So, I've deliberated about whether or not to post this. I'm concerned about it seeming dramatic, and angsty, and attention seeking, and such. Hopefully I can pull off sharing this and avoid some of those other characteristics that I mentioned.
On Thursday, I received the most awesome gift. (I'll blog about that later.) The gift required that it be scanned. Well, I required that it be scanned -- the gift made no demands. In the midst of the scanning, I got this burning need to scan the letter my dad left for me when he died. It's something I've been meaning to do for awhile now, but never got around to doing. It didn't matter that it was 8:05 and I was supposed to be at work at 8:30 and that it takes me 40 minutes to get there. I HAD TO DO IT RIGHT NOW. Once I thought of it, it became the center of my universe. I panicked because I had put it in such a safe place that I couldn't find it. I did finally locate it and it was just where I thought I'd left it.
I scanned the letter. I read it. I sniffled. I went to put it back in the envelope and noticed the date that it was written was today's date. I never ever noticed before that my dad wrote it 8.5 months before he died. I felt so much gratitude at that realization. I was always grateful for the letter, but it just felt so much more significant seeing that he set out so purposefully to do it. Everything about his death was so selfless. He arranged his own funeral, had advanced directives drawn up, had his will completed, and generally took his illness like a trooper. He joked, he laughed, he smiled, he loved, he shared, and it put everything in place in a way that would enable us to look back and see more than just grief.
My dad was sick for 5 years -- he could easily have made this a time that was absolutely horrible -- a time that would've been impossible to look back and see any good. When I look back, when my family looks back, we see joy all around. His cancer was a small part of that time. He didn't go sky diving or rocky mountain climbing but he did livestrong. He took the bull by the horns, had his surgeries, chemo, and radiation and joked about it. He joked one day about how all of his hair was falling out. He informed me (and poor H) while waggling where his eyebrows would've been, that even "the boys" were bald and that he felt 12 all over again.
If asked to do things that he wasn't keen on doing... he quipped in his best mock, pathetic, whiny, pouting, voice, that he was "sick" and couldn't. "I'm sick."
"Can you get me a popsicle? I'm sick."
"Come here quick! Don't make me wait, I might not be here long. I'm sick."
He was totally inappropriate in every way, but it worked. It worked for our family. It helped to laugh. It helped to talk about things in this way. To acknowledge without dwelling. We were never a family that was big on tradition. He started little things. His last Christmas, we had a fondue on Christmas Eve. We all knew it was probably going to be his last. I soaked up every minute of it. He said very matter of factly, "This was fun. We should do this every year as a tradition. " And so we have.
He was so selfless. He was in hospice for my 29th birthday on June 10th, he stayed alert and chipper through my parent's 30th wedding anniversary on the 11th, and on June 12th took a sharp and definitive decline. He was not consistently alert again after that. He would let us know that he was still around in small ways, to let us know he could hear us. He was even making us laugh right to the very end. 3 days before he died, my mom was telling him how much she loved him... not realizing that he could understand or hear her. My mother has a tendency to go on and on and on and on... and this was no exception. At one point, my mother said, "I just hope you know how much I really love you and I wish I knew you could hear me", and my father -- who had not spoken for 26 hours, responded adamantly and rather comedically, "I. Think. I've. Got. The. Hint." He smirked, and then fell asleep. My dad and all of his personality was there almost right to the end. He waited to pass until both my mother and I were present. And he left the physical world with each of us holding his hand.
I always thought that knowing that you were going to lose someone would be worse than losing them suddenly. I've changed my mind on that. Knowing that my father was sick, enabled us to tie up loose ends. We said the things we needed say. When he died, there were no regrets. We had our closure.
I'm not sure why I'm sharing this. I think because I'm proud of it. I'm proud of him for doing it. It must've been a terribly difficult thing to do. I'm proud to be his daughter. I'm proud of the father that he was to me. I hope that one day, that I can be the kind of selfless parent that he was. I hope to be strong. I hope to make my child feel as safe and unconditionally loved as he made me feel. I hope to be a parent that my child will be proud of. Most of all, I hope to be a parent that HE would be proud of.
Click the photos to enlarge and the won't be cut off anymore.