Tara's Plea

To whom it may concern,

My name is Tara sherman, and I am the youngest daughter of william Barnoski. As I am sure you are well aware by now, my father has a glioblastoma brain tumor, which is the worst kind of brain tumor a person can have. It steals its victims abilities, and in my father's case, it will inevitably take his cognition, mobility, wakefulness, speech, vision, and sensation of his left side, and it does so in an aggressive and rapid manner. Some of these changes have already begun to occur.

Time is of the essence here. I am writing to you today to ask you to allow for my father, who is terminally ill, to come home and be cared for in his last days by his loving and grieving family. This would allow us all to heal together, to pray together, to mourn together, and to honor his life. You may ask why this man deserves this allowance, and I hope to prove to you,through my letter that he is nothing short or worthy.

I was eight years old when my father was sentenced to life in prison. It was a very difficult and trying time. ln some ways, I lost my dad then. He was not able to wipe my tears when I skinned my knee or had my first heart break. He was not there on Christmas mornings when I experienced Santa Claus and all his wonder. He was not there when I dressed for the prom, drove my first stick shift, got accepted to nursing school, graduated college, bought a house, became engaged. He was not there to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day or visit me in the hospital after I gave birth to my son. The missing piece was always my father's presence.

Although my father was not physically present during these milestones and moments, he certainly was there emotionally. I have saved every letter and every card my father has ever written me, and there are many. I pulled some out to gather mv thoughts to write this letter, and reading them reaffirms his connectedness to me, as well as his determination to stay as involved as possible with our family despite his circumstance. After my junior prom, where I was named in the prom court, he wrote to me and said: "this is just one of the shining moments you will have in this world, Tara; you are destined and determined to be everything you set out to be. You must always believe in yourself."

You have to understand, at that time in my life, I struggled in many ways. To have that affirmation from my father was inspiring. Because no matter where he was and what he had done, he was my daddy. And for a young woman, her father's words are golden. Growing up, he gave me permission to be different; in fact he encouraged it. We never felt sorry for ourselves or for our circumstances; instead, my father would instill in us that our circumstances were what made us stronger. We had a sign hanging in our basement that said "The Survivors". This was what we called ourselves, even before my father was incarcerated. And he certainly pushed us to live up to that saying, even to this day. He was always teaching my sisters and I to stay true to ourselves, don't be followers, and always stick up for those less fortunate. He pushed us to challenge ourselves and to really think about our actions.

These are the types of lessons that allowed me to accept myself. To ignore the social "norm" and take my own path. I made very unpopular decisions to follow what I thought was right, and thanks to my dad's constant support, I am a college graduate and a successful registered nurse. Of course, we fought too. Just as strongly as we loved, we fought. But I also feel thaat because of this real relationship, we grew closer. Without his parenting along the way, albeit by letters, visits, and phone calls, I likely would not have had the courage to walk away from the pack and find my own world.

To you, he may be a name . . . a number . . . a headline . . . but to us, he is a husband, a father to six, a grandfather to ten, a friend and a mentor. He is a strong believer in God, and he has come to know Him even more these past few years, striving to live by and honor Him. He is the beacon for our family, stepping in with his guidance when we would get lost. Some may wonder how that may be, considering he has been incarcerated for 25 years. Although he was not physically with us, he never abandoned us. He stayed connected, he called, wrote, and was always present at our visits. He gave everything he had to give to continue to support our family and foster our growth. He recently said, "I wouidn't trade one of my daughters for ten sons." He helped us become strong, independent women and mothers. I am who I am today because of my father's undying love.

I must try to explain to you the man my father is. He is one of the most loving and compassionate people I have ever known. He and my mother share a kind of love that defies logic. My mother has been a faithful, loving, supportive wife in even the most incomprehensible of circumstances. So many friends are baffled as to why my mother has stayed ever so faithful to my father. And you cannot even begin to explain it to them, because words do it no justice.

You must see it to understand. You must hear them speak to each other to comprehend. You must overhear a phone conversation while watching my mother's face . . . it is lit up as if she has just heard the most beautiful sound. I say it again, their love defies logic. In a world where divorce destroys over 50% ofall marriages, you have a couple who stood by each other in the most difficult of circumstances, for over 35 years. My father has respected my mother's every decision when it came to the house, the kids, or anything at all. He may not have always agreed — like when she would wait by the phone for his call instead of going out somewhere — but he respected it. He has handled her every so gently these years, as he knows he has, in some ways, left her alone. It hasn't always been easy to watch, because with that type of intense love, comes intense pain with their separation. When you see them visit together, my father still reaches for my mother's hand to hold. Their eyes light up at the very sight of each other, as if they just started dating. My dad will always try to save the last bite of whatever he is eating for her to have — it is actually comical to watch.

This love shared between my mother and father has been inspirational. It has proven to me that a lifetime of unconditional love is truly possible. And now, as their relationship as I Lave known it on this earth nears an end, the thought of seeing them together again in their home as my mom cares for him and is with him during his last breath would be nothing short of a miracle. I beg you to allow this to be a reality.

To see him with his grandchildren is nothing short of God's glory. My dad, standing at 6'4" is a gentle giant. There is a way he wraps his arms around those kids that makes them glow, and you think, "those kids must feel so safe." He speaks to them with such innocence. It is reflective of our tender moments with him growing up.

My son is only eight months old, and when I brought him to visit my dad for the first time, it was moving. Before my dad even made it over to us, I could see the tears in his eyes. He held his baby's baby. Baby Jack looked so small in his arms, and dad stared at him for so long. He kept saying, "this is God's love right here." It was so perfect. I am devastated that my son will not get to be in those arms as he grows up. It shatters my core to imagine. I hold out hope that getting my dad home will allow Baby Jack to sit with him once more, for pictures, for memories, for the opportunity to get that "feeling" when Papa Billy wraps his arms around him.

The thought that my father will soon no longer be part of this earth overwhelms me. I truly have no idea how to live in a world where he doesn't exist. I have turned to him over the years for everything. I look to him to refuel me when the world around me gets too negative.

I remember the night before my wedding. All the girls were at my house, talking and preparing for the next day's events. I had a lump in my throat the size of Texas because I wanted my father there so bad. During the evening, my father called, and I took the call into a private room. My father was fighting back tears as he told me how proud he was of me, and how he wished he could walk me down the aisle, and that he was sorry. We cried togethor and shared our sorrow for what we both wished so badly for. But when I hung up the phone, I knew there was never a girl in the world who felt more love from a father than I did at that moment. And the next day, when my 12-year old nephew walked me down the aisle in my father's place, I beamed ear to ear, as I knew my daddy was with me in spirit.

You see, my father and I know each other . . . really know each other. We know each other's stories, hopes, dreams, fears, disappointments, and we both know the core of each other's being. I find this to tre extremely rare. Who has the courage to lay it all out there, good, bad and otherwise, and know that the other party will love you no matter what? How lucky I am to have this with my dad. He has inspired this relationship, and despite everything else, I feel fulfilled because of this. What a treasure.

ln a way we are lucky to have this time to prepare for my father's decline and inevitable passing. Many lose loved ones in a moment and never have this opportunity to reflect and prepare. Here lies an opportunity not just for us as a family to say goodbye, but for others to assist us in getting him home to foster healing. Our lives have been nothing short of traumatic, and again, we do not feel sorry for ourselves. But we do feel pain and sorrow now as my father begins to decline.

I am a nurse who works with frail elders. I have seen some pass so beautifully with family surrounding them, and some that were not so fortunate. I believe that no matter who you are or what you have done in this world, if feasible, family should be with you when you go out of this world. It should be just as beautiful a moment as when you were brought into this world, filled with family, love, and tears. I truly believe every soul deserves this. And now I beg you to allow my father to have this very last moment with his loving, supportive family.

There is no way to end this letter. I could give you a thousand stories to show you who my father is, how he has changed for the better over the years, how he has accepted God into his life, and how he is and will always be our hearts and souls. I will ask you to please search your souls for what you would want for your loved one in the same circumstance as ours. My father has been in prison for 25 years. He has been judged and sentenced and has done his time. Please allow him these last moments to be with his family.

Imagine for a second your loved on is ill. They cannot get up on theÝr own, they cannot shift their posiion to avoid pressure sores and pain, they cannot verbally express their pain, they cannot verbalize their needs, their vision fails them. And now imagine they are being cared for by strangers and are virtually alone with˘ut the caring touch or embrace of family. And you are aware of all that is happening to them. Your feelings of helplessness will cripple you. This is what we are faced with now. I ask you to please have mercy on us all.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and consider my plea.

God bless

Tara Sherman

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