“I remember the call like it was yesterday. It’s amazing the details that stand out in your brain that are imprinted on your heart forever. My dad was very sick. We had been told for weeks it would be any day now. I was a new mom. I was going to Grad school, working two jobs and had an 8 month old baby. I didn’t have any other choice than continue to do life, even though my life was falling apart around me. 14 Months prior, my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 Glioblastoma. This is an extremely rare but very aggressive from of brain cancer. There is currently no cure and the longest person that has lived with this disease only lived 5 years. The diagnosis was very grim. He immediately went into surgery to remove what they could.
That was the day we lost my dad.
See, brain surgery does something to a person. He came out fine. Recovered well from the surgery but the parts that made my dad, my dad were gone. He was a shell of a person left to struggle through this disease. Then came the chemo and radiation. As he lost his hair and about 60lbs he still continued to fight for the time that he had left. He so wanted to meet his first grandbaby. They decided to do another surgery at about the 8 month mark to give us some more time. He recovered well from this surgery also but a little bit more of who he was got lost. We knew that this was the last stop before it all went downhill. It’s not that we weren’t hopeful we just knew the odds of this disease. He continued to decline throughout the months.
We experienced our last Christmas together, but to be honest our last Christmas with my dad was the Christmas before. He got to see his grandson be born. My son got to see who his Opa was. Around the 13 month mark he was put on hospice. We were blessed enough for him to do Hospice in my parents’ house, we got to spend so much time connecting as a family and loving on my dad. It was beautiful, and it was heartbreaking. I do not wish on anyone the pain of watching your parent waste away until there is nothing left. My husband and I were having dinner at our friend’s house. We had chili. I remember what the dishes looked like. My mom called and said it was time; that his breathing has slowed. See I lived an hour from my parents so we rushed to get stuff together and left. I knew that it might be possible that we would be spending the night so we went and bought diapers and formula; I was still breast feeding at the time but because of the stress of the situation my production had begun to slow. We went to my parents’ house and got to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening saying goodbye. At this point my dad was in a coma and not coherent but it was such a special time. We all sat around and told stories of who he was and how he was always the first to make a joke.
I went to sleep knowing that he would probably not be alive when I woke up.
I woke up straight out of sleep at 4 in the morning, my mom called my phone from downstairs and told me that he was gone. She had heard his last breath. You think that it’s weird seeing a dead person. It’s not. We as a family got to sit with my dad’s body for 7 hours. Loving on him. Loving on each other and relishing in the time that we had left. Some would say that sounds morbid but I look back and it was beautiful. So beautiful. People came and said their goodbyes and wrote messages on the blanket he would be cremated in. When it was time for the Coroner to come get the body that was the hardest part. We all had done well keeping it together but something about watching a body be wheeled away from you, knowing that you would never get to see them again broke us. I am the oldest of four and felt like it was my responsibility to keep it all together. My brothers were just teenagers at the time and I didn’t know how to help. I am thankful that my son was too young to know what was going on. My Grandma came and cooked breakfast for us. No one was hungry. My youngest brother who never shows emotion broke down and sobbed.
The hardest thing was knowing there was nothing I could do to take this pain from any of us.
Here we are, coming up on 5 years this week. My emotions still sway heavily from sadness, to feeling numb to being angry at all the things that cancer stole from our family. It eventually stole my mom’s health as well who passed 2 years ago. It stole part of the joy from my pregnancy, from my son’s birth. It stole from the milestones my children will hit that their grandparents will never get to see. My brothers’ marriages. My college graduation. So many things.
But I am also able to see the immense blessings from this experience.
My perspective giving me grace to others. My experience showing me how to love on others in this situation and overall the year that we got to spend as a family coming closer to each other. In all of that; there is immense beauty in the ashes. We lost him too young. He was only 52”
I saw a movie recently that posed the question – how do you stop a moment in time? I had only one thought – lose someone. Lose a grandparent or other family member. Lose a child. Lose a friend. Lose a person who means more to your heart than you could ever tell them and you’ll find that one moment that brings you back to a place where you can see and feel everything. I’ve lost a parent to cancer also and while I remember how hard it was to see her being taken from us, the things I remember the most are the things that will keep her with me. She laughed so hard at herself that you couldn’t help but laugh with her. She was so open and welcoming to people and was the first to try to feed you if you came for a visit. The house was always ice cold but she had sweatshirts and blankets everywhere. We watched her go, but we saw her live first.
They always go too soon. Slow down and live a life you can say was done right