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1,2,3 clear. No pulse. One more time: 1,2,3 clear; we lost him. Being awoken by those words was by far the worst moment of my life. My father lay on the ground in cardiac arrest trying to breathe, but he just couldn’t. Hearing emergency medical technicians arrive brought me hope that everything was going to be okay and my dad would come back. However, plans changed very quickly when we stepped foot in the hospital. They had a very short window of trying to bring my father back. Sitting in the waiting room biting my nails trying to stay positive but yet so very anxious was challenging. It got quiet. I felt my heart drop as they broke the news to me that he didn’t make it. To this day, it still makes my heart throb.

That day everything was gray. The constant crying and questioning why it had to be my father consumed my mind for weeks. March 16th, 2019 caused me to step into a different light after watching them push my dad's casket down the aisle. I knew that I could do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I promised myself that every day I would give my all for him, make him proud and continue to let him live through me, and continue to live right as if he was standing right beside me everywhere I went. I will always remember all the jokes he used to tell, the smell of his colognes, and his laugh that would brighten a room.

As an African American, when my family is down and out, we still never give up. I had to keep my eyes on the prize and pick up the missing pieces in order to keep moving forward from this shattering circumstance. I trusted God to get us through this difficult time. The one who I knew always had my back. The one who always kept it real with me. The most down to earth, selfless person I ever knew. I didn’t want to continue living without my father. I wanted to be where he was living eternally, but it seemed like each day brought some new disappointment.

After losing him, I began to evolve. I had to steer the ship in the right direction because my family and I couldn’t give up. After seeing myself get through this time I knew I could really do anything as long as I trusted God and put him first, and it caused me to look at myself in a totally different way: the first daughter who took control and led her family out of a tragic event and into new beginnings. I knew as a citizen of the United States that I had people there to fall back on when I needed them. When I had my days where I couldn't be strong, we all came together to support each other. That caused me to be able to wipe my own tears and keep pushing and doing right for my father. I’m so grateful to be his daughter and for all that he has poured into me.

Though this event took a great toll on me, it taught me how to make it through a great loss and still be able to love forward. I know that my father is looking down on me, smiling and proud of all that I have done. I will continue to live for him. He will live on in my heart forever and always.

© Aaliyah Cuffee. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.