My father describes the day I was born as a whirlwind of a moment. Nearly hours after I was birthed, my mother convinced the hospital to let her come home with me. She walked in the door that night, face planted on the bed, and left my dad with a brand new baby girl. My father said that he put me in the living room, and he spent the entire night putting together my new infant swing. But during that time, I didn’t cry once. He said, I just sat there with him, hours old, watching. So, while a child usually spends time feeding from her mother and cradled in her arms - my dad and I sat there, just staring at each other...all while he worked.
On March 1, 2019 - I had the greatest honor, with my father’s sister, to hold his hand in his last breath. Bradley Cooper has said about watching his father’s death, “It was everything...it was the second biggest gift he gave me - having me, bringing me into this life, and him allowing me to be witness to his passing. Losing my father in my life changed everything”. He continues by saying that he has never seen anything the same, since watching that event.
While I would have loved to have had the enlightenment that Bradley had, immediately after that day - it took myself four days before I stopped asking “why me, Dad?”.
Since receiving the news of my father’s condition, I remembered him in the back of my mind saying, “Canni...the jobs not over until the paperwork is finished”. Never was this moment so true than Monday morning, when my aunt woke me up at 5 am from the couch to tell me this was it. I walked into the room, saw him on the bed, and took a deep breath. I am not sure if I audibly said so, or if it was my spirit talking to him - but, I looked at him and said, “okay Dad...let’s do this.”
During the 30 minutes leading up to his passing, I was stripped bare. No physical lack of clothing could ever compare to the complete vulnerability that I had in front of my aunt and attending nurse. But nothing held up to the utter nakedness that I had in front of my father.
I remember feeling so guilty towards my family for pleading with my father to let go of his life. I wondered if it would be my fault for his passing - ‘would everyone blame me for being so selfish in not wanting to see him in pain?’. But mostly, I remembered the story of us together, in the living room of my first day on earth, now on the last day of his. I was working harder than ever to surround him with a comfortable environment to lay.
When he took his last breath, the only question that I could ask the nurse was, “are you sure he’s gone, so I don’t have to be strong anymore?”. When it was obvious that our time was over, I found my body pleading with my aunt to hold me, letting out the sobs upon her shoulder.
In the few days since my father’s death, I have asked myself why. Why was I chosen, with my aunt, to be the one to stand with him in his last breath? I have sobbed this week while my brother Gary has told me, “Candice..Dad chose you”. And I’ll be honest, up until Monday, I wished he hadn’t - this was never my plan.
I am fortunate enough to have a career where I am able to watch people, just as I did that first day on earth. I was lucky enough to have a father who told me to truly look at the insides of a person, for all of the pain and joy that they have, and to dig deeper into seeing them for the humans that they are. The only thing that mentally held me back from showing my truest self was the fear that I would open myself to see too much. Too much humanity and too much pain. My journey towards finding truth was stifled by the lack in willingness to open my heart to the amount of human spirit that I would see.
While I previously wished I hadn’t been the one to be in the room, I now realize that I was mostly uncomfortable with the amount of nakedness that I had laid before my father in his passing time. My father knew that there would be no greater pain, as a childless woman, than to watch him leave this earth. And while it took days for me to see what Bradley sees, I am now made aware of my father’s purpose for having me in his last moment.
Today, I have no fear of the unknown. There is no fear of vulnerability, and no fear in marrow of my bones hurting in the pain in the hearing of his condition.
My father’s purpose in choosing me, for that moment, is that I may continue my path of truth and the spreading awareness of the human condition. And in the time I let go of his hand, his guiding spirit and immediate voice was the only explanation for me to continue to stand firm in my truth.
I would be remiss if I did not remind myself of 1 John 4:8, “whoever does not know love does not know God, because God is love”. And while my father speaks so fervently on the words of the Bible, I found in that moment that we believed in the same God, which is Love.
The love of a daughter for her father, the love of a father for his daughter, and the love that he bestowed upon every person that he met - leaving me with the greatest example of how to give back to the world in his loving honor...through my perspective, and through the heart that he created 29 years ago.
So, I do not fear the new world that I am embarking upon - because when the marrows of my bones were emptied in pain, they were filled with my father’s heart for humanity and his love for his fellow man.
I am honored to stand here today, laced in my father’s examples of love, and say to you all…
“let’s do this, Dad. Show me what you got.”