I was looking through pictures of my wedding that was just eight short months ago and I am overcome with a sense of gratitude and love when I see your face in them. When I first told you that Anthony was "The One", you were apprehensive about it (as any good father would be). A few years later, you grew to love him as your own son.
I never had a vision of what my wedding would be like. All I could think about was you walking me down the aisle and us having our Father-Daughter dance. No, I didn't wear a white dress. I wore a blue peacock-colored one. No, I didn't take out my piercings or cover my tattoos. No, I didn't have a religious ceremony. No matter how progressive my beliefs are, I still wanted you to present me for marriage. In fact, you and my three nephews walked me down the aisle. I wanted my husband to know that before I met him, there were four men in my life whom I will always love. I made you a leather hair wrap, adorned with peacock feathers, to tie your massive dreadlocks into a neat pony tail that dangled to your waist. Dancing with you was, indeed, the best moment of my life. I have never felt more beautiful and you confirmed that by telling me, "You look absolutely gorgeous," before you gave me a kiss on the cheek and prepared to give your baby away.
When Mom asked us to share our honeymoon with our family, I thought she was insane but we took her up on the offer. We spent three days going to Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Medieval Times with our whole tribe, which we affectionately call "The Latimer 10", and two of my best girlfriends. We rode all the rides and stuffed ourselves silly with junk food. Looking back, I wouldn't have had it any other way. Everyone was getting along and life seemed so perfect. And it only got better. Six months later, you had the honor of giving your other daughter, Sonja, away at her quaint wedding in Vegas. She had been with her now-husband for over 15 years. Four children and all those years later, you gave her away with such pride. I remember you telling my sister before you walked her down the aisle how beautiful she looked and then you said, "There is no greater joy than giving both of my girls away."
The best moment of my life was when we danced under the beautiful twinkle lights on that California night. The worst moment of my life was two days after we came back from my sister's wedding when you told me, in the smallest voice I have ever heard you speak in, that the pain in your side you were experiencing at my sister's wedding was not the stomach flu, but pancreatic cancer. How could that be? Weren't we just dancing the night away? Didn't we all get on the rides together and eat delicious foods that were as rich as the love our family has for each other? Weren't we all just in Vegas having breakfast before we parted ways--you and Mom back to Minnesota and my husband and I back to Los Angeles? What happened between June 21st, 2014, my wedding day, and the day my life stopped on December 15th, 2014 when cancer became a household word in our family?
I almost collapsed when you told me and you asked to speak to my husband. You told him to take care of me and to love me. We decided to move back home to Minnesota help the family while you were going to go through chemo. You told us not to come home, but we did anyway. You told me, "Don't disturb your life for me." I reminded you, "Dad, you are my life."
A few days later, I got a call from Mom and my Godfather, your best friend. Your kidneys were failing and the time of your departure was drawing near. We got on a flight that same day. For four days, friends and family flooded your bedside. I never saw you happier than when you were dying. You left us the greatest words of wisdom. Everyone that came was profoundly touched by the transcendent experience of your passing. You told my husband, which you were once apprehensive about bringing into our family, that he was the son you never had and always wanted and that our family was complete now that he was in it. You died on January 4th, 2015 only 21 days after your diagnosis. You were only 63 years old. My world crumbled around me. The dance surely had to end, but why so soon?
Our Last Family Photo
You are gone in the physical sense but in my heart, we are still dancing the night away under twinkle lights. We are still riding on the back of your motorcycle on the open road. In my heart, you are telling me I am beautiful and I am starting to believe it. I have not stopped crying since you've passed away. I will never forget the gift of your friendship and how you fathered me. I want you to know that our dance will never end and when I return to my essence and we will be united again.