Sunday, June 16, 2013

"The only man a girl can depend on... her daddy."
- Grease

I've been writing this post in my head for about a month. I want to show the importance of love and family, but I don't want this post to make anyone feel sad or morbid. It's so hard to come up with the right words to say about someone so special...

My father passed away 3 weeks before my 20th birthday. He had been sick for a few months, but no one really expected it to happen. My dad had something called Amyloidosis.

Amyloidosis is a disease that has no cause, and has no cure. Everyone has Amyloid proteins in their bodies. Sometimes they react differently and instead of fighting with antibodies, they fight against them. Eventually, they start to attack all of your organs.

My father found out he had Amyloidosis in April. It was Easter weekend. He and my mother had traveled to Minnesota to attend the Mayo Clinic in order to find out what was wrong. He had been fighting pneumonia for months and he knew something just wasn't right. The doctors at home had no idea what it was. It was at the Mayo Clinic that they told him he had a disease that attacked 8 out of 1,000,000 people. They gave us hope and said a stem cell transplant may help him...but also let us know that there was a chance things might not necessarily act in our favor.

When I finished out my sophomore year of college, I headed to Minnesota with my parents in order to assist in dad's stem cell transplant. We lived in a place called the Gift of Life Transplant House. It was a place where you felt at home. A place where everyone there was going through the same things you were. A place where everyone you came in contact with could relate to your story.

For two months we lived there, taking dad back and forth to different check-ups, chemo visits, etc. We made friends and visited local attractions. We made ourselves at home. And then, eventually, dad just started to go downhill. The doctors had told him that he could no longer get the stem cell transplant. His body was too far gone and it wouldn't handle it. So, he started on a new kind of chemo that they thought might work. Dad was terrified. He knew he was going to go through a lot and it was so hard to watch him.

Eventually, I had to head back home. I needed to keep my summer job and make sure everything was attended to at the house. It wasn't easy leaving, but I knew it was the thing that I had to do.

At the airport the day I left. I cut off 10 inches of my hair the day before in
 support of dad. He later found out he wasn't going to lose his hair....little stinker.
Dad started to get better and they even talked about letting him head home, but every time they promised him release, something bad would happen. About 3 weeks after I left, my brother went to spend the weekend with them. They told dad then that he was well enough to head home. My brother, Scott, and mom packed all their things and they headed out. They made it the 2 day drive home and finally, Dad was back with us.

He was still very sick. He threw up every time he ate. He just couldn't keep anything down. We knew this was going to happen, but seeing your dad so vulnerable was heartbreaking.

Then one night, about a week later, it all changed...

Mom and Dad were sitting at the kitchen table going over bills. I was upstairs asleep. It happened so quickly. My dad looked at mom, said her name, and his eyes rolled back in his head. He had done this a few times before, but mom could tell it was different. She called 911.

Luckily, our neighbors are paramedics. They hopped on their 4wheeler and headed over. Still, there was little to be done. By the time they got Dad to the ER he was brain dead and couldn't breathe on his own. They explained that the Amyloidosis had attacked his heart, and he had had a stroke and a heart attack at the same time. He was on life support.

At one point I went home. We were all in our pajamas and Mom and I needed things for the hospital. The first time I walked into the kitchen I broke down. I laid in the spot where he had laid and cried. There was nothing we could do. We knew it was the end.

My dad stayed on life support for about a day. We waited until my brothers could come home and then we pulled the plug. It's the hardest thing any of us have ever done. Within another 24 hours he passed.

My father was an amazing man. 
I miss him every day of my life.
He's watching over me, however. 
Cuz I can feel his love shine down on me daily.

Our last picture together.
This is a poem I wrote for my dad on the weekend we found out about his disease. I left it on his pillow along with a bear I had built him named "Faith".

"Walk by faith, not by sight"
- 2 Corinthians 5:7

Faith now lives with Mike and I. The bracelet on her wrist was made for Dad.
It says "Faith" and has each of our birthstones.

Daddy's Little Girl
Pretty dresses, Barbie dolls, ribbons in my hair, 
Ballet shoes and tutu skirts, pink was everywhere. 
Fancy bed, flowered sheets, stacks of teddy bears, 
Dance lessons, hide and seek, he was always there. 
I was Daddy’s Little Girl. 

Special friends, cootie boys, hearing fairy tales, 
Red corvettes and spotted cows, painted fingernails. 
Learning of loss, broken hands, Girl Scout cookie sales, 
Ice cream stops, water walks, his love always prevailed. 
I was Daddy’s Little Girl. 

Eskimo kisses, bedtime prayers, dancing on your toes, 
Tire swings and fireworks, sledding in the snow. 
The Boogieman, planting seeds, spurts that made me grow, 
Questions about history, he always seemed to know. 
I was Daddy’s Little Girl. 

The Annie play, my first crush, the Indian foot race, 
Brand new school and all new friends, both in a new place. 
First bike ride, dress myself, no more frills and lace, 
Pierced ears, sleepovers, always my saving grace. 
I was Daddy’s Little Girl. 

Big new home, big new room, big new closet, too. 
Softball games and broken wrist, filled with things to do. 
Concert solos, puberty, things I never knew, 
First “boyfriend”, 8th grade dance, he’s always there for you. 
I was Daddy’s Little Girl. 

Huge new school, football games, friends from younger years. 
Cheerleading practice and drama crew, Prom Committee tears. 
Driver’s License, make-up, a whole new list of fears. 
Colorado, “Just You and I”, as always he was here. 
I was Daddy’s Little Girl. 

Senior year, my first love, couldn’t wait for May, 
Prom dress and high heeled shoes, college on the way. 
The applications, internship, no more time for play. 
He was even there to kiss on Graduation Day. 
I was Daddy’s Little Girl. 

On my own, a whole new world, every bit a fright. 
Broken hearts and brand new dreams, IM’s every night. 
Life-long friends, missing home, prayers with all my might. 
Tough times, falling tears, he always makes things right. 
I am Daddy’s Little Girl. 

Big white dress, chapel bells, flowers in my hair. 
Walk me down and give me away, know I’ll always care. 
One last dance, play our song, still the perfect pair. 
Through thick and thin, for all my life, always he’ll be there. 
I’ll be Daddy’s Little Girl.

Go hug those Daddies for me!! 
Tell them I said Happy Father's Day!!!


  1. Kristen - I'm so sorry for your loss. My dad passed away in the middle of my freshman year of college so I can empathize with your situation. I know how hard it is, especially on Father's Day and other important holidays.

    No matter how long it's been, the hurt never really goes away but I wish you and your family peace in your hearts and minds.


  2. Tears in my eyes. He was a great teacher. You turned out great~ I am sure he is proud!