‘I called my dad and he didn’t answer, which was weird. I drove over to his house. His car was there, but he wasn’t. I started panicking. I knew something had to be horribly wrong.’

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“So your dad’s dead, now what?

On January 26th at approximately 3:00 a.m. a fight broke out at a bar. Federico Prado, 23 years old, tried to hit a man sitting at the bar and 50-year-old John Hargrove tried to intervene. Prado then hit Hargrove with a chair and while Hargrove was down, Prado proceeded to hit him repeatedly with a pool cue. Hargrove was transported to Baylor Hospital and was pronounced dead after arrival. It sounds like a melodramatic story line for Law and Order doesn’t it? Except it wasn’t. John Hargrove was my dad and this is my story.

Courtesy of Hannah Hargrove

I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood called Lake Highlands in Dallas, Texas. My parents got married in 1986. They had me in 1989, my sister in 1994 and my brother in 1999. Life was lovely. We had nice cars, a decent sized house and a household full of love. However, love and money can’t fix everything. My father struggled with alcoholism and by 2001 my mom made the choice to divorce my dad. It wasn’t because she didn’t love him, it was because he didn’t love himself. In 2006 my parents got back together. My father had worked the steps of AA and my mom had never stopped loving him. Things were good until they weren’t. By August 2010 my dad was drinking again and to protect my siblings my mom ended things with my dad again. While this was going on I was living in deep east Texas attending college with my boyfriend Darren (now husband). I tried to do what I could to help my dad during this time but he was struggling. Our family business Orr-Reed Wrecking wasn’t making any money and things were falling apart. Although my dad wasn’t perfect, he was a great man. My grandfather used to joke that my dad would have been a great cult leader. When he spoke, people listened. My dad was one of those people who made the world brighter and people flocked to him. By January of 2012 my dad asked me to move back home to help run our family’s business, and from May 2012 until January 2013 things were going well. He and I made a fantastic team. On top of helping run a business I bought a house and started planning my wedding. Life was good.

Courtesy of Hannah Hargrove

On January 24th I got a phone call from one of my oldest friends. Her mom had just died and she needed help planning the funeral and getting the estate in order. Me being me, I immediately started helping. On the 25th we went to a funeral home and got everything arranged. I called my dad and through my tears I told him I needed him to start taking better care of himself because I was in no way prepared to do all this for him. He laughed and said, ‘don’t worry honey, I have no plans to die today.’ I laughed at that and told him ‘no one plans on dying daddy, but seriously, I still need you and I need you to stick around for a while longer.’ He told me I, in fact, did not still need him and that I was an amazing person who he was proud of. I wish I could say that was our last conversation but it wasn’t. That night I went out to eat with his parents and afterwards I called him to tell him how it went. He asked me to come over and I jokingly told him I was much too busy and important to come hang out because I had a date with my TV. He tried to convince me to come watch a movie with him but I declined. I told him to stop being so needy and that I loved him but I was tired and I would talk to him in the morning. That choice is one I will regret until the day I die.

Courtesy of Hannah Hargrove

On the morning of January 26th I called my dad and he didn’t answer, which was weird. My dad was glued to his phone. That man had a cell phone from the late 80s on. His big line was ‘what was the point of having a damn cell phone if you weren’t going to answer?’ I tried again with no answer, so I drove over to his house. His car was there but he wasn’t. That’s when I started panicking. I knew something had to be horribly wrong. My dad never ignored me. I called my grandfather to see if he knew where Dad was. I went to my mom’s house to check to see if she had any clues. I called bars that I knew he would go to when he relapsed. I had Darren call hospitals and the police. It didn’t matter what I did – I couldn’t find him.

I went to my friend’s mom’s funeral that I had helped plan the previous day with no word from my dad hoping that by the time it was over he would call me, but that call never came. Finally, around 4:00 p.m. I had Darren call the morgue because I knew the only way my dad wouldn’t return my call was if he was dead. The very kind woman at the morgue informed us that there was a John Doe and when she described him to us, I knew it was him. I rushed to my mom’s house and started googling which is when I found the article describing a bar fight that had happened early in the morning. Things like murder and bar fights didn’t happen to my family. I didn’t know anyone who had ever been murdered. Stuff like that happened on TV shows not real life. I was in shock. Did you know that if someone is murdered on a weekend the family isn’t typically notified till Monday? If I hadn’t had tracked my dad down no one would have told us that he was laying on a slab. The next few days are permanently etched into my mind. Instead of cake tasting for my wedding we had to plan a funeral. Instead of practicing our daddy-daughter dance for the wedding, I was helping pick out songs for his service. We had to call friends and family to tell them what happened and let me just say, giving horrible news doesn’t get easier the more times you do it.

Courtesy of Hannah Hargrove

I was raised to believe in forgiveness and that one bad mistake doesn’t define your entire life, but I am ashamed to say that in the week following my dad’s death all of those lessons were superseded by my anger. I wanted Prado to fry and I wanted his family to hurt as bad as ours did. I wanted eye for an eye justice and my anger consumed me but by day 5 I remembered who I was and my anger was replaced with sadness. It wouldn’t be until later that I found out that Prado, who was a few months younger than me, was also a victim. He was raised in poverty. His dad was in jail for the majority of his childhood. He dropped out of high school, got a girl pregnant and had two young daughters. I didn’t want any his daughters to wind up on the same path as him. They deserved a chance and without a dad how could they break the cycle? Instead of taking him to court my family and I worked out a plea bargain. Prado had to get a GED, go to parenting classes, get a job and hopefully break the pattern he was taught. I don’t know if he actually was successful but I pray he was. My dad made it a point to hire people who the rest of the world had given up on. He was big on redemption and it would be pretty amazing if my dad’s death led to Prado’s success. I think he would have really liked that.

After my father’s death the business fell to me. Although he and I had made great strides in the previous year it was still in serious debt. I had no real idea what I was doing but with my mom’s help we managed to turn it around. Orr-Reed is the oldest salvage yard in Texas. We demolish houses and save all of the antique doors, windows, flooring, etc, and then sell the items to people. We deal with homeowners, builders, artists, designers, restaurants and countless others. I love what we do but my mom and I are two females in an industry dominated by men. I would like to say that my lack of male genitalia doesn’t make a difference but it does. When dad died we lost quite a few jobs but failure wasn’t an option. My mom and I were not going to let my father’s legacy end so we worked harder than we had ever before. I don’t really know how we managed to pull it all off but we did. I like to think it is because my father is still with us and that’s he’s managed to pull a few miracles off for us. Nearly 6 years later our doors are still open and we are almost debt free.

Six weeks after we lost my dad I got married at the very junk yard I grew up in. It rained all day but I knew it would be okay and it was. It stopped raining about 30 minutes before the first guest arrived and started again 15 minutes after the last guest left. I know that was my dad. That day he was showing me that he still had my back. I wish I could say that everything was perfect after that but that would be a lie. My sadness defined me and I was a shell of my former self. It took 3 more years and a few more heartbreaks before I was really okay again. I still miss my dad every day, especially now that I am a mom.

Courtesy of Hannah Hargrove
Courtesy of Hannah Hargrove

This past December my little boy Sawyer had a pretty bad health scare and I so desperately wanted my daddy to come make everything better. It was in that moment I realized that even though dad was gone he was still a part of me and I could be strong without relying on him. I don’t think you really ever get past a loss like this but you do move on and you manage to remember that the sun still comes out, the world keeps spinning and life goes on. The last thing my dad would have wanted is for his death to define our family. Our way of honoring him is to keep moving forward.”

Courtesy of Hannah Hargrove

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hannah Hargrove, 29, of Dallas, Texas. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more of how Hannah’s father’s death has inspired her creatively:

‘My father was murdered. When Sawyer was 7 months old, I had a dream. He told me he was proud of me. I decided my dad was telling me I needed to do something that made me happy.’

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