Losing someone you love is a very painful experience. Watching someone you love valiantly battle cancer is a life changing experience. I watched my father fight Stage IV base of the tongue cancer for 7 years. There are no words to describe how helpless I felt as I watched my father slowly die before my eyes. Something outside of my control was slowly taking my father from me.
One thing that is for sure, no matter how difficult circumstances became throughout my father’s illness I always found a way to express my love for my father. I always entered my father’s room full of hope ready to embrace the day. During each telephone conversation, each visit, I was wearing my battle gear right along side my Dad. We were going to try our best to beat this together, as a family. I made sure to show my deep admiration for my father’s strength and courage with each visit. I was thankful for each moment we shared together, and the possibility of just one more day with my Dad.
My father died knowing how much I loved and adored him, and for that I’m eternally grateful.
Saying goodbye is never easy. Perhaps the fact that my father was sick for so long forced me to open my eyes and realize how precious life is. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. My father’s illness and death are now a part of me. Below are some valuable lessons I learned from my father’s journey.
- Never miss an opportunity to say “I love you” – as cliche as this sounds this should be your number one priority. Not a day went by that I didn’t speak to my Dad and tell him I loved him.
- Share photos and memories – During the last few days of my father’s life I vividly remember sitting next to him browsing old photos, sharing fond memories. We laughed, cried and laughed some more. I had a great childhood and I made sure my Dad knew how grateful I was.
- Respect the dying person’s wishes – My Dad had all his senses, HE was in charge.
- Keep the peace – Listen it’s flat out obnoxious to walk into a dying person’s room and shoot your mouth off. If the immediate family invites you in at the request of the dying person walk in, pay your respects and keep your comments to yourself. Any discord in the environment will add to the load of the dying person. Bickering causes unnecessary distress to the dying person and the immediate family.
- Your actions speak volumes – My Dad and I were the chatterboxes in our family. The night my father was dying I lost my voice. I just sat there holding his hand, praying. For me, at that moment words were not needed.
In honor of my Dad, and countless patients like him it is imperative we take full advantage of the time we have for them and never take it for granted.
Life is a precious gift. Never miss an opportunity to embrace it and express your love.