Losing a Parent When You’re Four: A Guest Blog by Cassie Heath
Losing a Parent When You’re Four
When I was nine years-old I was rummaging through a clothing rack at Kohl’s I came across a T-shirt that read “Daddy’s Girl”. My throat burned. I began to sob in the middle of Kohl’s. My mother frantically ran over to see why. I pointed to the shirt and in between breaths muttered, “I’ll never be a ‘Daddy’s Girl’.”
Five years earlier, on May 29, 2004, my father began to have what would be his worst and last asthma attack. My mother had to hurriedly take control; she gathered me and my younger brother into the backseat, and helped my struggling father in the passenger seat of our Lincoln.
Just keep him breathing. We’ll make it there soon.
We sped to the hospital, but not in time for his weak lungs. He was so tired, so feeble; the asthma attack was so great that he went into heart failure. My mother swerved the car and everything seemed to go in slow motion and white noise, like in those dramatic war scenes in action movies. To this day I have never heard a scream with the kind of pain my mom had in her voice.
She gave him mouth to mouth; she yelled for help. The ambulance was called, and a nearby woman who came to support me and my brother told us to be strong, like Spiderman. She gave us Sprite. Since then I’ve never liked Sprite very much.
The ambulance soon arrived, and the police drove us to the hospital. I remember being surrounded by a lot of family, and walking around outside with my aunt. She bought me an ice cream sandwich– I wasn’t able to eat one again for ten years. When returning inside, I pleaded with my mother to let me talk to him. She tried explaining to me that he wouldn’t be able to speak to me or hear me. I was so confused and hurt.
At the funeral he looked so perfect and porcelain; and then he was gone.
I am now seventeen and have relived his death every single day. It will probably never leave my head. It plays repeatedly like a record. Some days, I can keep it to background noise, but on others it takes center stage and I have no choice but to surrender to it. Since that day I have battled feelings of worthlessness and abandonment, depression, anxiety, and many others. I’ve been left with a barren emptiness in the pit of my soul. Half of me feels gone. There’s no replacing that. No matter how hard I try.
Is there a happy ending, or a light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t know. I’ve cycled through the five stages of grief, even after twelve years, and I probably will for the rest of my life. Was there some greater purpose in my enduring this cruel experience? I don’t know. I’ve always told myself that I’ll somehow use my experience to help other people, but I guess I won’t know until my purpose greets me. If I am sure of anything, it is that my father would want me to utilize my potential, do great things, and attempt to heal my soul. With that, I just have to devote myself to becoming a stronger version of me, one step at a time.