9 years ago today I got a call that changed my whole world.  I headed out the night before to my brother Shaylins house to babysit while he and his wife went to Hawaii.  It was just Aspen and I, she was about 1.  I remember feeling so tired as I drove down to his house.  I couldn't keep my eyes open, even though he was only 2 hours away. My eyes felt the heaviest they ever had, and I finally pulled into a church parking lot and thanked God that Aspen was sleeping so I could put my chair back and close my eyes.  I was out so quickly. When Aspen started fussing, I continued on my way.  I felt strange.  Tired.  When I got to Shaylins, I ate dinner and after getting directions for what to do with the kids while they were gone, I went to bed.  Aspen was unusually quiet (she was usually very restless).  She snuggled me close and let me just cuddle her to sleep.  I woke early - and couldn't fall back asleep.  Aspen woke and instead of crying, she drank her bottle curled up next to me and we both just laid there in the silence.  There was a strangeness in the quiet that I couldn't place.  

We got up and dressed and went upstairs to eat breakfast.  Karen my sister in law was giving me the last of the directions before they were to be leaving when I got the call.  My sister ShaMayne was supposed to be meeting up with me for some time together that day, so I answered the phone cheerily and asked her right away where and when she wanted to meet. The words out of her mouth were not what I was expecting to hear. "Shanda.  (a pause) Daddy's gone. He passed away this morning." Everything went black, I felt dizzy and couldn't stand. I grabbed onto the edge of the counter, I gasped, I couldn't breathe.  I remember yelling into the phone "no. nooooo" as I fell to the floor.  My sister in laws face went white and she asked what was wrong.  I can't remember answering.  I don't remember what happened next, except that the tears and the terrible pain in my heart wouldn't stop.  I couldn't stop saying no over and over again.  I couldn't breathe.  I was in shock. It felt as if the life had been sucked out of me.  My heart was torn open and no one was putting the pieces back together.  I went outside and sat on the ground and sobbed uncontrollably.  Thank goodness for Karen.  I'd forgotten Aspen and she was holding it all together.  I remember calling those closest to me.  Ashton, Aunt Leanne, Veda, Charlotte, Michelle, Andrea, My siblings.  I remember just sobbing with them all, needing the comfort of anyone who knew him.  A dear friend Maggie Purcell showed up - she'd heard about it and came right over.  Im sad to say I don't remember much about her being there.  I know she watched Aspen, I know I climbed into a shower and sobbed my heart out, but I don't remember communicating with anyone very clearly. But just that she was mattered so much.  Shaylin took off on an airplane right away to pick up my mom in Peru where they were serving their mission.

Ashton came to get me, I needed to get to my Grandmas - My dad's mom's who was over 100 and still alive at the time.  I just needed to be there.  And I found out when I got there that I was not the only one who felt that way.  My uncles and aunts were there, and my brother Shiloh and sister Shenla.  We just needed to be together.  And we all wanted to be with Grandma. When my uncle Dave opened the door - he looked so much like my dad I collapsed into his arms sobbing. 

The next few weeks would feel like one big blur. With lots of tears. 

I was always a daddies girl.  Through and through.  We would walk home from church holding hands and singing every Sunday.  I'd sit on his lap while he mowed the lawn and he'd sing me "mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" belting it at the top of his lungs.  I'd paint the house with him, always wanting to be outside with him rather then inside cleaning.  I'd find him sleeping under a tree, in a wheelbarrow, sitting on a rock, weeding the garden, making jewelry, playing his violin, singing.  Sunday drives, Reciting Poems, Reading books together...Thunder cave!  He showed up for every soccer game and every dance competition and cheered the loudest. Always singing.  Always doing something.  He had talent in spades.  He was always wanting to learn and challenge himself.  He would get after me when I needed it, but mostly, he would tell me his opinion and then say "but do what you want, you are going to anyway" :)  He always let us choose.  He could be hard...grumpy...tough and distant.  But then he was also selfless, giving, kind, and loving.   My fondest memories of him is every time he'd give a stranger everything we had.  He always reached out to those in need and always gave all he could.  He loved little children.  He would rock them for long periods of time.  He'd take them on walks. He took me out to eat on my birthday every year.  It was our thing. Later in my life he finally convinced me to let my mom come along.  In my selfish child way - I didn't realize I was hurting my mom by not letting her come, but he did, and instead of forcing me to let her, he gently talked to me about it and helped me see. This is how he handled so many moments of my life.  

I could write forever I'm sure.  All my memories and moments with daddy. He is so intertwined in my heart and in my life.  Sometimes I wonder how much I've disappointed him. Or if he is proud of me.  Sometimes I wonder what life would be like - how I would be different if he were still here today. How life would be if I still felt whole.  I miss him so terribly and my heart never seems to heal.  I have never felt like the same me. I've never smiled the same.  Life doesn't feel complete.  Loss is hard. Love remains.

Lost and alone, 
trying to find my way back home
heart full of sadness and a head full of pain
it never seems to end

Would you know, I haven't been the same,
Haven't found my name
and I know I said I'd be alright
but this road feels longer today.

I've seen success and
moments I've been blessed
but there are times I'd trade it all
for you back here instead.

Love you Dad.  Always.