The date was August 24, and it was my first day home from dropping off my daughter at college. I was gone for a week and spent the day catching up on work. I planned to catch up with my family that weekend because I was heading out of town again the next week for a couple of months. I barely laid down on the couch when my cell phone rang. I was so tired that I almost didn’t answer the phone, but my better judgement told me otherwise. Before I could speak, my niece interrupted my salutations with the dreaded words I will never forget:
Big Daddy just took his last breath. He is gone.
My heart skipped a beat as I sucked in a deep breath. I asked her where was she and informed her that I was on my way to my Grandmother’s house. I hung up the phone and sat up. I had so many mixed emotions. Big Daddy was gone and there was nothing that I could do about it. My feelings were melancholy and I didn’t shed a tear. Like a robot, I began making phone calls informing my nieces, nephews, and cousins. There was one more person to contact, but I was scared to make this call. How do you tell your child that her Great-Grandfather just passed away, but in the same breath inform her that she had to stay at school?
After a twenty minute conversation with my daughter, I finally was on my way to join my family and close friends at my Grandmother’s house. I am not one to show my emotions, so it was not hard for me to jump into the role of making sure everyone else was okay. I was passing out water, food, and tissue. I soothed the kids that didn’t understand why Big Daddy wouldn’t wake up. I did everything I could to keep myself busy. I knew that major of the arrangements were already prepared, but I also knew that my Grandmother was going to need me there the days to come. So if I wasn’t ready, I had to get ready.
In July, we were informed that my Grandfather needed a heart transplant, but he was not strong enough to endure the surgery. The medical staff gave him only a couple of days to live. I was in Atlanta and really did not know how to comprehend the information. Daddy has been sick for the past several years, but he always recovered. Big Daddy was a fighter and my interpretation of what a real man was composed of. For the remainder of my trip, my heart would skip a beat every time I received a call from a family member thinking that it was going to be the call, but like always Daddy beat the odds.
He lived an entire month and a half later, giving everyone the opportunity to say good-bye. He lived a full and happy life, and was not scared at all about his fate. He was secure with his relationship with God, and knew that he was a great role model and provider for his family. He continued to smile up until he took his last breath in his sleep, and even wore a smile during the funeral service.
That smile is one that I will never forget. He wore that smile every time he walked across the street from his house when I was a child to pick me up from school. He wore that same smile when I was only fifteen years old bringing my newborn baby home to meet him. He told me not to worry, that I was going to beat the odds regardless. When I began to tour, and started being out of town twice a month, he would always start off with a fuss, saying DANG…. I almost forgot what you looked like, but would quickly change his frown to a smile and tell me how proud of me he was.
It wasn’t until the day of the funeral that I finally shed a tear. My five year old Great-Nephew Daniel held my hand as we assembled outside my Grandmother’s house preparing to head to the funeral. He tugged my hand, and looked up at me calling my name… “Yes Daniel,” I responded and glanced down. “I wish that Big Daddy would wake up.” Those eight little words broke my heart. That is when the realization that he was not going to be able to have all of the same great memories of Big Daddy that I did. I smiled as the tears ran down my face. “I do too baby boy,” is all that I could say. “I do too.”
My Laker’s Fan
My Big Daddy