The Night My Daddy Died

It was a year ago when my wife woke me up in the middle of the night, “Baby, your phone is buzzing.” Honestly, I was little agitated to be awakened from such wonderful sleep (I’m a hard sleeper) but I rolled over out of the bed, staggered over to the dresser to grab my eye glasses then picked up my phone to see what was going on. I was agitated because I figured it was just an email and no one sends anything important through email at nearly two o’clock in the morning. But as I checked my phone there were several missed calls from my aunt. I returned her phone call and she simply said, “Come to mothers, it’s about your daddy.”

My initial thought was that this is something routine and we’d have to take my daddy to the emergency room for respiratory issues which he suffered from. So, I drove over to my grandmother’s house, Madea, as we call her, as quickly as possible. On the drive over, halfway there, suddenly a feeling of anxiety came over me. I was fairly calm when I left our driveway but something just didn’t feel right the closer I got to Madea’s. 

As I turned off the highway, I met an ambulance that turned off behind me but the driver wasn’t in too big of a hurry.  But sure enough the ambulance followed me to Madea’s. The closer I got the more eerie things began to feel. There was an ambulance in Madea’s driveway already, along with a Fire & Rescue truck, as well as a Sherif Deputy’s car. “All of this for a trip to the emergency room.”, I murmured. 

I parked my car and walked toward Madea’s house but I was met at the driveway by my aunt and Madea, both with distressed looks on their faces. “Omar”, said Madea. “It’s Joseph. Your daddy’s dead.” I replied, “Huh? No, no, no.” Once Madea told me my daddy was dead I didn’t believe her. 

You see, my daddy was the single most important person in my life. He was also the smartest and strongest person I knew. I understood that mortals died but to me my daddy was immortal. So, I needed to see the evidence of his death myself. He was only two months away from meeting his second granddaughter. He had soccer games, recitals, graduations, birthday parties, and weddings to attend. 

Mentally, I attempted to prepare myself to walk into the house to see my daddy sitting up in his recliner, eyes closed, resting peacefully. But as I walked towards the house I noticed a group of men standing near the carport: EMT’s, a firefighter, and a deputy sheriff.  It turned out that I knew the firefighter, we serve on a local board together.  I rarely noticed him though due to the circumstances. 

As I approached, they all turned towards me and I noticed a body lying under the carport face-up with a blanket draped across the chest of the body.  Internally I thought, “There’s no way that’s my daddy.” He was supposed to be resting peacefully. This almost seemed like a homicide scene from the show “The First 48.” My anxiety increased as I came closer to the body. I walked around the group of men and the first thing I noticed was my daddy’s lifeless eyes bloodshot red. I nearly panicked.

This was the most vulnerable I’d ever seen my daddy. He’d been battling sickness for as long as I could remember. He suffered from chronic bronchitis which causes increased mucus and inflammation. He eventually had to use an oxygen concentrator (oxygen machine as we called it) to assist with his breathing. 

My daddy was a proud man and didn’t use the device as much as needed. He was very discreet about his sickness. He always went to the doctor alone. To my knowledge, no one in the family really knew the magnitude of my daddy’s sickness. Not even myself, nor my paternal twin sisters, Jessica and Jasmine. A few years back a routine doctor’s visit turned into a three day stay at the hospital. My sisters and I decided to try to force our daddy’s hand to allow us to attend his next doctor’s visit. We were successful, he agreed. 

We were truly excited. We would finally get in on what’s going on with our father. He told us the date and time and that we would meet him at Madea’s to drive him to his doctor’s appointment. The date came around and I remember calling him on the phone to confirm the appointment’s time, but he didn’t answer. I believe one of my sisters called with no success either. After several failed attempts of calling, he finally returned my phone call. 

“Hello.” I answered. 

“Hey, son! You called?” He replied. 

 “Yes, sir. I was calling to confirm your doctor’s appointment today. Me and the twins were gonna go with you.” I responded. 

“Oh, my appointment was yesterday!” He said to his own amusement. “The doctor said I am doing fine.”

“Doing fine” was always his response. Of course, we knew better. He’d give us, “The doctor said I’m doing much better.” Or he’d brag about the new vegetarian diet he’d started on yesterday. He even told me once that he started doing yoga, which I knew was completely untrue but I got a good laugh out it to say the least. He never wanted us to worry about him. He wanted us, his children, to enjoy life and be the best version of ourselves we could be. 

In order to relax my anxiety after looking into my daddy’s bloodshot eyes, I simply took a seat in the nearest chair under Madea’s carport. I took a very deep breath to relax myself. I called my wife in a trembling voice, “Baby, daddy’s dead.” She was equally distraught. She told me how much she loved me and encouraged me to be strong for others. And then I called my mother, and as mothers often do, she provided a sense of comfort I desperately needed. 

By this time, the coroner had arrived to officially pronounce him dead. Foul play was ruled out which was a relief to me. The coroner found that he’d been dead since between 9:00-9:30 p.m. the previous night, March 20, 2016. Daddy was found by Madea after she noticed he wasn’t în the bedroom as she woke up to get a glass of water. 

He had come back from visiting friends. His life ended leaving his car walking towards the door due to cardiac arrest. His body had laid out in the cold air for nearly five hours. It seemed to me he deserved a better fate than that but his body had simply given up on him. Various medications and procedures had worn his body down. The constant medication and treatment had placed a heavy burden on his heart that it could no longer carry. 

In essence, as I reflect on that dreadful night, my daddy didn’t die a shameful death. He died a warrior’s death. He departed this earth on empty. He left everything on the table. He battled through adversity on a daily basis just to simply breath. Something many of us take for granted. I find that be inspiring. 

I’ve come to the point where I’m not saddened by my dad’s death, even though I do miss him. I believe I’m in a place where I’m empowered by his death. Empowered to be the father to my girls that he was to me and my sisters. Empowered to be a reflection of righteousness. Empowered to empower others when they face similar circumstances. 

Love you daddy! And Livy told me to tell you she loves you, too! ❤️

Joseph Abrams 

10/1/1958 – 3/20/2016

Rest Easy

The Black Vote

    A few weeks ago after the final 2016 presidential debate, I had an animated conversation with a coworker about the candidates and their worthiness to hold arguably the most powerful position in the world. For the most part, we agreed on what the obvious flaws of each candidates were but shared glaring differences on how we, as blacks, should vote. The coworker’s stance was that blacks should vote democrat because the Democratic Party has our best interest in mind.

  Throughout my eighteent years of being of legal voting age, I have always been told, by family and respected community members alike, that blacks vote democratic. At all costs! And as an uneducated voter for most of those eighteen years, I followed that prescription. But, the more I educated I became as a voter I began to question why, as a black, I should have such an allegiance to this particular party or any political for that matter. 

  If we look back on our U.S. history blacks have been pawns in the political chess match of both parties, republican and democrat. From the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement to this past election.  President elect Trump made several misguided attempts to secure the black vote, most notably, the “What do you have to lose?”, statement. Secretary Clinton arrogantly pandered to blacks with celebrity endorsements such as, Lebron James, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and by comically claiming “she carried hot sauce in her bag” in reference to Beyoncé’s hit song “Formation”. 

  With all the efforts by politicians to get  us on their sides, we always end up a marginalized and forgotten people. Be it through the criminal justice system, healthcare, education, or employment. So, personally I have developed a disdain for most politicians on either side of the aisle. I’m also developing an even greater disdain of the fact that many blacks have bought into the idea either party truly has our best interest at heart. The most accurate description I’ve of heard about both political parties is that they are two fangs on the same snake. 

  I read a quote from a guy named Glen Laurie, it said, “No people can be genuinely free, so as long as they look to others for their deliverance.” I couldn’t agree more. In 2008, with the election of the country’s first black president, Barack Obama, many blacks looked to him, a politician, and the Democratic Party to “fix” our problems. Here we are eighth years later with the exact same problems. And much respect to President Obama, didn’t agree with every policy or moves he made or didn’t make but he represented us with class and dignity like no other. 

  Ultimately, I believe that the onus is on us, as blacks or any other marginalized groups, to not look for change but to create change. Change is not created by doing better, rather change is created by thinking better. Thinking and acting upon ways to improve our communities, educational systems, employment, and healthcare. Trusting in our God-given abilities to do the unthinkable and not depending on a government or political system that has proven itself untrustworthy. 

Perseverance

Perserverance is defined as a continued effort to do or acheive something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.

I believe I have reached a point in my life that I truly undertand what it means to perservere. Like most people, my life has been challenging and I have been faced with many difficulties. I’ve even had a notion of giving up a few times and during those time I had to ask my self what giving up would look like. Would it look like me drowing in my sorrows with alcohol? Would it look like me as a beggar because I underachieved? Would look like me being but a shell of my former self? None of these outcomes I found to be suitable for who I was created to be. None of them!

I have come across a few people who have chosen to back down from the fight that life has presented. These people are still living but haven’t been recognizable for quite some time because they somehow have let their guards down and allowed life to continuously pound them with right hooks. Don’t allow that to be you. Don’t allow yourself to be a punching bag by the difficulites of life. Fight back! Pay the price to achieve whatever it is your heart desires. Persevere!