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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why Cancer Never Wins

I always thought about "Dad's fight with cancer." And oh how he battled it; both physically and emotionally. He had the most amazing positive attitude, all the way to the end. I think that was his best weapon in his fight.

In the end, cancer is the reason he died. But I can't bring myself to say he lost his battle with cancer. It's just not true. Cancer has stolen my future joys with my dad, but there are so many things his cancer could never touch.

Cancer never wins.

Cancer can't steal my memories. It can't undo love.

Cancer can't take away lessons taught, hands held, hugs given, kisses, grins, and thumbs-ups.

Cancer can't steal a spirit, or destroy an attitude.

Cancer can't touch all the imprints of my dad in my life: his traits in his children, the traits in all of his grandkids, the relationship he had with my husband, the way I know something of him will show up when my brother has kids one day.

Cancer can't take away all the amazing ways people have shown their support over the past few days.  It can't erase the sweet emails and messages from Dad's friends and family, sharing their favorite memories, reminding me of funny stories.

Cancer can't undo the way my brother and I stick together, sharing the burden, laughing over Dad's inability to send a talk-to-text message with correctly spelled words.

Cancer never wins. Dad didn't lose this fight.

I realized this because of all the emails, texts, phone calls and facebook messages I've gotten since Dad passed away.  Thank you, friends, so much. Your prayers have given me strength and peace. I never thought I'd make it through saying my final goodbye and going through his things.  Your words of encouragement have brought me comfort. All the favorite shared memories have made me smile. He was loved. We are loved. Thank you. Because of you, cancer didn't win.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dear Dad

I've mentioned my dad in passing a bit on this blog over the years. I haven't posted much about his fight with cancer though because I felt like it wasn't my story to share.  And when I wrote about Dad on my post, Namaste, I had him read it first and asked his permission to share.

But this time this post is for Dad. You see, Dad's been fighting cancer for years. And in between cancer recurrences, he's battled a stroke, a heart-attack, and two major falls (one of which probably should have killed him). His sister calls him the "Cat Man" because it has always seemed as if he truly had 9 lives. I've joked that I didn't even get alarmed anymore when I'd get the call about the latest health issue with Dad, because my tough-as-nails New Englander father would always power through.

Dad passed away yesterday. I actually wrote this the day before he died, two days before I planned to fly up to Boston to bring him home with me so he could spend his final days with us in NC. I had planned to post it before his death. I am so sad I missed my chance. And I haven't changed the wording. Partly because I can't get through reading it again to make any changes.

Dear Dad,

I know we'll have some kind of celebration of life event for you. And I'm sure I'd like to say something at it. But I'm your emotional child; the one who cries at commercials for things like hamburgers. So I'm not sure if it will happen. And I'd rather tell you now what I would want to say on that day anyway.

When I became a parent, I finally understood the joy that comes in watching your kids grow up. I expected that I'd learn what that was like. What I didn't know I would learn was the joy in watching your parents become grandparents. Watching my children fall in love with you has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. The kids think you hung the moon. And seeing you dote on them, play with them, wrestle with them on the floor and get their "sweet meat" like you did to us as kids has filled me with memories that will keep me smiling for a long time. They adore you. You have taught them well what the love of a grandpa looks like. Thank you.

And I love our friendship. It took us forever to get to where we are. I know I wasn't the easiest kid and I think you know you weren't the easiest dad. But we've both gotten healthier and I am so thankful for our relationship now. I know you are proud of me, though I walked a path you wouldn't have chosen for me. I hope you know that your pride means a lot. I've never doubted that you were proud, even when you don't understand my decisions. Thank you.

I joke with my friends that I was so wary of turning into my mom as an adult that I accidentally turned into my dad! From you I learned my work ethic, my desire to make this world a better place, my passion for helping others.  You made me work on the assembly line at your factory when I was a kid and had me help the mentally-challenged adults in the day program that you arranged for them. I had no idea back then that you were teaching me both the value of hard work and the importance of serving others all at the same time. Thank you.

I also joke that the spoon collection you handed down to me is my curse. I can never travel without worrying about finding a souvenir spoon.  But you knew I'd be the child who inherited your love of travel. You let me travel to Germany when I was only sixteen and took me to Mexico and St. Maarten and because of those broad horizons, I've now left pieces of my heart in countries all over the world.  You let me go and instilled in me the belief that I could do it. Thank you.

I could have used a little less of your independence and stubbornness, but I imagine I got those from you too.  So, um, thanks.

I love you, Dad. So much. It is so hard for me to let you go. I had planned on so many more adventures, so many more conversations. The kids will miss your presence so much.  I will miss you.  You will not be forgotten. I see you in my brother, in my kids. One of your grandkids doesn't even share your genes and I see you in him.  You love has cemented your place in their hearts, in their demeanor.  I pray that you go in peace knowing how much you are loved, not just by your family but by the Creator of this whole universe. The one who blessed me with you as a father. God only gives good gifts. I'm thankful you were one of mine, even with our ups and downs, Dad. I mean that.

We don't know how much time we're looking at now, do we? I'm still hoping for months but I know I'm not in charge. It doesn't matter. We love you today, tomorrow and for forever.

Love,
   Kirstin