It doesn't seem real that four years ago I was preparing to tell you goodbye. The biggest gut wrenching moment of my life. They say you always remember where you were, what you were doing, and how you felt when a personal tragedy strikes. And, they're not wrong. I remember every detail down to the minute of my last day with you. How I watched you slip away from us. Your last words. Your last breath at 5:00 am on February 20th, 2015. The way I felt when I knew I had to walk out of that ICU room, leaving you behind. How I would have to hold our family together as we grieved. The flurry of emotions and feelings that hit so hard every year on this day.
The day I lost my dad. My hero.
So much has changed since that day. I learned just how much I was like you. How I still catch myself calling you to tell you about my day on the way home from work or when shit hits the fan. But, I think the thing that hurts the most is knowing just how not ready I was to lose you. I knew you were suffering, and that letting you go was the best thing we could do for you, but there isn't a single time that this date rolls around on the calendar that I second guess myself. I knew for weeks before the day came that your time was limited. That your body was going to fail you when you still wanted to fight a disease that had already won by the time you were diagnosed. That we were going to lose the cornerstone of our family, and that all I could do is watch from the sidelines praying for a miracle that I knew would never come. And, I think you knew too. It wasn't until after you were gone that things we had talked about on one of my nights at the hospital that I realized that you were preparing me to replace you. To be that cornerstone to keep us going. A responsibility that I didn't want, but accepted when you took your last breathe. And four years later, I still stand tall at my post when all I want to do is buckle at the knees under the weight. But, I preserve. For you. For Mom. For our family. I stand watch for us all.
I love you, Dad.
Avelyn Paige is an Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY bestselling Motorcycle Romance author.