Goodnight Daddy…

“I see skies of blue and clouds of white, the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night, and I think to myself what a wonderful world.”  – Louis Armstrong

I lost my father to lung cancer at 10pm on Saturday, June 4th, 2016. In the middle of wedding season, a month before my wedding, and only eight months after being diagnosed. No words can describe the emptiness and sadness that followed.

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But before we get to that… I want to go back a little.

There are countless reasons his death was such a hard blow, the biggest reason for me… he was such an incredible father. I grew up as an only child knowing that I was the light of his life and he supported me through everything I did. When I became a gymnast, he made me a balance beam and helped me practice. When I learned how much I loved singing, he taught me the best Billy Holiday songs so we could slay the crowds together at local open mike nights. When I decided to go to culinary school and become a baker he followed in my footsteps by making scones every weekend and helping me put out a dessert buffet for Thanksgiving dinner every year.

When I fell in love with a man, bought a house five hours away, and had my first child… he was there every step of the way. Even after he was diagnosed, he spent every other weekend driving from Richmond to Charlotte to help us remodel and add a bakery to our house. He was so proud and so in love with Theo that it kills me to think about him growing up without his Grandaddy to play and laugh with. These are some of the things that make losing my Dad so hard.

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After having a sore throat and loss of his voice for a couple months we learned in October 2015 that he had stage 4 lung cancer. We all knew that it was bad and that he wouldn’t have long, but I never thought the fight would be so brutal and that we would lose him so quickly. His oncologist was quick to get him on chemotherapy and radiation to help shrink the tumor which bought him a little more time, but the side effects were hard on him and it didn’t take long for that spark he had to start fading. If the cancer wasn’t bad enough, in March of 2016 my Dad fell asleep behind the wheel on the way to visit us and slammed into a concrete barrier. He fractured his vertebra, spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, and never recovered from the accident.

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I was planning a July 2nd wedding and it was at that point that we knew he was not going to make it to walk me down the aisle. This was a crushing realization for me and I knew I had to do something about it. My Mom and I spent the next week putting together an impromptu ceremony at my childhood home in Chesterfield, Va. My Dad was able to walk me down the aisle (the stairs), give me away to Curtis, renew his wedding vows to my Mom, and have our father daughter dance all surrounded by our closest family and friends. He knew this would be his last hurrah, and he used every ounce of energy he had left to be there for me, say his last goodbyes, and play his final performance of “What a wonderful world”.

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I had been pushing since the diagnosis to get my parents to move to Charlotte so I could be there for my Dad and help my mom take care of him. So, after the ceremony his brothers helped pack him up and make his last trip from Richmond to Charlotte. I was hoping to spend time talking and singing with him, but by the time he arrived he was too sick to do anything but sleep.

This will forever be a regret for me.

I wanted to tell him that I was scared, tell him goodbye, hug him, hold hold, get coffee and eat scones together. Instead, I spent the next couple weeks doing the hardest thing I have ever done. I spent every moment either caring for my dad or running my business. I set up palliative care appointments, baked wedding cakes, changed sheets, brushed my dad’s teeth, met with clients for tastings, gave my dad daily medication, delivered wedding cakes, and watched my dad slip away right in front of me.

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On June 4th I delivered my last wedding cake for the day, met with my mother in law, and went to see my Dad. After a few hours, his breathing began to slow with the sound of a heavy thunderstorm outside. My Mom and I held his hands while I sang him songs until his heart stopped beating. He was cremated and buried in a family plot two weeks later… there will be an empty seat at Christmas this year.

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Thomas Haskins Hailey  (aka Teapot) was born in Lynchburg, Va in 1955 as to my grandfather Dr. Robert C. Hailey and my grandmother Beverly Boyd Haskins Hailey. He grew up in Lynchburg, Va but spent the last 24 years with my mother and I in Chesterfield, Va. He was a self-taught “jack of all trades” that opened his heart to strangers and his mind to new projects. He took particular delight in figuring out how things work, how to make them work better, or even how to make them from scratch.

He was a baker, beekeeper, brother, carpenter, electrician, father, foodie, grandfather, guitarist, husband, investor, mentor, plumber, recovered alcoholic, singer, smoker, son, and uncle… but most importantly…. he was my daddy. He lived a great life that continues to bring me tremendous happiness and moments of deep sadness.

Thank you to all of the loving people in my life that have held me close through this pain. I lost my dad on June 4th…  but I know he is watching me grow, watching my son grow, and continues to be a source of great inspiration for me. I miss you more than anyone could imagine, goodnight Daddy 🙂

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This song is for you…

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
But they’re really saying I love you.

I hear baby’s cry, and I watched them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.
Yes, I think to myself what a wonderful world.

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