Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One Year Later

I'm not sure if anyone will read this, but I needed to get the occurrences of that day out of my head and onto paper computer screen.  This only documents what happened to me.  The rest of my family had to witness this first hand.  I'm not sure I would have been as strong as them.  

Note: I've always loved to write, but I can assure you that the below isn't gramatically correct  or error-free. It's basically me doing a brain dump.  Feel free to stop reading at any point, this is free therapy for me.

May 16, 2011

“MANDI!!!” *thump thump thump* “MANDI!!!”

I was dreaming, I had to be. My dogs bark at everything. It was impossible that someone was really outside my house yelling my name…Cooper and Charlie would have been barking their little heads off by now.

I was obviously delirious from excitement. I was set to formally accept my new position at DSW

by phone that morning. I had learned only two days earlier that I got the job,  and my parents were ecstatic that I was going to be closer to home. Yep, I was dreaming.  I closed my eyes to go back to sleep.

….but there it was again.

This time the shouting was louder, and I could hear the distinct sound of fists beating on my door. My first thought was that I had missed my call (it didn’t cross my mind how strange it was that anyone would know this information, much less be beating down my door about it.) I decided it was probably a good idea to head downstairs to see what the fuss was about. I opened the door to find my good friends Chris, Stephanie, and Corey at the door.

“Have you talked to your Mom?”
“No, what’s wrong?”
“Just go call her.”

I ran back up to my room and grabbed my phone. 17 missed calls. This isn’t good.

My thoughts immediately went to my Grandpa Derrow. We'd been at a hospital in Columbus a few weeks prior because he'd had a heart attack scare. Or maybe it was one of my Grandma's.  I began to worry. .

I called my Mom, while my friends waited in the hall outside my bedroom. When she answered, I immediately knew something was terribly wrong. I’d seen her cry before, but this was much different.  Whatever had happened was so bad that I could actually feel her sadness through the phone. We were a 3 and a half hour car ride away from each other, and I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach before she even got a word out.

“What’s wrong?”
“It’s your Dad. Something happened. It’s bad.”

Wait, did she say it was my Dad? I had just seen him 4 days earlier and he was perfectly fine. Whatever had happened, I was sure he’d been through worse and was going to be ok. I bet he fell and hurt his leg or something.

“What happened? He’s gonna be ok, right?”
“He…he didn’t make it, baby.”

After I heard those words, Mandi was gone. I don’t know who or what took over my body, but I was definitely no longer present.  I remember my Mom saying my Aunt and Uncle were going to pick me up, and I just kept saying “I’m so sorry.”

My friends hugged me and cried with me. They let me talk to them and spew out whatever nonsense I was saying.  My dog Cooper never left my lap (it’s so crazy how dogs just know when there is something wrong.)  After a few minutes, I composed myself and thanked them for being with me when I got the news.  Being alone would have been horrible, and I couldn't have asked for 3 more supportive people to be surrounding me.  They headed back to work, and I went to email DSW to tell them that I couldn’t make the call because my Dad had suddenly passed away.

As I typed those words, I knew they weren’t true. They weren’t…my Dad was fine and was going to live until he was 1000 years old, because he was my Dad and that’s the way it was supposed to be.

I pushed send and headed upstairs. Mandi was definitely still gone, and I had to go pack for a funeral.

My Dad’s funeral.

The last pic I had of him...8 days before he passed
I was clearly in full-blown shock mode. I don’t know how I managed to put together several complete outfits:
1. If you know me well, you know my clothes aren’t normally in the neatest state.
Note: I did make one critical error: I only packed one black pump. This was later resolved by wearing a pair of my Mom’s shoes and stuffing socks into the toes.

Chris, Linda, Michael and Brandon (my family from Columbus) soon arrived to haul me, the pups and my clothes to Wellston. Linda drove my car halfway home and Chris took over for the last leg of the trip. We talked and laughed. Mandi was still nowhere to be found.

It wasn’t until we pulled up in front of my house, which I had just seen my dad in the Thursday before, that I realized what was about to happen.

“I don’t want to go in. I can’t go in.”

I knew that as soon as I stepped through that door, my life was going to be different.

My Grandma Border was the first person to grab me and that’s when reality set in. Next I went through a line of hugs with my Mom, brother, Kiley, aunts and uncles, and cousins.  I put my head on my Grandma Derrow’s lap and screamed and cried. There were a lot of friends of family also in the room, but I didn’t care. I was having a level 5 meltdown. 

The Aftermath

Flowers from the funeral home.
The outpouring of love my family received over the next week was truly astonishing. My house was never empty, we never lacked for food. The funeral home (which looked absolutely beautiful thanks to Tom and Sharon McWIlliams) had a line out the door for 8 straight hours during the viewing. My Dad’s funeral was held in our (very packed) high school gymnasium. ESPN filmed the funeral.

All of this cemented what I already knew…my Dad was undoubtedly the greatest, most-selfless man I had ever known.  

One year later… 

…I miss his laughter and lightheartedness.
…I want to watch a Browns game with him.
…I want to see him stomp that foot on the court as he coaches the Rockets one last time.
…I want to wake up on a Sunday morning and hear him blaring Bon Jovi…or Lady Gaga…or Young Jeezy. His music was on point.
…I want to watch him play with our dogs.
...I want to go get ice cream with him, Mom, and Bradon and ride around the lake.
…I want to stare at the stars on a clear Summer night and point out constellations (and be totally wrong about what they are.)
…I want us to get in trouble in church because my Mom is embarrassed that we are drawing pictures on the Sunday bulletin (sorry Mom…and God.)
...I want to hear him say "Sooooookie" during one of my Mom and I's True Blood marathons. ...I want to hear him say "...and now, at point guard, KINGSLEY DERRRRRRROOOWWW". (He always wanted to name my brother Kingsley).
…I want him to know how proud I am to call him my Dad.
…I want him to know that I completely realize how lucky I am that I was able to have him in my life for 29 wonderful years. He and my Mom are just about as close to perfect parents as I could get. 

…I want him to know that not a day goes by that I don’t miss his smile.

A year later…I cry every single day.  

Random Thoughts

I want to say a special thank you to everyone who has been by my side during and after this awful time. I wouldn’t have made it without you. All of my Cleveland friends, new Columbus friends, and old friends from high school and're all wonderful...I'm so blessed to have you in my life.
To Mam & Pap B/Mam & Pap D & the rest of my fam: This was especially hard on all of you (understatement of a lifetime).  I am so lucky to have you and love you all so much.

To Brant: You remind me more and more of Dad every single day.  He is SO proud of you.  I love you!

To my Mom: You are the strongest person I’ve ever met. I had to watch you bury the love of your life on the 40th anniversary of the day you met.  You handled this with grace and I can't get over how amazing you are. You are the most special person in the world. Love you.  

To my Dad: I will continue to talk to you everyday.  I know things happen for a reason.  You lived each day to serve others and set an excellent example for the rest of us. I love you forever and will see you soon.  


Emily Nelman said...

Mandi, thank you for sharing! We all love you so much and I miss seeing you everyday. You are definitely in my thoughts and prayers. Love you! -Stoibs

GiaCoco said...

Beautiful Mandi. Bless you and your family, especially your inspiring father Jim. -Love Christina

Corinne said...

I'm so sorry for the loss you and your family experienced a year ago - I cannot imagine what it took to get through and what it's like now, a year later.
Sending a prayer and thoughts to you and your family for continued support and love!

nwarrington said...

Mandi, well written! It brought tears to my eyes just thinking about it. I shared with Brant that one year later, I still remember what I was at when I got the phone call that morning:( I continue to pray for you and your family...I wish I could tell you it gets better, but from experience it doesn't...some days are always better than others!

PattyAnn said...

Such a heartfelt post, Mandi. You must have cried a thousand tears writing this and I am crying right along with you. Still praying for you and your family!

amandapetrak55 said...

Mandi...That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I know your Dad is proud of the woman that you are today. May God continue to help you heal. - Amanda Petrak

Lila-Jo said...

Mandi...Thank you so much for sharing. Thought and prayers are with you and your family.