The opening breakfast was just wrapping up as my cell phone rang. Ordinarily, I’d let it go to voice mail since I was at a table with several other people and eager to make connections. But it was my sister from Florida calling, and my dad had been hurting a lot lately, so they were taking him back to the doctor to see if he had an infection from the surgery a month before. I really needed to hear he was ok, so I answered. 60 seconds later I was a puddle at the table, a sobbing mess surrounded by people clueless to the pain I was in. The news my sister gave me wasn’t good. The doctor had just told her my dad had two weeks left to live, at the most. My younger sister was supposed to get married in a month and the doctor wanted her to know that if she wanted my dad to be at the wedding, she needed to move it up. Way up.
So there I was, sitting next to a blogger I had connected with online a few months before, and two of her friends she had introduced me to just the night before. I couldn’t even form words for the first few minutes. I literally felt like my world had come to a complete stop. I could see and hear everyone moving and talking around me but couldn’t catch my breath long enough to form a thought, or make a sentence. The gals who were sitting with me already knew my father had been fighting cancer for more than two years. They already knew we were looking at losing him soon, but thought we had until the holidays. I’m sure they could only assume the call was telling me he was already gone.
When I could explain, I know they were relieved to hear I still had some time with him. But I was in New York, at a conference I had spent nearly $1500 to make it to, and the last thing my dad would want would be for me to just up and leave. But I couldn’t just pretend everything was ok, either.
I had just spent the morning walking the TuTus for Tanner 5k through Central Park, talking with other bloggers I had just met who were raising money to help the family of a 10 yr old facing a terminal illness. I cried then at the sadness of losing the ones we love way before we’re ready. And sitting at the table after hearing this news, I tried to tell myself it would all be ok. I’d fly back to Atlanta on Sunday to see my family for the night, then turn around and fly to Florida to be with my dad until the end. I just had to get through the next couple days.
That didn’t turn out to be so easy. I decided crying in my room wasn’t going to work. I told myself my dad would want me out there making the most of it, so I headed to the expo floor where I met my new pal Romy, who tried making me smile by jumping on stage to join me for a dance with the Just Dance brand. It worked for a second. And then I remembered again. Red-faced and tears streaming, I knew I wasn’t exactly giving these PR folks the best impression of me.
Ultimately, it was my friend Kim Orlando who got me through that day. She drove in from her home in Connecticut to walk around the city with me, blowing off her appointments to take care of a friend. We walked and talked and cried. She offered to let me come back to her home with her so I could be surrounded by her family. She offered to help find a way to move my flight up so I could go back that day, instead of two days later. She made it clear she was willing to do anything I needed to get through.
She wasn’t the only one who helped. My pal from the table that morning, Tania Reuben, was sure to drag me out to some of the parties she had been invited to, hoping to take my mind off everything. My roommate, Tamara Walker, offered a shoulder and someone to talk to late at night and early in the morning, when it hit hardest. Even Carissa Rogers, who I just met, helped me smile that day, even though she didn’t know what I was going through. And countless others gave hugs, encouragement and more.
That was my first BlogHer. Not exactly what I had dreamed it would be, no doubt. But I’m back this year and looking forward to a very different experience. Still, if something does happen, if more bad news does come, I know I’m surrounded by friends when I’m here…thousands of friends who share a bond. That, to me, is what BlogHer is all about.