My father, Larry Carl Burger, died on January 11, 2008. I was 14 when my dad died. I was living through something that most teenagers don’t experience. And I had to figure out how to be a kid after losing my father.
My Dad Died When I Was 14
Graduating from the eighth grade had been amazing—the excitement of summer and the anticipation of high school and a family trip to Canada. Our trip started out great, but when we got to Niagara Falls, my dad got sick. I assumed he had the flu, but everything went downhill from there.
After we returned home, my parents met with many doctors, including an oncologist. My brother, sister, and I weren’t told, so we thought everything was okay.
Then, after dinner one night, my dad said, “I have cancer, but don’t worry. I will be okay.” We all started balling. Just hearing the word, “cancer,” terrified us. But, my dad said that the surgery would remove all the cancer, and he would survive.
The big day arrived. My family was so excited, especially my dad. We got to say, “I love you!” before they whisked him into the surgical room. We walked into the waiting room, mentally preparing for a long day. After three hours, the doctor told my mother and me that the cancer had spread beyond repair. We started crying and returned to the waiting room to tell everyone.
That was so hard.
Seeing my dad after surgery was difficult because he was weak and frail. It made me feel uncomfortable. This wasn’t my dad. But, I will always remember what he said: “Never give up, never surrender.” This became our motto during chemotherapy.
The two tough months of chemo weakened my dad so much that he couldn’t eat, so he took a break from treatment to regain his strength. He felt best during this time. We had Christmas with our “normal dad,” who felt good and not sick, or so I thought.
One week later, Dad was rushed to the hospital, and we were told to say our goodbyes. When it was my turn, I hugged him for a while. I just lay there on the bed next to him, hoping that he would never leave me.
Dad lasted one more week. On the morning of January 11, my sister screamed, “Get dressed! We are going to the hospital.” I threw on some clothes, and we rushed out. Everyone was crying, even my brother, Paul, who rarely cries. Suddenly, Dad started making a noise. Everyone surrounded him and that was it. He wasn’t breathing anymore. I called to the nurse, saying, “I think he’s dead.” After that, we all just sat around Dad, sobbing. The day my dad died.
The Loss Of A Parent
Losing my dad didn’t feel real. We came home exhausted, but we sat together for a while, shocked and sad. Eventually, we went to bed and mentally prepared for the wake and the burial. But it was still hard to believe that my dad had died.
The wake was at the funeral home, and people waited in a long line for hours to say their thoughts. For me, standing in the line was horrible; it made the loss feel real.
The next day was the funeral. My dad was buried on January 19, 2008. As we arrived at the church, I noticed that the parking lot looked full. I escorted my dad in his casket down the aisle and realized that the church was also packed. I saw my friends there; this meant a lot to me. Finally, I got to my seat. All I could do was cry. I couldn’t even listen to the sermon; all I could hear was the sobbing around me.
As we drove to the cemetery, I looked back and saw millions of cars. So many people wanted to pay their respects to my dad. We were allowed to write on the casket, so people took turns writing their feelings to my dad. In the end, the entire casket was covered with words. I love that our thoughts and goodbyes will always be with my dad.
Days later, I returned to school. School felt like a safe haven, almost as though nothing had happened. Yes, people expressed their sympathies, and I was thankful for their show of support. But at the same time, I didn’t want to hear anything about my dad; I wanted school to be unchanged. I needed to complete assignments and make up tests, and the routine felt normal and comfortable. In fact, school kept me sane through my grieving process.
Certainly, this experience changed my life forever. I had to grow up and be more mature than I was. I didn’t have a choice, as I had to help make things better for my family. There are things that I will never forget about my dad. My dad was amazing; he always spoiled me and knew exactly what to do when I was down. My dad could always make me smile. He was my best friend, and that will never change.