Fifteen seems like forever ago. I was young, learning, yet thought I knew everything. Thinking back on that time, it was such a horrible loss for someone so young.
Shortly after starting my sophomore year of high school, my dad discovered that he had colon cancer. The very same week, my mom found out she was expecting. A roller coaster of emotions ensued. The diagnosis for my dad came with a grim prognosis. Thirty five was a young age to be given six months to live. After hearing something like this, how do you respond to finding out you are going to have a child?
My Dad was an amazing man. He was a minister that cared deeply for his congregation. He loved his wife and children and would do anything in the world for them. Dad struggled with what to do. The cancer was already at stage four and had spread to his lymph nodes, liver, and lungs. He couldn't just give up. He had to fight, but how, and where? We lived in South Dakota. The best options for treatment were far away, but what if they did not work? Would he spend his last time on earth away from what he loved most? I can not imagine how he dealt with all of this. By this time in my life, I had a sister who was thirteen, and a brother who was just under two years old. My mom soon discovered she was having a girl. Everyone reacted differently. I was a daddy's girl. I wanted all the time I could get with my dad. He did chose to fight and traveled to several locations for treatment, including Minnesota, Nebraska, and Texas. As time went on, it became apparent that he would not survive. He made the decision to stay home and start chemotherapy. Many gracious people donated money to our family to help us purchase a home. My dad spent the last year of his life remodeling the home. I worked with him as often as I could. He taught me everything he could about the Bible and life. We would spend hours talking. I knew in my hear that he would pass away. I even told him so a few times. Even though I was only fifteen, dad taught me how to drive. We had so much fun. I had a paper route, and most mornings, dad would take me and my sister to get donuts before school. He decided to write a journal to document his journey and to have last words for his family. He was very strong. He lived to see his daughter born, and the first six months of her life. He continued to preach in church every Sunday, even when he was so sick, he could no longer stand. In fact, a church member passed away close to the end of his life and he was at the hospital with the family, helping them in their time of grief. Dad knew his time was short. When reading his journal, we discovered that he predicted his own death. He lived to celebrate Christmas with us, but passed away on New Years Eve 1999. It is a day that I will never forget. He was only in a hospital bed with hospice care for around two weeks. He was very far gone and difficult to talk to. I know he was in much pain. I came home from the paper route one morning and sat next to his bed. To my surprise, he called my name. I said hello, and we had a short conversation. This was the last time I had a real conversation with my dad. The next morning, I woke up to several people in my home. When I came downstairs, I was told that dad was very sick and would probably not make it through the day. I know I did not really understand what was going on. My sister was taken out of the house by some friends. I had told my dad I wanted to stay with him in the end. It came my time to say goodbye. He was in a coma at this point. I stood by his side. I had no idea what to say. The only thing I could think of was, "I love you dad." As I started to walk away, I slid my hand down his arm and to his hand. Suddenly, my dad grabbed my hand. I was shocked. Looking back, I think this was his way of telling me he heard me, and was saying goodbye. Several minutes passed. The hospice nurse said that if wanted to be with him in the end, now was the time. I froze in my chair at the table. I knew I said I wanted to be there, but nothing in me would allow me to move. I just could not go into the room. A few minutes later, mom came out and let us know that he had passed away. I started to cry. Everything just let lose in me. I remember music was playing on the computer behind me. As my crying began to calm, I focused on the words of the song. "For the Glory of You Name" is what I heard. It was like God was telling me that He would be glorified in this. I don't remember much else from that day. I was terrified of going to sleep that night. For several weeks, I had to have someone sleep in the room with me. Many people came to support our family. Many could not understand how or why, but I chose to play the piano for my dads funeral. I made it almost all the way through up until the very last song. Dad had requested that the song "Un-cloudy Day" be sung. I remember the trip to the grave yard and the beautiful flowers on his coffin. I took a clip of baby white roses with me and they became my favorite flower from then on. I am now thirty two years old. Thinking about my dad being thirty six when he passed and how I am close to that now; I can not even imagine how he did it. I am scared for my life. I have seven children, and I do not want them to grow up without one parent. I am screened regularly for cancer, and just this year, a polyp was found, removed, and discovered to be pre-cancerous. I will trust God to protect me, and continue the regular testing. My dad was an amazing role model, and I will never forget everything he taught me. The strength and perseverance he had during his last year has forever inspired me to never give up, to trust in the Lord always, and to live life to the fullest! I hope his story will inspire others to do the same. I hope to one day share my dads journal and the story of his life.