The hardest thing in life I have ever done was telling my kids that their mother had passed away. I wanted to be the one who broke the news to them. I picked them both up from school just like I would any other day and they both asked about their mom but I had no answers. I decided to pull over next to a park in our neighborhood and asked the kids to get out because I had something I wanted to tell them. Thinking back on that moment, my heart was racing so I can imagine how much anxiety these poor kids had that whole day sitting in school wondering how their mother was feeling. I broke the news to them that their mom loved them so much and that she would always be looking over them but that she had passed away. After all the hospital visits, Madinah would always come home. My kids were accustomed to that and this time was different. I saw a piece of them change that day.

I always think back to our wedding day. Madinah and Liah had spent the night in a hotel with the whole wedding party, so it was just Dan and I at the house that morning. I woke up with a million things on my mind of course because it was my wedding day and Dan and I had errands to run before the wedding party and the photographer was scheduled to show up at the house. I went into Dan’s room and the first thing I noticed was that Hasheem the hamster wasn’t moving. Shit…. So I woke Dan up hoping that he wouldn’t notice but of course he did. I brushed it off as Hasheem just being asleep. We had to get a move on to make sure that we weren’t late to our haircut appointments. After taking care of all of our errands and getting back to the house, Hasheem was still laying in the same spot. I told Dan that Hasheem had died. We decided to take Hasheem outside and dig a hole and make a crucifix out of branches. After saying a few nice words about Hasheem, we buried him in the backyard. Later on that day, as soon as Dan saw Liah that was the first thing Dan yelled out, “Hasheem is Dead.” Liah immediately started to cry. With all the festivities going on, Madinah and I never really took the opportunity to really sit and have a conversation with them about death and how to grieve. Now every time I hear the phrase about having the “talk” with your kids, I know they are talking about sex, but in my mind I believe there is a more important talk that you should have with your kids to better prepare them for life. RIP Hasheem.

I would do anything to help my kids. After Madinah’s passing, I enrolled my kids in a sleepaway bereavement camp one spring weekend. On the drive up to the camp, my kids had opposite feelings about going. My daughter was excited and was eager to get there and my son was pissed off and couldn’t understand why he had to go. So as we were driving, the kids began to argue and that argument turned violent. My son turned around and punched my daughter. This was the first time I saw him get violent. I was worried. Dan was not processing his anger correctly, he was holding it all in and once someone pushed the wrong button he would explode. Over the years I pushed him to play sports thinking that would be a good outlet for him to relieve some of his aggression. Till this day Dan still has aggression problems that he struggles to deal with. From throwing punches at some of his closest relatives to standing toe to toe with me looking for a fight. I worry that this bottled up anger will get him into trouble in the future.

After Madinah’s passing, one thing that always stayed in my head was during some of our last moments together she reinforced the need for me to always take care of Liah. So I felt a need to adopt Liah to make sure her “parents” could never come back into her life and try to take her away from me. After speaking to an adoption agency, they informed me that the first step would be for me to have a conversation with Liah and let her know that I wasn’t her biological father and Madinah was not her biological mother. This was another moment where looking back changed my kids’ lives. They were raised as sister and brother and it never occurred to them that they weren’t siblings. Liah was devastated. At 11 her whole world was turned upside down.

I tried my best to instill the belief that outside the walls of our house, no one in this world was going to feel sorry for them, or no one was going to give them a break because their mother had passed away. Growing up to be a woman isn’t easy nowadays with 2 parents let alone one. Liah has lived a very unique life and I can understand the struggles that she has had. Being abandoned by her biological parents, being loved and raised by a woman who was sick and in and out of the hospital and eventually passing away. And being raised by a father who wanted to teach her discipline and strength through her challenges in life. And she just wanted things to be easy. I wish I was in a position to give her easy because if anyone I know deserves it, it would be her. But we all know life doesn’t care about your struggles, you have to keep on moving forward. Liah and I had our battles from school, to boys, to making bad decisions. I always hope she realizes that I’m on her side. I always want to see her win, but the struggle is what makes winning feel so much better is the lesson where we have always had our battles.

Madinah wouldn’t want us to be miserable. She would want me and the kids to move on and live our best life possible. She would want us to remember her for the way she fought back against adversity and always found a way home. Even after having her legs amputated Madinah’s thoughts towards the future were always positive from scrapbooking, to trying to start a cookie business, to lobbying companies to help us pay for repairs on the house to make it handicap accessible. This woman had no quit in her. I hope these lessons will be realized by my kids in the future when they need something to motivate them.

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