a year ago today...
My father was diagnosed with cancer. I got the call only a few days earlier. "Your father is on the way to the hospital. We don't know what's going on but he passed out." I later found out it was a little more than that. He passed out at lunch at a Chipotle after struggling to order - he couldn't find his words he told us later - and this was also after he hit two cars in the parking lot and had no idea that he had done it.
After a series of tests and brain surgery a few days later we got the news we were hoping not to hear - glioblastoma. I hated that I googled the word because there is nothing good that comes up when this word is spoken as a diagnosis. I kept pressing my parents for details. All my mother would say is what you read is true - prognosis is 12-18 months.
My father is 6' 1" and not a small guy. Incredibly intellectual - he has taught me through example to be a continuous learner and ferociously curious. To know that his brain was the target broke my heart.
But ya'll, we have been given a full year with him. While this experience is not something I'd wish on my worst enemy - much less my strong father, who I love - it has taught me a great deal.
I've been reminded what truly matters. It is really easy to get caught up in the day to day. Busyness is such a distraction and we use it as an excuse (or at least I have) for why we can't make the time. We live as if we have tomorrow. And many of us who have experienced sudden loss know that tomorrow is definitely not promised.
It's taught me to spend the time. Earlier this year I took a trip alone out to help my parents. The only thing was, I wasn't much of a help. They really didn't need me to do much and for a moment I thought - maybe I shouldn't have come out here. And then I realized, the trip was more for me than it was for them. Oh, I'm sure they also felt like it was for them but as I sat at the kitchen table with my father over lunch listening to a story he had told me before I realized something. That moment in time was for me.
I later caught up with a colleague at work who had her father pass quickly and I told her about that experience. And she affirmed that the trip was, indeed, for me. She said, "Alison, you will have to spend the time in the future when your parents need it most - but you will lose your Dad slowly. There will be a time in the future where the man you call father will not be the person you know him to be. That's why this time right now is so important. Go spend the time."
It can seem weird because he's not sick in the bed - which is why the time is so precious now.
I've struggled with holding on to hope and optimism with the reality of the situation. I've questioned the strength of my faith - do I believe God can heal him. Yes! Do I believe He will? I don't know. My sister said something at the start of this. The reality of life is that none of us are getting out of it alive. We all will die and this season has really allowed me to examine the flippant nature in which we throw around things related to God and who He is.
There is a part of me that believes many of us think He will just wave his magic wand of favor over us and grant us healing - and yet many of us believe this is not our eternal home. It feels at times like we have reduced God to a wizard instead of the Supreme Being. The picture is much bigger than waving wands of healing. If that was the case, He would keep us all from pain and suffering and if we go down that road many of us will struggle to find anything good about God (which is why I personally think we get a lot wrong about this spiritual life). It's been a season in my faith of pulling up and recognizing there is a whole lot more to the story and a lot of it I may not understand this side of heaven.
I digress, but even tho I fear the road ahead, I am so grateful for the time I've had. After walking through my uncle's sudden death with my cousins years ago and recently with one of my close friends, having Dad here with us another year in the state he's been in is such a gift and for that I'm truly grateful.
I've also realized how alone we are not. So many of you have expressed concern, offered thoughts and prayers. My husband and kids have been so understanding of my need to be out there - encouraging me to go. And I'm grateful for an employer that has literally told me to go do what I need to do.
We don't know what the next year will hold - but I know there will be learning. And when I think about the legacy my father has and will leave - that seems pretty fitting. ;)