Just Days Before Her Father Died, She Told Him What He Meant To Her And she recorded that conversation with StoryCorps. "Do you think you're dying?" she asked him then — and he replied, simply: "Everybody dies." For him, family was everything.
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Just Days Before Her Father Died, She Told Him What He Meant To Her

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Just Days Before Her Father Died, She Told Him What He Meant To Her

Just Days Before Her Father Died, She Told Him What He Meant To Her

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. Today, we'll hear a daughter's final conversation with her dying father. Last winter, Eva Vega-Olds recorded her father, Leonardo Vega, who was in the final stages of lung and liver cancer. When they spoke, he was in hospice care at his home in Passaic, N.J. Mr. Vega was so weak that he could barely answer his daughter's questions, so she took the opportunity to tell her father what he meant to her. After his death, Eva came to a StoryCorps booth to remember that last conversation.

EVA VEGA-OLDS: When I was recording my dad, I was in his bedroom that he shared with my mom - that was the hospital bed in there. He had an oxygen machine, and he was struggling to breathe. But I said, dad, do you want to do an interview? And he said, let her rip, and so we did.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VEGA-OLDS: Daddy, where were you born?

LEONARDO VEGA: Puerto Rico.

VEGA-OLDS: And you know how long you've been in New Jersey?

VEGA: 65 years. I've been here all my life.

VEGA-OLDS: He was a factory worker, worked the graveyard shift, you know, so he's leaving for work when we're coming back from school. And then later on, he was a custodian, and he was always working.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VEGA-OLDS: How do you want to be remembered?

VEGA: I don't know.

VEGA-OLDS: Well, I plan on telling the kids that you were really loyal, a committed father, funny.

My family's the kind of family that if you can't take sarcasm, forget about it. Like, my wedding day, I remember walking down the aisle, and my dad was walking like super slow. And I'm like, dad, and he says to me, sh, it's my day. I finally get rid of you (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VEGA-OLDS: Do you remember teaching me how to swim?

VEGA: Mm-hmm.

VEGA-OLDS: I remember you throwing me in the water, and I was screaming and crying like I was going to drown. And I was like, no, I can't swim. And then you yelled at me, well, then just stand up (laughter). Do you remember that?

VEGA: Yes.

VEGA-OLDS: When we took him home, he came back to hospice care and the nurses were there. He looked at me, and he said, I think they think I'm going to die. And I said, well, if you feel differently then do differently, but every day he got weaker and closer to the end.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VEGA-OLDS: Do you think you're dying?

VEGA: Everybody dies.

VEGA-OLDS: Up until that moment, we had not talked about him dying.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VEGA-OLDS: Are you afraid?

VEGA: No.

VEGA-OLDS: I wish it wasn't happening right now. What are you most proud of, daddy?

VEGA: The kids.

VEGA-OLDS: Your kids.

VEGA: My family.

VEGA-OLDS: OK. Let me end it for now.

I did the interview Tuesday afternoon, and he passed on Thursday night. You know, not for nothing, but my dad's a working-class fellow. He bought a home, paid off his home and was able to die in his home with his family around him. For him, that was the pinnacle of what your life should be, and I think that he did achieve his dreams.

GREENE: Eva Vega-Olds remembering her father, Leonardo Vega, who died in January. Their interview is archived at the Library of Congress along with all StoryCorps interviews. It's also featured on the StoryCorps podcast.

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