Today I have a guest post by someone I love very much. My sister Laura.
So, there are these times that I have.
I will be skimming over emails, old messages, and I come across messages that are pre- post dad, that took place before he passed away. I imagine my family, my dad, and I, hopeful, unknowing to what the future was holding. I see messages from the day or weeks before, and memories come flooding back to me. What was I doing at that time? Where was I going? It’s almost as if I want to reach back in time and let pre-Laura know about what was to come. So that I could have better prepared for it. And I don’t mean better preparing for it emotionally, we knew dad was very sick, though we didn’t know it would be that soon, that’s not what I mean. I wish that I would have been able to know what was going to happen so that I could have spent every last hour there with him and mom at the hospital.
That Saturday when I left the hospital in the afternoon, I thought dad was going to be ok. We had talked to the doctor’s and they decided to move dad to a long term hospital. I was there with him and my mom, and we talked and decided on the long term hospital and I got my dad’s signature on the page to authorize the move. He had some complications, and his body temperature had been really low, and so they gave him a warming blanket, and he finally started to fall asleep around 3pm so I thought I would let him get some rest.
So I left.
Later on that night around midnight I got the call from my mom at the hospital that he had stopped breathing. There was a calm, worried tone in her voice on the other end of the phone. I rushed over. And though that wasn’t the last of his fight, but rather the beginning of the end that morning, he left us as 6:45am in the following hours. Sunday December 6th. I wish so badly that he had been home and comfortable, and that he would’ve passed in his sleep peacefully. Sadly that wasn’t the case though. But we were all by his side when it happened so for that I am grateful.
Sometimes, I picture my dad in his favorite red t-shirt and ball-cap, sitting in his wheelchair while we are waiting at one of his appointments, with his gray hair peeking through his cap and overflowing in his mustache. He was always so sweet and genuine towards the doctors, and they all loved him. Even though he was sick, he always had this positive, friendly and humorous vibe to him, even when discussing serious topics about his health and future. That was just dad. We visited with a few oncologists before he decided on one that he really liked and felt comfortable with. I remember those times. Meeting him at his doctor’s appointments, all the questions we had about treatment… the doctors always careful not to mention how long they thought he had left… I didn’t know why that was. Honestly, my parents and I never asked. I think we just wanted to be hopeful. The doctors never gave my dad a prognosis about how long they thought he had, we just knew it was really bad, kidney cancer. Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (CCRCC) to be exact. Most likely stage 4, since it had already metastasized to his lungs, lymph nodes, and liver by the time we found it. Even thinking back about it all makes me queasy. But the cancer treatment center was so positive. So hopeful. I guess in hindsight, I understand why. They wanted my dad to keep fighting until the end. Unwilling maybe, unable to realize how far the cancer had spread, and was spreading, to his lungs. I guess none of that is important now though. His oncologist and her medical assistant were pretty amazing people and though I wish they would’ve been around for much longer, for my dad’s sake, I am glad they were there when and while they were. As they played a very loving, positive and hopeful character in my dad’s last chapter of his life.
When thinking about my dad, I feel like I want to write a whole book about who he was, things he liked or silly things he said or did. Things that made him special, to let the world know who he was. But at the same time, I feel like that’s almost not necessary. Because I think the love that he and my family had was so special, and so unique, that it speaks for itself. Nothing that I could say or do could replicate who he was, or what he meant to us. He was simply, dad. Gentle spoken, goofy, love-able dad. When I think about times now, without him, there is this empty, endless feeling. It’s hard to describe. It’s like a well. A dark, long, empty well, that has no end. It just keeps on going. The only way to stop that feeling is to shake my head, take a deep breath and redirect my focus to something else. Because there is this helplessness, no way to make it better, no remedy. I wrote recently that more and more I feel like when you lose someone you love, there is no actual getting over it. That you just learn to accept the pain and it almost becomes a part of you and who you are. You live with it, and you keep it inside you, and you think about it, and cherish the good and the bad, and let it out when it needs to. But you never let it go, because you can’t. Through this time I’ve also learned though that it is ok to be happy. It is ok to revel in beautiful moments you have, even when you are remembering the someone you love. Those moments are bittersweet.
The day of dad’s funeral, we all gathered at my mom’s house after to eat and spend time with family. After cousins and everyone else left it was just us; me, my sister, brother, and mom. It was our first event without dad, and it was for his funeral. It felt unreal, like it was part of a fiction story or movie that I was watching onscreen, but it wasn’t. That was our reality now.
I still don’t know how to deal with feelings of our family and life without him, and I am not sure I ever will. So I just take it one day at a time. And I allow myself to feel – one day at a time, knowing that one day may be different than the next. What I do know is how grateful I am for having had such a loving father as my dad. One day, I will tell my children all about their grandpa and the awesome person that he was. My heart will hurt at that time too, but I know that he will be living on in the love we have for him now, and then, and the stories that we share.
Thank you for all the love, laughs, memories, advice…and everything you gave us dad. I am eternally grateful. And I love you.