The worst day of my life happened on June 20th, 2015—Father’s Day.
It started like any good nightmare should, with me being violently woken in my own bed, my mother having just crashed into my room. Tears were streaming down her face.
“IT’S DAD, STEVE. HE’S NOT BREATHING! YOU NEED TO DO SOMETHING!” she screamed. “Please…help.”
I immediately knew what I had to do.
Before my brain could defog from the cloudless dreams it had just been floating in I was pulling on my jeans and dragging my shirt over my head.
I walked past my grieving mother leaning against the doorframe and out into the hallway.
As I entered my parent’s room time slowed down.
I saw my dad lying in his usual spot, his eyes tightly shut—his body convulsed.
I walked to his side of the bed and calmly told my mom to call 9-1-1 as she followed me in.
My lifeguarding instincts took over—I was poolside and a patron needed me.
“Dad, are you okay?” I said. “Dad, are you okay?” I repeated, shaking his shoulders as I did so.
He didn’t respond—this was normal—they never responded in training either.
My hands ran up his chest and tilted his head back, my pointer and middle fingers resting on his jugular as my ear brushed his open mouth.
He was not breathing; I did not feel a pulse. I never did in training either.
I put my mouth to his and blew in.
His chest rose with my breath. 1…2…3…4, I counted; time for his second rescue breath.
My Mom was back—thrusting the phone into my hands—her voice too hysterical to talk.
The 911 operator asked where I was, “My address, NY”, I calmly replied twice.
“What is going on?” the operator asked.
I gave my report.
“My father is not breathing, he does not have a pulse; I am a trained lifeguard, shall I start CPR?”
“Stay on the line, help is on its way. The ambulance will be there in less than 5 minutes. Tell me again exactly what happened.” The operator said.
I reiterated my morning so far, “Should I start CPR now?” I asked.
I heard loud footsteps in the hallway as my mom ushered a police officer into the room.
We quickly explained the situation to him.
After telling him that I know CPR, he told me to help get my dad off the bed and then begin.
We lowered my dad onto the floor. I started my compressions while the officer ran to his car to get his defibrillator.
The world fell away. Everyone was gone; it was just my dad, the floor, and me.
I felt my dad’s ribs snap under the weight of my palms.
I felt his life force dripping between my fingers.
“This is why you need to push down until you hear the click, it doesn’t work until you hear the click,” I heard my instructor say in my head.
The ambulance had arrived and the paramedics began their procedures.
I found myself sitting on the bed—crisscross-apple-sauce—looking down at them.
I felt like I was floating.
Then I realized that I was pinching my forearm and I pulled my fingers away—a black and blue mark in the shape of my thumb and pointer finger was left in their wake.
After the ambulance left I grabbed the car keys, put on my shoes and drove my mom and myself to the Hospital.
I pulled into the parking spot next to the emergency room.
We got out of the car and walked past the ambulance my dad had just been in; the doors flung open, sheets hanging out of the back of it.
Inside the hospital we had to sign some forms and tell them who we were.
They ushered us inside and we saw the doctors and nurses scrambling to do everything that they could.
I heard them yell, “clear” before feeling electromagnetic pulses throughout my body.
My mom was crying and holding onto my arm.
I was a rock.
The doctor came out and told us to follow him.
He took us into a room and told us about something called the “golden hour”.
How after an hour of someone having a heart attack their chance of being revived drops by over 90%.
That he was going to keep trying but that we should prepare ourselves for the worst.
Not long afterward they called his time of death. 6:08 AM.
The doctor came out and told us that he was so sorry.
We walked inside.
I saw the body that used to be my Dad.
The body that used to laugh and tell jokes all the time.
The man that was always there for me when I fell down.
The man that devoted his entire life to making sure that his family had one better than he ever did.
I realized that I would never get to see his smile again.
I would never get to hear his terrible jokes.
I would never again hear him say, “I love you, pup.”
He was gone.
My dad was dead.
I couldn’t handle being inside anymore.
I walked out to the unloading area in front of the ER.
I sat down on the curb of the sidewalk.
I cried for the first time that day.
The street was soaked.
I tried to not fall over.
It felt like the world had broken apart.
It felt like a piece of me was gone and I was never going to get it back.
It felt like it was the end of the world.
Sitting there was darkest moment of my life.
It was when everything that had happened that morning broke through the floodgates.
It was when I realized the enormity of the situation.
My dad was gone and he was never coming back.
Then I looked up.
I looked up and saw bright blue.
The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
It was a beautiful day.
The world hadn’t fallen apart—It just felt like it did.
It wasn’t the end of the world.
It was the end of a world—one with my father in it—but not the end of the entire world, or mine.
I realized something at that moment that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
That even in our darkest hours, even past the point of no return, even when it feels like the world has just fallen apart and so have we…
The sun will rise tomorrow.
That no matter what happens to me in my life or to anyone else in their lives, the sun will always be there waiting for us the next morning; all that we have to do is make sure that we’re there to see it.
Being strong doesn’t mean that we are impervious to pain.
It means that in spite of that pain we keep putting one foot in front of the other.
We keep pushing forward even if we don’t know where that path may lead.
We continue on because even if everything else falls away—the darkest moment is always right before the dawn—and the sun will rise tomorrow.
We just need to be there to meet it.
That no matter what challenges life may throw at you, no matter how many times it may beat you down, no matter how many times you want to give up, no matter how many times you want to quit: there is always hope.
The hope that tomorrow can be a better day.
The hope that you will overcome whatever obstacles lay ahead.
The hope that one day you will be who you want to be, where you want to be, doing what makes you happy; filled with all the love and happiness that you deserve.
That sense of hope for a brighter tomorrow is what helped me put one foot in front of the other, especially in the days and weeks that followed.
After breaking the news to friends and family I would tell myself “the sun will rise tomorrow.”
After spending all day making funeral arrangements I would tell myself “the sun will rise tomorrow.”
After finding myself curled into a ball crying into my pillow because I didn’t want anyone to hear me I would tell myself “the sun will rise tomorrow.”
Reminding myself that “the sun will rise tomorrow” gave me hope.
It reiterated to me that whatever was happening to me at that present-moment was temporary and if that given enough time it would work itself out.
The fact that however dark and stormy things may get—there was always the hope that tomorrow could be a better day.
All I needed to do was make sure that I was there to see it.