As I sit here, trying to compose this post, I realize I don’t know where to begin. How do you do this? My first instinct is to call my Dad and ask him for advice as to what he thinks would sound good. See, that is what I always did. Whenever I couldn’t think of how to say something, or I needed someone to listen to what I had managed to put down on paper, I called my Dad. This time though, I have to do this myself. There will be no phone call asking for a better way to word a sentence, or a more eloquent way to compose my thoughts. This time I have to remember what I learned from him and just do my best. So, here it goes.
Nothing can ever prepare you for your parents sitting you down and telling you that your father’s cancer is back…again. He had fought this battle twice before and won, so what’s to make you think he can’t do the same one more time. I will tell you though, that I wasn’t so sure it would all be okay this time as it had been the last two. This time was different. I had no doubts before. I never had the feeling that he wasn’t going to be okay. But this time, my world spun out of control when I got the call from my Mom that she and Dad were in the emergency room. It was that day, when I had to come to the realization that his cancer couldn’t be cured. I felt sick. I felt scared. I felt panic. This just couldn’t be happening. No, not my Dad. This kind of thing happened to other people’s families, not to my family. When the ER doctor told me, what my parents ultimately knew, that his cancer was aggressive and that it could not be removed, I felt my chest seize. I didn’t think the doctor was reading the chart right. After all, there had to be something that could be done. That is why we were in the hospital, to help him! I remember throwing my arms around him and furiously hugging his neck, urgently whispering that I loved him, and thanking him for everything he ever did for me. It’s a scene I play in my head over and over again like a movie. It was that very day, in that emergency room, that Dad decided to go on Hospice. The battle was over, he’d been defeated. The only option was to go home and wait to die. Not more than two weeks later he was admitted to an inpatient unit after telling my mom, “I can’t take the pain anymore.” The idea was to get his pain under control and bring him back home, continuing with in-home Hospice care. But, that didn’t happen. His pain was more than could be controlled by visiting nurses, and Mom had no choice but to accept that he needed more help than she could give him. Two weeks later, May 14th, my Dad passed away. I had walked into my house, having driven home from spending the day with him and Mom, and not more than five minutes after walking through the door, the phone rang. It was Mom. He was gone. I screamed “NO!” and threw the cordless phone. I dropped to my knees and it felt as if my heart had sunk to some unknown depth in my chest. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t stop crying. It was over. It was final. It was permanent. I would never see my Dad again.
Dad wanted to help doctors find a cure for kidney cancer, and so he had made arrangements to donate his body to Science Care. Mom has since gotten a three page letter detailing many of the discoveries and benefits from his body. I haven’t read the letter yet, but I can honestly say that I am so proud of him.
On June 30th, his life was honored at a military memorial service. There was a 21 gun salute, the playing of taps, and the presentation of the flag. It was what he wanted. It was perfect.
I think that quote, sums it all up. I love my Dad. I’m grateful for all the places we went together and for all the memories I have of him. I did speak at my Dad’s memorial service, but nothing prepared me for what I saw that day. At end of the service I stood up to speak, and when I turned to face all who where there, my heart just soared. For while the service was taking place, what I didn’t know, was that more people had arrived. Now, here were all these faces looking back at me! It did my heart good to know that he had touched so many lives.
A day or two before Dad fell silent and began sleeping all the time, which is one of the stages they tell you about, I was with him rearranging the pillows under his legs. Due to the location of the tumor, his legs were in severe pain all the time. Even with pain medication, rearranging the pillows was really about all we could do to keep him comfortable. When I had done my best I said…. “Okay, so is that better?” He answered with a nod and said, “Yes.” I responded with, “Good, at least I did something right.” He quickly replied, “You always do something right.” Little did I know at the time, those words would be the last he ever spoke to me.
Dad, I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear you say those words. I miss you so much. I don’t like to think you’ve gone from this world, but instead that you are merely on holiday. I find it to be a little easier that way because I know, one day, we’ll meet again.
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I’ve always known that I wanted to create a video in remembrance of my Dad. But I wanted this video, this “celebration of life” to be just that, a celebration. So, with that in mind, you’ll find that I have chosen a song from my Dad’s favorite band….Huey Lewis and the News.
Please CLICK HERE, turn those speakers up and enjoy.