty-five years. Although scary, I stepped out on faith. I packed up my house and my father’s and left.

Now I’m here in St. Louis feeling more peace (I do feel down most of the times) because I don’t have to worry about being choked, punched, or being called demeaning things, but more so because I know that my father is resting knowing that I am out of harm’s way. The move has also allowed me to make plans to return to school for a second Masters Degree, teach part time—I am burned out from teaching full time, build a relationship with my mother and other family members, grieve over my father at my own pace, meet new people, and MOST importantly take care of myself by learning how to live life to its fullest, INSPITE of my depression.

My father’s death has given me the courage to explore such opportunities to learn who I am and to lean on God. Thank you Daddy for being a strong man and teaching me how to overcome any obstacles placed in my path.

In Loving Memory of Donald Emmette Bradley

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