Actually 3 things in life that are certain; life, death and taxes. But, this blog is about the first two (and most important…unless you have to pay taxes after you leave this temporary home. However I don’t think God is a tax collector).
When born we come into this life by ourselves. We have our parents and/or loved ones with us cheering us on and supporting the delivery and are totally elated when we are welcomed to this world. Likewise, when we die, with our loved ones hopefully around us, we leave here alone.
In my lifetime thus far, I as well as many others, have lost loved ones. When we’re young, it’s rare to hear of a death of a close friend or a family member. But, with age, more than not, we hear of them more and more.
I have been truly blessed to have known and loved the special people in my life that have passed on. Shared many memories with them and am forever grateful for the time we had. Two of those people were both my parents. It does not matter how old we are when both parents die, we suddenly feel as orphans do. Not having the option of going to visit or picking up the phone to ask them of their sage advice and loving comforting words.
My dad died in 1997 after an 18 month battle with colon cancer. He was 76 years old when diagnosed with it and was a very strong-willed man. He was in the Navy as a highly ranked officer in both WWII and the Korean War, graduated from Colgate University in engineering all the while in the 50 loving years he was married to my mom. He did that for his country and his family. My mom was a stay-at-home mom with 3 kids. Me, being the youngest and was alone much of their early years because of his hard work, but that never drove them apart. They were a team and it brought them closer together
When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, my family (two siblings and mom) were scared. With good reason. His tumor had grown largely in a short amount of time. The surgeons expected to do a 2 hour surgery to remove what they thought was a medium sized one, but what they found was a lot more than that. All in all his surgery lasted many hours. The minute they opened him up, the cancer had spread all over. Even to his brain stem and all important organs. They removed all that they could including a large part of his intestines, his pancreas, and part of liver and left the rest for him to have a 50/50 fighting chance to beat the cancer.
For 18 months, he went through chemo and radiation treatments that made him very sick and weak. I would visit him and mom often and Dad and I shared the best 18 months of his life together. We’d hold hands, he called me his “sunshine” and the once stern man I knew while growing up had become the real man that he was inside. A very deeply loving man who was always proud of us and taught us all how to be fighters. We’d laugh while sitting on their back porch and tell each other “I love you” often.
He went into remission in January of 1997 and we were all so hopeful. He even told the nurses that he was going to be back up on the ski slopes in no time. He was. Skiing was one of his favorite things to do in life.
One month later, his Dr. had told him that he needed another heart valve bypass which he had done in 1983. We all knew what that meant. Another tough, long battle and more serious surgery. He had gone through enough and we all didn’t want to see him go through any more pain. So after accepting the outcome, we let Dad know that it was okay. He had fought a long battle and we loved him enough to say that it was okay for him not to go through any more.
Once he knew that, he gave in and within one month, grew very weak and was in the dying process. I had bought him a picture of Jesus hugging a man that came Home. I held his hand and asked him if we could pray together. He shook his head yes as I prayed out loud the Lord’s Prayer. We all were in tears but good tears because we knew he would soon be at peace.
On March 5th, 1997 on a Wednesday morning, my mom called me early and told me she thought it was time and I knew what she meant. So I drove over there as quickly as I could. I had been in nursing in the 80’s and saw the signs that dad was indeed leaving us that day.
I will never forget him laying in bed, looking out the window and asking me “what day is it today?” and I answered “March 5th, Daddy” and he shook his head as if to say this was as good a day to go Home as any other. He kept looking at the picture I bought him and I could tell he knew that that man in the picture with Jesus was going to be him very soon. It gave him peace. He waited until I left the room for a minute and it was just he and my mom together as he passed.
My brother and my dad were very close. He had got the call that morning, too, that dad was not in good shape. My brother lives up in the mountains so it took him awhile to drive down to see him. By the time my brother had gotten to my parent’s home, dad was already gone. The funeral home people were putting him in the hearse and I told them “Oh! Please wait. That’s my brother and he may want to say his own good-bye”. So they did and my brother got to see my dad and all that time that morning, I did not cry because I knew my dad’s pain was over. But when my brother saw my dad, he looked up into the sky with tears and I broke down then as I watched through the front window. I felt and saw my brother’s pain.
I remembered watching people driving to work, doing their daily routines and wondering why. It didn’t seem fair that everyone still lived on as normal after our world had just stopped.
My mom was so strong. Myself or my brother were with her for the next 5 years as was her companion, Dee Dee, who would come and take mom to the store and Dr’s appointments when we couldn’t. She overcame breast cancer, tuberculosis and finally wanted her own life. She wanted to move out of the house she shared with dad and into a really nice assisted living home. She was excited for the first time to meet new people and socialize as she always did. Mom had always prayed that God would take her quickly when it was time and 3 months after she had moved into her new place and liking it, she died of a sudden heart attack while in the shower. I got the phone call from her companion Dee Dee telling me that we had just lost mom. At first I said “No! There’s no way mom died, Dee Dee. I just talked to her on the phone yesterday for 2 hours and had thee greatest talk in years as if I was 16 all over again. So, you’re wrong,. She’s fine”. But, Dee Dee explained to me what had happened and as she did, I dropped to my knees with the phone in my hand listening but not comprehending a word she said. NOT MY MOM, God…..please. Not my Mom. She was the glue that kept us all together. She radiated around people and loved big family gatherings. She taught us love and how to love one another, help others in need and her (and my dad’s) love in music. She had a beautiful voice, as my dad who taught me how to dance at a young age of 4 by putting me on his feet and shoes and dancing with me. My dad made my first skis out of an ugly, grey wood with old cables on them and would put me between his legs and we’d snow plow down the bunny hill together.
They have been gone for years now but their words remain in my heart and what they taught me. Since then, I’ve lost a great friend to cancer who was a giant in most people’s eyes and little by little, more friends join them all.
In the movie “Captain Phillips” played by Tom Hanks, based on a true story, he played an awesome role as a captain of a fishing boat that got taken over by pirates. In the end of the movie, he was sure that this was his end and he cried out loud to his wife, his kids, his parents telling him that he loved them so much and he was sorry for everything he had ever done. Thankfully, he was allowed to survive, but in those tense, very emotional last moments, it was real and we could all relate.. All of those that have lost.
“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.”–Hubert Humphrey
“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.”—John Lennon
“The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.”
“I know the cancer has not affected his heart or feelings for others. No matter who wins this particular bout, he is still and will always be the great Steve Williams to me”—Coach Barry Switzer University of Oklahoma.
“Beginnings are usually scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s what’s in the middle that counts. So when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will.” -Hope Floats
― Steven Rogers, Hope Floats: The Screenplay
Life is short. Be kind to all because we never know when it is our last moment here.