9.11.2014

My Dad Was Tall

My daddy stood well over six foot tall, which to a little girl that was gigantic. He always seemed young to me with this carefree, laid back personality and his head full of dark hair. My dad lived a quiet life centered around family and the fire station. He avoided being in crowds and if found in a crowd was extremely uncomfortable. He was not ever mistaken as the life of the party or the first one to speak up. Although my dad tended to be quiet he was extremely kind. He would be the first one to volunteer to help someone out, especially family. My favorite part of my dad, of course, is how much he adored me. I was not his own, since I was adopted, but most would have never of guessed. I was his little girl, his sidekick, and his pride. I remember as a little girl sitting on his lap in the recliner as he watched football feeling so safe. Since I was an onlymchild, my dad spent many moments playing cards or board games with me. I specifically remember a sweet moment when my dad was playing in one of the annual Thanksgiving Eve Family Poker nights and I was sitting on his lap watching him play this strange game before I went to bed. Being a kid, I was not seeing the big picture, so I asked my dad (out loud) if his two kings and ace were good cards. Instead of my dad getting angry like most men would have, he patted me on the head and smiled. Everyone laughed and threw their cards back in the middle. To me, my dad was perfect, he was amazing, he was tall.

I was ten years old the year we took a family vacation to Disney. We always went on vacation every summer, but this trip was different. It was extra special. My dad survived the Disney crowds like a trooper as I walked along him holding his hand. He even got angry with a guy who accidentally burned my arm with his cigarette as he was passing by. My protector. Even though now I will ride any ride at park, I was not like that when I was younger. So as everyone else in the group got in line for splash mountain, my dad and I stayed down at the bottom of the ride watching an afternoon parade. After the parade, he bought me some pink cotton candy which we shared while we sat down on a bench waiting for everyone. This was a quiet and sweet moment that, at the time, I did not know I would remember for the rest if my life. While sitting on that bench my dad looked down at me and told me was proud of me and the girl I was becoming. He told me he wanted me to grow up to be a good person, get as much education as possible, and to be happy. My dad also asked me to always be strong for my mom and to promise to take care of her. Then he ended the conversation by telling me he loved me. This is something I never heard a lot from him, in fact I only remember two times specifically, this being one of them. It is not that he did not love me, he just had an unspoken love. Even sitting on the bench, that day my dad was tall.

Later that summer as I prepared to leave for summer camp my dad was sitting in his recliner watching television. On my way out the door to the car I gave my dad a hug and told him I loved him and would miss him. This is the second time I remember my dad saying I love you. Even as a ten year old I knew something felt off that day but I did not know why and like any ten year old I ignored the feeling and went about my day. Besides, I was excited for my first summer at camp. It was the first time I would spend a week away from home. As we drove up to camp we sang songs and did each other's hair. Arriving at camp for the first time was exciting, there were so many kids and such great counselors. We spent the day playing games, eating camp food, and exploring the outdoors. After dinner, my camp mates and I were running across the camp to play the 'big game' at the open field. While headed that way, my youth pastor pulled me aside and began talking to me. This annoyed me as he was making me miss out on the game. We went inside the cabin I was staying in, which made me feel a little odd as boys were not allowed in there. He asked me how camp was going and how I liked staying in the cabin. Just as I was at the height of being uncomfortable my mom and grandma walked in the room. At that moment I might have been thinking a million thoughts but I cannot remember one of them. When I think back to that moment it is blank. My mom asked me to come sit down by her on a bed, and I just sat there staring at her. Maybe I was annoyed that she could not even let me have a week alone at camp without visiting, I don't know. She just sat there looking at me as tears began to fall down her face. It was a few tears at first but then it became more and more to the point she could not talk. My grandma then asked my mom if she would like her to tell me and I shifted my glance over to her teary sympathetic eyes. Grandma then told me that my daddy was gone. The first thought that ran through my head was why would he leave and I wonder where he went? I began to ask these questions out loud, when my mom realized I did not fully understand. He left this earth, not just our home. 

 All this time, growing up, my dad had been suffering from Huntington's Disease. This was never a secret from me. I knew and thought I understood what this was and what it meant. See, I had watched my grandma suffer and die from this horrible, incurable disease. Those moments when I thought my dad looked so tall, he was actually physically struggling. Huntington's Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that leads to cognitive decline and behavioral symptoms. The things I would notice most was the involuntary shaking of his hands and feet as I sat on his lap watching television. I would also notice him choking on his food from time to time. This is a common beginning symptom of Huntington's. The worst symptom of Huntington's Disease that many families have to face is suicide. Huntington's sufferers have extreme depression and no hope. There is not a cure for this horrible disease, all that can be done is symptom management. Sadly, some of his brothers and sisters suffer from Huntington's as well.

That Monday morning my dad took his own life. I am not mad at my dad for doing so, and never have been - I am a daddy's girl after-all. I have had a hard time understanding it all and processing though. Why did he take his own life? I think he was thinking of my mom and I, and yes I realize how awful I sound saying that. I think it worried and concerned him thinking about my mom and I taking care of him and him being completely dependable on us. Huntington's would have taken over our entire life and my dad would eventually needed full time care. I think he knew I would give up my entire life to care for him, and I believe my mom would have too. We loved him after-all. My dad was tall. Nothing could get my dad down, nor did he need anyone's help. Huntington's taking over his body was embarrassing to him. I am in no way saying suicide is ok, it is painful to those that are left behind, I am simply stating that I understand. However, that day in the funeral home with friends and family surrounding us, my dad no longer looked tall.

I miss my dad everyday. So many people have said that when you lose someone you love it eventually gets easier. I strongly disagree with this statement. It never gets easier, overtime, you just tend to adjust your life. You focus on the good things and God's grace, remembering the precious moments with your loved one. In my case, you start a charity in your dad's name. As I stated before, there is no cure for Huntington's Disease and treatment can be time consuming and expensive. I would like to be able to raise money for families affected by Huntington's Disease. This money would be used in order to help fund medical expenses (treatment, medicine, clinical trials, occupational therapy, speech therapy, walking aids, counseling...) and one day I dream of offering scholarships for student affected by this awful disease. I want my dad to once again appear tall, and affect other's lives so deeply and sweetly as he has mine.

My Charity for Huntington's Disease is named 'Make Your Mark' in honor of my loving daddy, Mark Allen Embree. If you would like to donate, I would be so appreciative and you can just click this link here: DONATE
You can also check out this link here and buy a t-shirt which donates it's proceeds to Make Your Mark.
If you would like more information, have questions, or would like to help in another way, please email me at britt@yellowumbrellablog.com

39 comments :

  1. 3 out of my 6 family members (my Mom's siblings) passed away from Huntington's - horrible horrible disease.

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    1. I am so sorry! If you would ever be interested in sharing your story, please let me know! Not many people have heard of Huntington's and I am trying to get the word out there.

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  2. Wow thanks for sharing this!! I just get so mad when thinking about these diseases and how they take away peoples lives. There needs to be a cure for all!

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    1. I agree, I wish there was a cure for all the horrible diseases out there.

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  3. Such a tender story! Such a great cause to honor with his memory.

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  4. My heart hurts for you. This is so beautifully written and heartfelt. His legacy lives on through you in this foundation, you are continuing to show him how proud he should be of you. :)

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  5. thanks for sharing <3 best wishes to you.

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  6. It definitely never gets easier after you lose someone so important. I agree, you just kind of adjust.

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  7. Sorry to hear about your dad. It sounds like you have good memories of him.

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    1. Such good memories, it is truly awesome!

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  8. Wow, thanks for sharing! I'm so sorry about your Dad. It's a great cause.

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    1. Thank you fro reading and commenting!

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  9. It doesn't get easier. That person is forever gone and there can be no replacement. I'm so sorry to hear from your loss. But remember that he truly is better now and doesn't have to suffer. It doesn't help our pain and suffering here. But sometimes love is forgiving and letting go.

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    1. It is amazing because he isn't suffering, you are so right!

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  10. I'm so sorry to hear about your father's death but I am glad that you have good memories of a good relationship with him. That can be rare but it is so special. And you are doing something so amazing by starting this Make your Mark. God speed, girl.

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    1. My dad was one of the rare ones and I treasure that so much!

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  11. I've very sorry about your fathers death but I know he'd be so proud of you with your foundation <3

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  12. this is a very brave post to of written, you have written it so beautifully, I'm pretty sure you daddy is looking down on you and is so very proud of you

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    1. That is really sweet to hear, thank you.

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  13. What a horrible disease. I completely agree, you never forget what you feel when you lose someone and you never forget them either.

    Katie <3

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  14. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your father. Congratulations in setting up a foundation in his memory. I hope it goes well and raises lots of money.

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  15. Your dad is in a better place now, and I'm sure is incredibly proud of you for setting up the foundation. Thanks for sharing your story ♥

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    1. I truly appreciate you taking the time to read!

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  16. I am so sorry for your loss. You have such strength in your words.

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  17. I'm so sorry that you lost your dad,especially so young! he sounds like he was a great man.

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  18. He's in a better place now. Suicide is never something we'll fully understand/come to terms with no matter the reasons. My dad tried to commit suicide too, when I was fifteen.. luckily he didn't succeed but it's so heartbreaking to know that someone so close to you feels like they have no other option left.

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  19. This blog was so powerful. Thank you for sharing this story.

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  20. *hugs* thank you for your bravery in sharing this.

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  21. I am so saddened by your loss yet so inspired by your bravery of sharing this story. Thank you. Your father sounds like he was a good man and even better father.

    I recently read a book called You Before Me by Jojo Moyes-- the situation is far from identical, but I do believe you will find little pockets of comfort in its pages. Let me know if you decide to read and/or enjoy it!

    Best of luck to your blog and you!!

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  22. Aww, you made me cry! What a beautiful personal post.

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  23. Even though this story was sad to tell, you told it so well. You have a real writing talent.

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