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Fathers, Love And Cherish Your Children While You Can

[October 18th] -- Fathers will always believe that their children will be part of their lives. Always. Oh, sure, they'll grow older and get married, but they'll never be too big to sit on our laps and give us "Daddy hugs." I believed that too.

Until October 11th, 2003.

Two of my six children were born severely handicapped. Katie is 15 today -- she is still in diapers and cannot talk, though she can make her needs known through her own special sign language. Her sister Kendi's handicaps were far more pronounced. She was unable to walk and lived her life in a wheel chair. She too was in a diaper. In fact, she couldn't do much of anything. Except smile. Oh, what a beautiful and vivacious smile she had. I woke her each morning, changed her diaper, attached her leg braces, fed her breakfast, and got her off to school. The process reversed itself in the evening. Although she could not say it, her eyes told me that she loved me very much, and that she appreciated the extra effort she required to live upon this Earth with me.

Kendi was a healthy child. Oh, she got sick now and then, but no more than any other of my children. She began to lose some weight in the spring of 2003, and in spite of our best efforts, we could not reverse the weight loss. Her doctor prescribed a feeding tube to help increase her nourishment. A home-health nurse came to our home and placed the tube in my daughter, who at this point had begun to grow weak. She was in the hospital four hours later. The nurse placed the tube not in her stomach but her lung. The Ensure liquid saturated her lung and caused pheunomonia almost immediately.

In the three weeks that followed, my beloved daughter suffered greatly. We almost lost her to a pulmonary embelism the first week. Both her lungs collapsed in the second week. Her heart became weak and the doctors performed emergency surgery to repair it. It kept her alive only a few days more. My daughter died October 11th, 2003.

The second anniversary of her death came and went last week. Death occurs in all of our lives, but it was her special circumstances that continues to haunt me today. She was dependent on me. It is the job of a father to protect his children, but when that child is unable to protect herself, when you are forced to make life and death decisions for her, that level of protection is much higher. I failed her. I couldn't save her. I miss her so.

Fathers, hug your children. Tell them you love them. Forgive their sins. Appreciate their talents. Acknowledge their uniqueness. Help them with their homework. Teach them about life. Use your mind and not the back of your hand to guide them. Hug them when you're happy with them. Hug them even more when you're not.

I pray that you never suffer the loss that I did, and that you're children are as proud of you as you are of them. All I have left today are pictures and memories. I can't hug my child; you can. Go tell your children that you love them. Now.

Before it's too late.

Baseball resumes tomorrow.

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