Cami found me on Instagram and sent me a message saying that she was also passionate about bringing struggles to light and that if I needed a story, she had one. It breaks my heart to learn about and see children who grow up without one or both of their parents. I’m so grateful Cami was willing to share about losing her Dad.
Cami Moss is a wife and a mom of 3 little kids. She grew up in Utah and went to BYU and the U of U and received her RN. She worked as a hospice nurse for a few years before becoming a mom and then quit that to become a full-time mom. Among many things, she enjoys calligraphy, Anne of Green Gables, podcasting, baking, and anything Italian (art, culture, food, – you name it). Getting to meet new people and have meaningful, deep conversations about life is what she’s about.
I remember the day it happened all too well. It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1996 and me, my older brother, and younger sister were playing the game of “Life” in our living room when my mother’s best friend, Kathie, rushed through the door with a look of panic on her face. She asked where my mom was and we told her that we thought she was up in her room. Kathie ran up the stairs and us kids went back to playing our game. Only a few minutes later, we heard pounding coming from upstairs. At first, we ignored it, but then it kept happening so we thought we should go up and find out what was going on. As we walked into her room, we knew immediately there was something really wrong. Without even explaining the situation, I remember my mom falling to her knees and telling us we needed to join her in prayer. As she prayed, it became obvious what was happening…
If we pause the story and back up to 3:00 am that morning, my dad had woken up to get ready for a business trip and had woken up my mom. As they talked my mom told my dad that even though he had been on a ton of business trips and had traveled often, that for some reason she felt sick about him going on this one. She told him how much she didn’t like the small plane that he and his colleagues often flew in and really didn’t feel good about it. He tried to pacify her and in the end said to her “Carrie, if God wants me, He will take me.” And that was the end of the conversation. Around 7:00 am, my mom received a phone call from one of my dad’s co-workers saying that the plane had crashed and they didn’t know anything else.
So as we sat there praying, my mom begged for my dad’s safety as well as the safety of the other men on board the plane. Shortly after, everything started becoming blurry and surreal as I went to my room to pack my bag to go to the grandparents’ house and my mom got ready to make the trip up to Malad, Idaho where the plane had crashed. I remember being at my grandparents’ house, watching TV and having several of my mom’s siblings in the room. Honestly, in my 9-year-old mind, I honestly felt like my dad was going to walk away with maybe a broken leg or some crazy story that he could tell for years to come. I think my mind went there because even though I knew that trials were a part of life, I thought we had taken our turn as a family. At that point, my older brother had had a very rare form of leukemia twice and in my mind, I thought we couldn’t have any more trials – we had taken our turn. After watching TV for a short time, my grandma came in, and turned off the TV and told us that the plane had crashed and no one survived… all 8 men on the plane, including our dad, were dead. It felt like the whole world was spinning and time just stopped. I remember going into the bathroom, just staring at myself in the mirror, just crying. After a while I remember coming out and eating lunch and then going to play with my cousin who lived across the street. It felt so surreal that I thought if I just ignored it, it would somehow go away.
Later that day, I remember my mom coming to my grandparents’ house and sitting us down to talk to us kids about the funeral. I remember her asking us what we thought and what things we should have included and I felt like a pressure cooker. I had so much emotion bottled up inside of me and as we sat there starting to plan the funeral, I was so angry. I was angry because I felt like we had taken our turn and why couldn’t someone else have a turn? I remember standing up and yelling at her, “What do you want me to do? I don’t know how to plan a funeral. I’m 9 years old”.
The day of the funeral came and we went to the church and of course, everyone stood for us as we came in and I just remember hating my life. It seemed so unfair to me that not only did we have big trials happen to us, but that they were so public.
When the whirlwind of the funeral came and went, it seemed so surreal – until 6:00 pm every night when he didn’t walk through the door. The days, weeks, and months after that, especially the first year, seemed like an eternity.
I remember our first Christmas after my dad died. My mom tried so hard to make it special, but she cried all day long. Every holiday was some version of that because everything that used to be so perfect was now so painful. But, there were some amazing things that happened that year and the subsequent years that followed. My mom’s best friend, Kathie, became a literal angel in our lives. So and her family took us into their home for weekends, nights, holidays, and vacations. They literally became our second family and because of them, we were able to be distracted from the sharpness of our pain, laugh, and be in a place that didn’t constantly remind us that we were missing someone. I owe so much to her and her family.
On a personal level, I had no idea how to cope with the grief and so I turned to the only thing that I knew and that was my faith. I had faith in God and I prayed to Him often, telling Him how hard it was and that I knew that He had the power to turn back time and change what had happened. And even though that clearly didn’t happen, through those prayers I felt so much peace. I felt assurance that God was taking care of my dad and that God would also take care of me.
I remember also feeling so much comfort in songs – particularly songs that talked about angels and loved ones that had passed on. I felt like those songs gave me the words that I couldn’t speak, but felt so deeply in my heart.
Now, my healing includes doing things that keep him alive in my heart and mind. A few years ago, I tracked down everyone I could who had written meaningful sympathy cards at the time of my dad’s death and interviewed them, as well as my old neighbors about what my dad was like and any memories they had of him. That process was so healing for me.
I make sure I talk about him often to my husband and children so they can know what I love and think about my dad. I take my kids and go to his grave often and have picnics and bring him homemade flower arrangements, wreaths, notes, and pictures.
Surprisingly, talking and being able to relate to others is also something I have found to be so healing. It gives meaning to the pain that I wished would go away so badly. I’ve gotten to the point now that even if I could go back and change what happened, I wouldn’t because so much of the good, sensitive, and empathetic parts of me came as a result of my dad’s death.