Sixteen years ago, my mom called me into her room to tell me my father was gone.
My aunts and uncles surrounded her as she pulled me up on her lap with tears in her eyes.
I had no idea what was going on, or why everyone was acting so weird.
I asked her what was wrong.
I was 5 years old, and my mother had to explain to me the cancer my father was fighting had won.
She told me he was in a better place, and he would no longer be suffering.
But, I didn't see it like that at the time.
I just wanted my daddy.
I didn't understand why he didn't come home that night or the nights after.
I don't think I'll ever forget when I went to his wake and saw him lying there.
It's something I wouldn't ever wish on anyone, but I think through this loss, I was given lessons beyond my years.
1. It taught me to not take any moment for granted.
Something I've always tried to live by since losing my father is to "never leave a loved one with hatred words."
Although my father was battling cancer my entire life, I never knew when he would pass.
I can't imagine if we had a fight the night before he died, or if I said something I wouldn't be able to take back.
Now, if I have fights with friends or family members, I always call or text them before I go to sleep to let them know I love them.
I never want to have to leave someone with bad words because honestly, it could be that last time I see him or her.
Losing my father taught me to never take anything or any moment for granted because it could all be taken away in the blink of an eye.
Losing him really made me realize I need to appreciate everything in life.
I try to never take a moment for granted, and to realize how truly blessed I am.
2. It showed me what true loss feels like.
Death is an extremely difficult thing to understand and deal with at any age, but trying to understand it at 5 years old is something I will never be able to explain.
It took me years to fully understand I didn't have a father anymore, and he was never going to come back.
When I began to notice my friends' relationships with their fathers, I really coped with the loss of mine.
So even though he died 10 years prior to that moment of understanding, I felt like I was just starting to grieve his death because I never understood it before that.
When I realized my father wouldn't be at my high school graduation, wouldn't bring me to college and wouldn't walk me down the aisle one day, I truly felt his loss.
It's like a piece of me is gone, and I'll never be able to get it back.
The rest of my family has memories with him, but I was only 5, so I don't remember much.
In my opinion, losing a parent before you even got the chance to know him or her is a true loss.
3. It taught me how to be a fighter.
People tell me all the time how strong I am, and how they wish they had my strength.
It's all due to my father.
Before he passed away, my father fought cancer for years. It went away, and then it came back.
He was a fighter, and I think he passed that on to me.
He never gave up, and I've never given up on anything I've really wanted.
Pictures show me how full of life and happy he always was.
He never wanted to give the cancer the satisfaction of knowing it was winning.
He laughed and enjoyed life up until his last day, and all of that has amazed me.
I will always carry his sense of humor and spirit for like with me, but I will also never forget his strength.
Losing him really proved I can overcome anything, if I keep fighting and keep pushing.
4. It made me more independent.
My mom has been there for me my entire life, but losing my father made me want to be independent.
I know my mom would do anything for me, any second of the day, but I didn't want her to.
I wanted to take the load off her because she already had enough on her plate.
So, I learned as I went how to do things for myself.
5. It showed me mothers are true superheroes.
My mother has been there for me my entire life.
When my father passed away, she started teaching at the school my siblings and I went to.
She wanted to make sure we had the same daily hours, so she could bring us to and from school every day. She attended and encouraged us to participate in after-school activities, and she cooked for us every night.
It's kind of amazing to think back on all that she has done for me.
I don't think many people would have had the strength to go on the way she did, but she did it with such grace.
When he died, I was 5, my brother was 6 and my sister was 10. She was left to raise us all alone.
My mother is my superhero, and I will never understand how she does what she does every single day.
6. It gave me a guardian angel for life.
Although I would do anything to have my father back with me, I know I have a guardian angel every day.
I know when I'm in trouble and need guidance or someone to talk to, he's always there.
It's amazing to know even though he's not here physically, he's always with me everywhere I go.
I got a tattoo a few years ago that says, "To live in the hearts you leave behind is not to die," and it couldn't be more true.
He's my guardian angel who lives in my heart, and he's with me everywhere I go.
It's comforting to know someone is looking over you every day, and I'm so happy I get to have that someone be my dad.