I felt defeated. There was nothing I could do to change the outcome. Within an hour's time he would be gone. "Gone," I thought to myself. Just... gone.
I've always had a tough time saying goodbye. Which is why I don't use the word. Instead, I always say, 'I'll see you soon'.
I thought about that for a second, until I heard a voice.
"It's time to say goodbye," my sister whispered to me.
The drive from the airport to the hospital was short. I don't remember most of it. I just remember tearing up.
"I'm not ready for this," I responded.
"None of us are," my sister said.
We walked into the hospital, eyes drained and ours heads pointed down. The nurses we passed by had seen that look far too many times before. I've only seen it at work, while covering someone else's tragedy. I always felt bad for those families, but I never fully understood what they were going through - because I had never lost anyone close to me. Until now.
"What was the last thing we said to each other?" I frantically thought while walking towards his hospital room. "It was 'I love you' and 'I'll see you soon'," I said to myself.
For a moment I felt a bit of relief. Unfortunately, it only lasted a second.
"Stay strong," my sister said.
We walked towards the door. My sister's hand was shaking as she reached for the handle to open it. She walked in first, then I followed.
Lying on a bed in front of me was my step-father. The strongest man I've ever known had whithered down to 100 pounds. He couldn't move or talk. He could only look around.
I looked at him and I lost it. There was no way to hold back the tears.
I tried to say, "I'm here, Cleo... I just flew in from Denver," but I made no sense.
My nephew Mason jumped up from my step-father's side and ran up to me. He jumped into my arms and said, "Uncle Kevin, don't cry".
I held on to Mason as tight as I could and said, "I'm trying Mason".
At that point, Mason buried his head into my shoulder, started crying himself and said, "I'm scared Uncle Kevin".
"Me too," I responded.
I put Mason down, looked at my mom and sat beside my step-father Cleo.
The cancer had riddled its way through his body so badly, the only function he had left was in his hands. He couldn't talk, but he could hear.
I grabbed his hand and he squeezed my wrist.
"He's letting you know he knows you're here," the doctor said.
I sat there, eyes gushing, face trembling, staring into his eyes. For nearly 20 years the man who raised me, who I considered my father, had little time left to live.
How do you say goodbye when you're not used to saying it?...
I spent the next 15 minutes telling my step-father how much I loved him, how great of a father he was and how he taught me to be the man I am today.
We sat there in silence.
Thirty minutes later he took his last breath.
The moments that followed are the worst moments of my life. I don't want to discuss them.
One year later and the pain is still as fresh as it was that day. How do you move on from losing someone you loved so much? You don't. But you learn to appreciate the people you have left in your life a whole lot more.