You’re at the store buying groceries when you get the call and first hear the word “cancer”. Your heart stops beating, you start to shake & your world comes crashing down. Everything suddenly feels unstable, at risk of collapse at any moment, and your emotions are so close to the surface that even the smallest remark sends you past the breaking point.
You book a flight, which feels like the longest 8 hours of your life, and every pain-staking minute, you are pleading with God. Please don’t take my Dad. Please don’t let it be as bad as they say. Please let me wake up from this nightmare.
You arrive and see his face – smiling, holding mom’s hand, laughing with the nurses, the same as ever. You’d never even know he was sick. You surround his bed as a family, hold hands & pray. You realize in that moment exactly how much you have to lose and that this will be the hardest thing you’ve ever faced.
You watch him get prepped for surgery & you listen to the surgeon talk about procedures & protocols, risks & outcomes. You try to make sense of the words, but everything is a blur & you keep wondering how you got here. You walk into an empty waiting room and hold your breath for what feels like hours…until you hear that he’s made it through.
You set up a bed next to his & listen to the steady beeping of machines & the soft sound of snoring – a sign that he is at peace. You cannot sleep so you get up and walk the empty halls of the hospital and pray. Pray for a miracle, pray for more time, pray that he knows just how empty your life would be without him.
You finally leave the hospital & are thankful to be heading home, but are fearful of what each day will bring without doctors & nurses nearby. You help him get dressed, you prepare his meals, you change his catheter, you watch him sleep. The anxiety about what the future holds is all-consuming…so many questions with so few answers. How far has it spread? Will he suffer? Will it be 6 months? Maybe a year?
And then, a day passes without incident…then another…and you start to feel hope. You settle into a rhythm of managing medications, monitoring his diet, taking vitals and making doctor’s appointments. And you begin to almost adjust to this new normal. It feels like a different life – not one that you ever envisioned, but one that might just continue for years if you’re lucky.
Then you walk into the kitchen one day and see your mom crying at the sink and you remember that this journey is all coming to an end. It’s only a matter of time. It is inevitable. So you walk over & wrap your arms around her and weep together. You grieve because you know this disease will be what takes his life. You can do your best to slow it down, but there’s very little you can do to stop it. All you can do is treasure each moment & be thankful for the gift of today…because tomorrow is not promised.
You’re suddenly painfully aware how fleeting life is, how blessed you are and how much you took for granted. You complained that he wasn’t there for every game & concert – when he was really working so hard & traveling so much to provide for you. You hated the boundaries he set, the rules you had to follow & the time he gave you for curfew – when he was really just trying to keep you safe & protected.
You regret not saying thank you enough, not hugging him tighter, not calling more often.
So, you resolve to do whatever it takes to be by his side for as much time as he has left. To create new memories, to let him repeat stories he’s told a hundred times, to look through old photos, to pray together and to make him laugh.
You would move heaven & earth for him if you could. Oh how you wish you could somehow shoulder the burden of this disease that is attacking his body & spare him the pain.
You realize that you have one of the best men in the world for a father – strong & sensitive, tender & affectionate, brave & wise, humble & selfless. He took care of you for years & sacrificed so much…now it’s your turn to do the same for him. And you wouldn’t have it any other way.