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  1. December 24, 2019, is a day that will forever be etched in my memory. We didn't get to go home to be with my family again for Christmas, so we had planned on gathering with the hub's side of the family in our hometown. I was up til wee hours of the morning getting our Ugly Christmas sweaters prepped for a contest the next day. I had mentioned making cookies as well for the cookie exchange, but the hubs said it would probably be better to wait until the morning so they would be nice and fresh. Therefore, I waited.
    As I only had one more dozen to bake once I pulled another dozen from the oven, my morning tasks were almost complete. Just as I put the last dozen in the oven and scurried down the hallway to grab a hair utensil, it hit me to call home. I started toward my cell and then quickly thought about the cookies and what I had left to do. If I got on the phone, I would surely forget about the cookies in the oven, so I decided to wait until we returned from the gathering.
    An hour or so later, we arrived. We put on the ugly Christmas sweaters, had a few good laughs, voted and got back into our other attire. I grabbed the camera from it's bag, left my cell in it's place and got in a few shots. Just as everyone was taking their places to open gifts, the hub's cell rang. He looked at it with a puzzled look, showed it to me and it was a call from my parents. I told him to go ahead and answer it and figured they were calling to wish us a Merry Christmas.
    My hubs tapped my shoulder, handed me the phone and told me I should go outside. When I asked why, he said to just go outside that my sister-in-law was on the phone and sounded worried. When I answered, the words I heard were, "You need to get home, now!" I asked what was wrong and there was a moment of silence. I asked again and the next words were, "Dad's gone." As my mind didn't register the full meaning of that, I was thinking he just went somewhere and hadn't returned yet and maybe they were worried. However, when she started giving details, it hit me......Dad's gone as in, he passed away. It was then I had a complete meltdown. I don't remember much after that. I remember getting up off the floor, gathering up my things, bits and pieces of the drive to our house to grab a few things as well as, bits and pieces of the 5 hour trip.
    Most of what I remember that day are the words, "Dad's gone," and the regret of not calling earlier. I got so caught up in the rut of the day, I prioritized cookies over a phone call. Not just any phone call. The phone call that would have allowed me to hear my dad's voice one more time and to say and hear, "I love you" one more time.
    While I can't go back and change things, it was a valuable lesson. A lesson that I will never forget. A lesson that I hope no one else has to learn the hard way, as I did.


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