‘I probably deserve this.’ My heart sunk. ‘No one deserves cancer, daddy.’: Daughter grieves loss of formerly incarcerated father who changed his ways

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“My daddy lived a life very few people could fathom because for a long time it was filled with secrecy and lies. At a young age—before entering the military—my father committed the ultimate crime—murder. He would not get caught for nearly 19 years. I was 12 at the time. He went to prison, and I knew I’d never talk to him again. He did something that in return left me all alone with my abuser, who was my mother, and he took a life. An innocent life. I just couldn’t fathom ever forgiving him.

When I was 24, he got out of prison. We talked on the phone a few times and I let him video chat his granddaughter, who was 4 at the time. He asked if we could meet in a different city than where we both lived to meet up, stay at a hotel, and get to know each other again. I agreed even though everyone around me screamed no. I knew I had to try. I mean, I needed to try to at least hear him out and hear his heart. I was basically a orphan with a mom who gave no cares about me. I needed to.

That December we met in San Angelo and had the absolute best vacation. I knew then my daddy had changed: he had become closer to Jesus and was being the best Papa. My little girl thought he hung the moon.

daughter poses with her father who was formerly incarcerated, along with her daughter, his granddaughter
Courtesy of Amanda Hatley

A couple years after his release, we both finally ended up in the same town. He lived 15 minutes from me, and I knew he was always just a phone call away. He always picked up, and he was always there until 2021 came. My dad started getting really sick. He had back pain that was so bad he ended up having to buy a cane. He even bought a purple one because it’s the one my daughter liked the most. He had a lot of other problems that I will not go into detail about, but he was really a sick man, and it seemed like it just happened overnight.

‘Your cancer is back, and it’s stage 4,’ is something you never want to hear. My dad heard those exact words at the beginning of November. He called me and told me they had found something in his spine and from the whispers he heard they knew it was bad. My heart sunk. This was my daddy. He was the man who did so much wrong but then created so much right. How could this be happening to him? He is only 56, I thought. I asked him, ‘Daddy, are you scared?’ He looked at me, ‘Amanda, don’t cry. I’m not scared. I’m going to be okay. I probably deserve this anyway.’ Deserve this? He truly felt that. I didn’t see how Jesus would think that. I always told him, ‘No one deserves cancer, daddy. No one.’

I went to every single appointment and scan with him. We celebrated my daughter’s birthday early, and he actually felt well enough to come to her birthday party. We even did a few Christmas activities together.

grandfather carries his granddaughter at his side while walking, she has a backpack on
Courtesy of Amanda Hatley

On December 9 , 2021, I got the call I’ll never forget. ‘Hey Amanda, I’m so sorry. I found your dad. He is gone.’ At the other end of the phone was my dad’s landlord. Oh my gosh. Tears begin to fill my eyes and anger flooded my heart. I had four years with him. Four! How am I all alone in this world at 28? For that first week, I was just in denial. After that, I was jealous. Lose your dad before Christmas and don’t tell me how jealous you get seeing pictures of families all over your Facebook at Christmas time. All of my friends’ dads just gushing over their babies. Oh, I was so jealous, so mad, so angry. I was all of it.

But oh, wait…then the true hate came. Stephenville, Texas, where his crime was committed, released an article stating he was gone. People wrote all over those comments how happy they were that he was dead and that he got what he deserved.

And here I sat reading every comment wondering what I did wrong. I know I didn’t do anything, but I loved him. Their comments made my love for my dad seem like a crime…Like he was too big or bad to love.

My dad taught me no one is ever too big or too bad to love and people do change. Change is not overnight, and it’s not a pretty process sometimes, but change is beautiful and worth it.

Cancer stole my daddy. Cancer stole my daughter’s grandfather. Cancer stole a great man who wanted to change this world after living and doing what he did, something he regretted with every being in him. I will lead his change with a fire. I will make my daddy proud.

I love you, Daddy.

I know I’ll get some hate for this article from certain people, and that’s okay. Until you have a loved one in prison you cannot speak on the matter. If you have nothing nice to say, keep your hate comments over there.”

grandfather with granddaughter at his side, he is sitting in a chair while she stands next to him with an arm around her
Courtesy of Amanda Hatley

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amanda Hatley of Abilene, Texas. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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