Our First Father’s Day Without Daddy

A local mom shares her thoughts on working through the loss of her fiancé and children’s father this Father’s Day.

I’ve been dreading Father’s Day and I’ve been avoiding the advertisements and card aisles promoting all the wonderful dad presents. For me and my twins, Father’s Day will feel different this year. 

This is why.

I can still feel the warmth of that beautiful day on Saturday, April 15, 2023. These types of days are typical for Michigan in mid-June, so it was nice to experience some warmth outdoors a couple of months early. That day, my 3-year-old twins, Cassidy and Cassius Jr., and I were looking forward to our family’s barbecue at my grandmother’s house. Since she was battling cancer, we wanted to bring more love and happiness into her home.

I remember calling my mother that morning and explaining that I was experiencing a strange feeling. For family gatherings, I am often up early and cheerful, but that Saturday, for a reason I didn’t fully understand until a few hours later, I wasn’t in the mood for it. I had been feeling off that entire morning. 

I also told her I wanted to focus more on buying a home and helping my fiancé, Cassius, the father of my twin preschoolers, since he had his leg amputated last year and was frequently ill due to Type 1 diabetes. Cassius went to the hospital almost weekly because his blood sugar was too low or his blood pressure was way too high. He suffered phantom pain with his amputation. Yet, he continued on with a smile on his face. Sometimes you couldn’t tell how bad he felt because of his joyful spirit. His motivation was his love for his kids.

Photo provided by Darlene A. White

As I was getting ready for the outing with our twins, my mother called me back asking that I stop by her house first before going on to my grandma’s. She even called back a second time to make sure I remembered.

When I arrived, my sister, Sammie, came out immediately and waited in the car with the twins while I went inside. My mother sat on one couch while my sister, Victoria, was on the other. My mother looked as if she had been crying. I was confused. 

Then she shared the news: “Darlene, Cassius died today. His mother called me and told me that she found him. She didn’t know how to tell you, so she asked that I tell you this,” she told me. 

I felt like I was punched in the stomach and the wind knocked out of me. I recall being only able to reply, “OK.”

The sweet memories of our little family began to flood my head and our younger days of walking home from high school. I yelled and sobbed for what felt like hours, days or weeks. My high school sweetheart, life partner, fiancé and father of my twins was longer here. At age 31, Cassius James Evanes Montgomery Sr., “DJ Cash Back,” died unexpectedly from complications related to diabetes. 

What was I going to say to our children? They never knew their father was sickly. How will they remember their father in memory at such a young age? How will I continue to live without him? That is what went through my mind while we were preparing for Cassius’ burial. 

Death is real and you can never be fully prepared for it. Cassius’ passing taught me that. I never imagined walking up to a casket with two little babies to say our final goodbyes, even though I had known how ill he was since we were 13 years old. 

It was difficult and heartbreaking to see him suffer through his short life, especially since Cassius and I were still learning how to be parents. We were still trying to figure out what worked best for us. 

I asked my mom to tell Cassidy and Cassius about their father’s passing. Not only is she their grandma, but she is their childcare provider. With children at this age, we needed to explain death and what happened in clear, simple language. That’s what my mom did. 

Cassidy and Cassius are still figuring out how to cope with their dad’s death. They are learning that he can no longer play with them, cuddle them or say “Hello, my little piglets,” as he used to call them. Cassidy asks me every day, “You lost your daddy?” in a sweet, compassionate voice. I respond, “I lost your daddy.” She says she needs to cry. I can see sadness all over her, then she goes back to playing. As for Cassius Jr., he says, “Daddy is in heaven, past the moon and the stars.” Some days he’ll hit my leg and say, “I call Daddy.” Those are the moments that are difficult for me. I allow our twins to see me cry and I let them know it’s OK to feel sad. We can miss Daddy. 

I have a box of Kleenex handy as I write this essay, tears in my eyes. It hurts deeply doing this parenting journey without their daddy. I know I must start new chapters with them like kindergarten, high school graduations, proms, marriages and even becoming a grandmother without him. Throughout my children’s lives, I will continue telling them stories of their incredible dad, both happy and sad. I must carry out Cassius’ request: To continue raising Cassidy and Cassius with love.

Happy Father’s Day in heaven. In loving memory of Cassius Montgomery.


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Darlene A. White
Darlene A. White
Darlene A. White, is a dedicated freelance journalist based in metro Detroit. With over a decade of journalistic experience under her belt, she creates compelling stories that attract a diverse readership, with a particular emphasis on parenting. As a mom of twins, Darlene enjoys library visits, park coffees and Target outings.

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