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Five years ago, I met a man who I knew then would forever hold a place in my heart. I knew then that this man was crazy and wild but kind and caring as well. As time went by, this man became my father in so many ways.
Jim McClanahan showed me what it was like to have a father who loved and cared for his children unconditionally. He gave advice when needed and sometimes sat quietly and just listened. He taught me to be a better person.
He showed me the unknown my life had been missing for so long. And for that I will be eternally grateful.
When we first met, he never could remember my first name, which in all fairness is a hard name for some to remember. My full name is Camille Love.
Once he found that out, it was “Lovey Dove” from there on out. It just stuck. It became a cherished name and one that I allow few people to call me, even now. It was our thing.
He always used to tell me “You never knew what you were getting yourself into when you met me,” and my response to that was “No, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
He never met a stranger and spoke his mind. He would literally give you the shirt off his back. Trust me, he gave it to me many times when he thought I was cold.
I have the greatest respect for this man because I’ve watched as he would give people the benefit of the doubt time and time again and show them grace and forgiveness, even when some of them didn’t deserve it.
I watched as he helped people anyway he could. He would always make it a point to stop and say hi. He loved to dance and many a time was the life of the party.
He loved the outdoors. And my, oh, my the things that man could get you into but he always stuck with you to get you out. He was a brother, a father, a papaw, an uncle, a husband and friends with many.
He was the purest soul because he was true and real. He was one-of-a-kind.
In Oct. 2011, he became sick and in Dec. 2011 the doctors diagnosed him with stage four prostate cancer and bone cancer. He had just turned 53. I felt like my world was crashing in. But I had faith we could beat it as long as we all stuck together.
I wasn’t so naïve to think that this wasn’t fatal but I had faith that he would be around a long while. He was stubborn, willful and had plenty of reasons to stick around.
He would always say “Don’t cry over me, this may kill me but it’s been fun getting here,”
How can you grieve when they’re not grieving themselves?
Myself as well as many others were there as he battled this disease. And in the end, I can hold my head high knowing the fact that I did everything humanly possible to make him comfortable. I’d have gone to the ends of the Earth if it would’ve made a difference.
I made peace with the fact that this is how it was and I had to be strong, even though it was going to be hard. But I also told myself to quit grieving and make memories with him while he was still here and that’s what I did. Every chance I got.
Every year at the Grant County Relay for Life event held in May, I made a luminary bag that showed people he was fighting. I was proud. On one bag, I wrote,
Father, Papaw, Husband, Uncle, Brother and Friend to many.
Cancer is limited you see, it cannot cripple love, shatter hope or corrode faith. It cannot shut out memories made or silence courage.
Keep up the fight. We will be with you every step of the way and never leave your side. Never, never, forget that you are loved.
I watched still hopeful as this once strong and independent man needed help doing most things.
The most painful part of it all was watching him go and there was nothing any one could do. Despite all the doctor’s appointments, radiation and chemotherapy and all the pain he was in, he never gave up.
I tried to prepare myself for what was coming but it doesn’t matter how much one person prepares they are never ready to let go and say goodbye. Cancer sucks. I truly hate this disease. I have watched as it has torn through my family with no regard. It has taken so many people I love.
On July 28, he lost his battle with this horrible disease. He was just 54. My world stopped but it wasn’t only my world that had stopped, it was everybody else’s too. Everyone had lost someone, lost an uncle, lost a papaw, lost a husband, lost a father, lost a brother and lost a friend.
The hardest part was telling my daughter. Seven years old is too young to have to understand death. It’s hard enough for us as adults to understand and to grasp that they are gone, much less a child.
It’s still so strange not seeing his face, not hearing him say “Hey, Lovey Dove” every time I see him. Not being able to hug him and tell him I love him just one more time, even if he knew it.
Every time I was nervous or upset he would always tell me “It’ll be alright, Lovey Dove,” and it always was.
Recently, I was nervous and he wasn’t there to tell me that it would be okay. Regardless of the fact that I knew it would be, it made me feel better with him saying it.
I’m angry but I’m not angry with him because he put up a ruthless and merciless fight and I’m not angry with God. I’m just angry.
Angry because he was taken too soon, angry because our time was too short and angry because of all the things he’ll miss out on.
Part of me knows it’s selfish to still want him here because he was miserable but I want him here cancer-free and being himself.
It’s just not fair that this had to happen to such a great man and to such a great family.
It feels like a giant gaping hole, one that no one or nothing can ever fill again. It feels like something is always missing. And it is.
They say time heals all wounds. This is something that time will never heal. I will have to learn to cope.
He will never be truly gone, however because I close my eyes and he’s there. He’ll always be there telling me not to cry and that it will be all right.
The world is not the same without him but his memory will always live on in those that loved him.
(Camille McClanahan is the editorial assistant at the Grant County News. You can contact her at 859-824-3343 or via e-mail at email@example.com.)