My daddy died in late April, 2000. He had lung cancer. He fought it with everything he had.

Daddy getting baptisedOn April 21, he was baptised. He was 74 years old. My parents never went to church as long as I knew them, but my daddy believed in God and felt it was time. It's never too late.

While in the hospital, he asked me to go through his safe deposit box. I found my momma's wedding ring there. I thought she had lost it when she was in the hospital a few years back. I brought it to the hospital to show my daddy. He asked me, "When are you going to get married?" The question surprised me, and I told him I didn't think I ever would. He didn't like that answer and told me to get married one day.

His condition deteriorated rapidly, and we decided to send him to a hospice. He was still fighting. He was upset with us and said we were giving up on him. That was so hard.

The hospice was much better than the hospital. They took away most of his pain, and he seemed much more at peace.

A day or two after he moved there, I asked him if he knew what the upcoming Friday was. He said he knew it was my birthday. I was surprised and pleased because he was out of sorts about most things.

I stayed in his room at the hospice in a fold out bed. Wednesday night was a rough, restless night. I think that night he went through his whole life in his mind. He called out a name several times. I didn't recognize it, and asked my aunt later. She said it was the name of a childhood friend.

Thursday, he was lucid. Friends came calling, and it was good that he was able to talk to them.

Daddy's big catchMy daddy loved golf, and he loved to fish. It was a funny thing about the fishing. For many years, he went with his buddies and never caught a fish. It was a running joke, but one where we all laughed with him, not at him. The lack of a catch never stopped him going, though, and he did eventually get one.

Thursday night, I was there with my brother and sister-in-law. He was quiet, and at one point, he was staring up at the corner of the ceiling. When we asked him what was happening, he said that two angels were there. He said that he told them he wasn't ready and to go away. Not very long after, the man in the next room passed away.

Daddy slept the whole day on Friday. My sister-in-law brought a cake, and we celebrated my birthday at lunchtime. Around 11:30 p.m., I was doing crossword puzzles. Suddenly, I felt I needed to look up. My brother was standing by him, and I knew my daddy was gone. I like to think he shooed away the angels the night before because he wanted to be there for my birthday. He stayed with us the whole day.

My daddy and my brother are the only men alive who I feel love me unconditionally. Maybe that's why I can't find someone of my own. Maybe I hold them up to my daddy's standard. He was a man of character, and never made me feel like he was disappointed in me.

When my mom died, my daddy broke down and said, "I wish I had done more for her." I didn't know what to say, so I told him everything was going to be alright. He said, "I know it'll be alright. I just wish I had done more for her."

At the funeral, the preacher who baptised my daddy gave a beautiful eulogy. I asked them to play a recording I made of the song Home (mp3) .

I always think of my daddy and his wonderful smile and loving heart on my birthday. I believe he's still here watching over me.

Written April 22, 2007