I Became A Better Person The Day My Father Died

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Photo Credit:  Maxpixel

Do you have a moment in your life when everything came to a screeching halt and life as you knew it changed instantly?  I do.  It was January 17, 2016  in the wee hours of the morning.  I watched my father take his final breath and leave this place we call earth.  This moment has played over and over in my mind.  If I close my eyes tight enough I can still feel his protective grip as we held hands one last time. Regardless of how old I was, or how sick my father became, the strength of my father’s hands symbolized a sense of security, power and protection for me.  I studied his hands that night knowing I would never see them or him again.  I can still feel the agony of my heart shattering as I watched him leave his earthly body and ascend to Heaven.

My Dad was sick for seven long years, the last four years of his life he was housebound barely surviving.  His pain management was a failed attempt by doctors to give him some sort of quality of life.  Many times I would walk into the room to find him screaming in pain, begging God for mercy.  My heart still breaks when I think of this memory and my eyes begin to flood with tears.

For four long years my father was unable to eat a morsel of food or drink an ounce of liquid – he survived on a peg tube inserted in his stomach.  I vividly remember my father’s strong hands trembling in pain, his body becoming weak and frail.  I’m still angry that my father had to suffer endlessly.  There is no reason for anyone to suffer from life changing illnesses, there is no reason for anyone to suffer period.  As I watched my father deteriorate before my eyes, I felt robbed of things that seemed so basic.  Family meals, going out to dinner, and eventually just a simple conversation became too cumbersome for my father.  Life can be so unfair sometimes.  Until a basic human need is ripped away from a loved one and there is nothing you can do to help them it’s difficult to imagine how precious life is, how valuable your health is.  You begin to see how trivial some things are.  The problems you had pre illness now seem laughable and manageable.

I was given front row seats to watch cancer slowly dismantle my father.  In case you didn’t already know this, cancer is the biggest bitch on the planet.  Like a thief in the night cancer slowly stole pieces of my father until he couldn’t even get out of bed and we had to assist him with the most basic tasks.  I remember helping my father use the restroom during the final days of his life.  He cried and apologized to me, he was horrified that his daughter had to help him use the restroom.  I held back tears and told him that’s what adult children are for and I will love him forever.

Three days later our family sat in the hospital waiting for God to take my father home.  Watching someone you adore die is a life changing experience.  Death is not glamorous like a Hollywood movie.  Death is a life changing experience that annihilates your entire life while shattering your heart into a million pieces.  One minute your loved one is there the next they are gone.  Seven years of horrific pain, praying and pleading with God to save your loved one and then just like that they are gone.

There is nothing that can prepare you for the loss of a person of significance.  Despite my father being so ill I simply could not grasp the enormous feeling of loss immediately following my father’s final breath.  I remember immediately thinking, “No wait, come back! Please! I need you Daddy.”  But it was too late my father was gone after a long valiant battle with cancer.

Grief is not linear.  It ebbs and flows.  Grief is messy, complicated and painful.  Regardless of how horrific someone’s illness is when they are alive, once they are gone, they are gone forever.  I cried more in the days following the loss of my father than I have ever cried in my entire life.  Just when I thought my tears had run out I cried some more.  As I began to walk my grief journey I became comfortable with my wide range of emotions and with the emotions of those around me.

My father’s death has made me a better person—more present, empathetic, and committed to others while trying to have a positive impact on those around me.  A year after my father’s death, with the help of the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders I established the Albert J. Ingrassia Fund.  This is my effort to raise awareness for the countless patients living like my father and for the families so they know they are not alone.  My fiancée and I have decided to donate the flowers from our wedding to patients receiving care at the inpatient oncology and hospice unit at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, NJ.  This is our effort to share our unconditional love with others.

My father was an incredible man.  He was kind, loving and larger than life.  He dedicated his life to his family and as a result led a rich life.  These small efforts are my way of keeping my father’s legacy alive.

I don’t think anything can prepare you for the loss of a parent.  Losing my father was a massive blow, he was not just my father, he was my best friend, he was my person.  I was robbed of the opportunity to watch my father grow old, celebrate milestone birthdays, take him to dinner, and have him walk me down the aisle later this month at my wedding.

I will never stop missing my father, he was my first love and my real life superhero.  As I walk my grief journey I have learned the following:

  1. Never miss an opportunity to say “I love you.”
  2. Don’t waste moments. None of this is monotonous, it all matters.
  3. It’s okay to be less than perfect. When you die the important people that matter only talk about the good.
  4. Strength has very little do with muscle and brawn.  Strength has everything to do with our unique ability to conquer the trials and tribulations that life throws in our path.
  5. A father’s legacy changes the world, one daughter at a time.

My father’s story is far from over. I am the beneficiary of an infinite inheritance of virtue, character and fortitude. I am my father’s living breathing legacy and as long as I have breath in me I will continue to tell his story.

What lessons have you learned as you walk your grief journey? Please share in the comments section.

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To My Father As I Plan My Wedding

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Photo Credit:  Pixabay

I am missing you with a new painful sting these days.

I miss calling you and discussing my wedding plans, I miss your advice, I miss laughing with you.  You have only been gone for a year, but my grief has blindsided me since my engagement last month.

I really miss being your daughter as I plan my wedding day.

I’m just a few weeks into planning the best day of my life and I feel like you died all over again.  Lately, I find myself constantly telling strangers that you are deceased, sending me crashing into those ferocious waves of grief.

Fathers are such a significant part of a bride’s wedding day.

From the flower that I am supposed to pin on your tux to our father daughter dance. Every single time I tell someone that you will not be attending they respond with a sad face and offer condolences shattering my heart all over again.

We want this to be a celebration of love and we are trying to weave you into our wedding day in various ways.  But it’s not the same, and boy oh boy does it hurt.  They sell memorial pins and I can hang a photo of you on my bouquet.  Some magazines tell fatherless brides to reserve a chair in your memory or light a candle for you.  All agonizing reminders that that I will be a fatherless bride.

How can the happiest day of my life also be one of the most painful days of my life?

I proudly wear your wedding ring on my neck every single day, I wore it the day I found my gown. It took all my strength not to burst into tears when I “said yes to the dress”, knowing that you will not be there to walk me down the aisle, dance with me or give one of your memorable speeches.

Your wedding ring hanging next to my heart is another cruel reminder that you are no longer here.

Three days before you died I sat with you in the hospital and cried harder than I ever cried. I told you how terrified I was to lose you.  I begged you to stay because you couldn’t miss my wedding, I needed you in my life, forever preferably.  It sounds so selfish, because you were in so much pain, but I didn’t want to let go.  The fear of losing you was an agonizing gut wrenching pain.  With tears in your eyes you smiled, held my hand and promised me you would be there.

It has been so heartbreaking and lonely with you gone but I want you to know that I am not alone any more. The day Ronen proposed he officially became my family and each day we are building a future together.

Dad, you will always be my first love, my forever hero.

Thank you for loving me, supporting me and guiding me. Thank you for every compliment you gave mom, because from you, I’ve learned what it truly means to unconditionally love your spouse.

A girl’s first true love is her father.
—Marisol Santiago

 

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What Grieving Loved Ones Need During The Holidays

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Photo Credit:  Pinterest

The imminent holiday season has amplified my loss.  Christmas carols that once symbolized holiday cheer now sound like nails on a chalk board. The thought of writing holiday cards now seem like an exhausting task.  This year rather than searching for the perfect comfy blanket for my Dad as he watches TV, we ordered a him a grave blanket.  Nothing feels right.  My holiday cheer is quickly fading into holiday fear.  I am not the same person I was last holiday season.  My heart is heavy as stare at my father’s empty chair and remember what was.

I already am finding myself saying no, no, no rather than ho, ho, ho.

Grieving my Dad is a colossal emotional storm.  Since my Dad died in January, there have been highs, lows and valleys.  To simply say, “I miss my Dad” is a massive understatement.  I did not just lose a father; I lost my best friend, my hero, the person I went to for everything.  Not a day goes by that I do not miss him and wish that I could hear his voice one more time, hug him one more time or tell him I love him just one more time.

I consider myself fortunate to have spent such an abundant amount of time by my father’s side.  I enjoyed his company and valued his advice. Since I was a little girl my Dad would tell me, “You’re my best friend.”  So much that when I went for a reading this past September the first thing the medium said was, “Your Dad is telling me you are his best friend.”

My Dad spent the final week of his life in a hospital next door to my office. Every single morning before work, sometimes as early as 6:30 AM I would sneak into my father’s hospital room.  Many times I would just stand there and count his breaths as tears rolled down my cheeks.

During one of my final visits I desperately wanted to crawl into bed next to him and hold on tight.  I needed to hug my Dad but there were just so many tubes with no beginning or end.  So I did what any normal 40 year old woman would do.  I held my breath, pushed the tubes aside and tried to squeeze next to my Dad.   Within seconds my father was awake, machines were hissing at us and I’m not quite sure if he was amused or annoyed.  Let’s be realistic who wants to be abruptly woken up by their grown daughter practically pushing them out of an already uncomfortable hospital bed.  Despite all that, he smiled and whispered, “Lisa honey what are you doing, please stop before you hurt yourself.”

In the middle of beeping machines and endless tubes we smiled, giggled and then cried. Between tears and the unbearable pain of my heart shattering, I mumbled, “Dad, can I please lay with you?”  And what do you think he said?  He smiled, and said, “Please no, you’re too big get a chair.” 

Together we laughed, I quickly grabbed a chair and held onto my father’s hand as I cried endless tears.  I didn’t want to let go, I didn’t want to forget the powerful, comforting grip my Dad had as he guided me throughout my life. I cried harder than I ever cried that morning.  Well….I cried until my Dad told me to stop getting his hand and sheets wet with my tears.  And then I giggled again.

That was my Dad.  

Even during a gut wrenching, heart breaking moment he managed to put a smile on my face.  He was and always will be my light in the darkness. He was not just my father, he was my best friend.

I will never stop missing my Dad.  

I am eternally grateful for the people who continue to support me throughout this grief journey.  Sometimes words help, and sometimes words are not needed.  Sometimes there is a power in silence, in just being there.

Friends…this holidays season more than ever, please come and sit with our family. Please continue to be there for us, to witness the pain and hold our hands as we navigate our ebb and flow of grief.

Sometimes, just being there is greatest gift you can give as we grieve a person of significance.

Your First Birthday In Heaven

 

Dear Dad,

August 21st was your first birthday in heaven.  Unlike the other special days that have gone by since you passed, this one hurt like hell. I woke up the morning of your birthday positive my heart was shattered in a million pieces.

This was your first birthday not here, your first birthday in my ENTIRE LIFE I didn’t spend watching you blow out candles. Even when you were at your worst, suffering, unable to eat you ALWAYS blew out your candles and made a wish.  This year there were no candles to blow out.  No clapping after they were blown out.  No searching for the perfect cards and gift.  This year there were only the sounds of my heart breaking into a million pieces.

We used to honor and celebrate you on this day and last week I couldn’t even bring myself to go to the cemetery.  The thought of going to the cemetery on your birthday made me physically ill.   I didn’t want to look at your headstone glistening in the sun.  I didn’t want to talk to the dirt and leave you flowers and balloons.

I searched high and low for the appropriate present for you, now that you are you know, dead.  But I was at a loss.  Lord & Taylor was having a sale on Men’s shirts.  Linens & Things had an extra 20% off for back to school.  Even Macy’s was having a sale.  But nothing for the Dad up in heaven.  I never brought you flowers while you were alive and now here we are seven months later and it’s flowers galore and whatever else I can leave at your grave to not to get destroyed from the elements.

I spent the day mourning your absence, really missing you.  Nothing is the same now that you gone.

I hope that you had an awesome birthday up in heaven.  I hope you were finally able to eat that piece of cake and wash it down with that big cup of coffee.  I hope God had a camera  on your birthday and He took a photo of you so we can see you eating again.  My rational mind knows that you are at peace, but my heart aches that you died unable to eat.

Seven months since you have passed and I miss you more now than the day we lost you.  I find myself looking for your magnetic qualities in people.  I look for your warmth, radiance and compassion.  I search for your sense of humor, and your unbelievable strength of character.  I look for your face in the crowd, I listen for your voice in the middle of the night.  So many things will never be the same.  You were a one of a kind father and you are irreplaceable.

I miss you Dad.

Your absence was magnified on your birthday.  I know you can hear me, and I’m trying my best not to be sad.  But some days are tough. Whenever I ask you for a sign that you are okay you always send me a beautiful white feather. On your birthday you made sure to send me a fluffy white feather. That’s so like you to give me a gift on your special day.

I want to thank you for all you have done and continue to do for me.  You taught me to be strong, to have courage and to have faith.  Dad, you taught me to love with all my heart, no matter what and to always be truthful.  You taught me to be passionate and fearless regardless of what others thought. During one of our last conversations you told me to be kind and trust in the Lord.

Although you are no longer here  in physical form, you live forever in my heart.  You are constantly showing me that love never dies.

On your birthday and each day I honor you.  I honor your faith and strength.  I honor your love and commitment.   Together, with Mom, you both taught me the meaning of true love and what it is to be a parent.  On your birthday I lit a candle and thanked you for always being my hero and showing me what true unconditional love is.

Happy Belated Birthday Daddy!  I love and miss you!

Love You Forever,

Lisa Mia XO

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Finding Hope In Nature’s Signs

When someone you love dies you receive all sorts of advice from supportive individuals.  The first couple of days are a complete fog and you’re lucky if you can just get out of bed.  I had a difficult time speaking and just being around others.  I was so tired, I felt like a piece of me died.  I remember sitting in the funeral home helping my Mom with the arrangements and thinking the funeral director sounded like the Charlie Brown teacher at one point.  I began to quietly think to myself,  “Is this real life? Am I REALLY here?” Then I began to think, “I’m fatherless now.”  It was as if I was standing on the edge of a cliff looking into total darkness.  It was absolutely terrifying.

The death of a beloved is an amputation.
—C. S. Lewis

The death of a loved one is painful and confusing.  Mourning someone you love shocks your spirit and shatters your heart.  You feel a new hole or a void inside your heart that the deceased once occupied.  There are moments when you can actually hear your heart breaking into a million pieces. As you allow yourself to grieve and experience the ebb and sorrows of your grief, you will begin to see signs and realize that love never dies.

A few of my friends who have already walked this path immediately told me to “pay attention to nature.”  For the past six months I have been paying attention to nature.  In the beginning I honestly had no clue what I was supposed to be looking at.  My Dad died in January, so there really isn’t much nature running around in New Jersey.  But like most people when a loved one dies you become desperate to know if they are at peace, and for me that means are you eating again and what does heaven look like? 

Two days after we buried my Dad a feather fell from my bedroom ceiling.  Yes you read that right, a fluffy white feather fell from my bedroom ceiling.  I quickly did a perimeter check just in case.  Perhaps a bird was trapped in the ceiling, or we had something with down feathers hanging around.  But I’m allergic to down and there are no birds trapped in my ceiling.  Since then I have found enough feathers to build my own angel wings and visit heaven.  I save all my feathers in a mason jar on my nightstand to remind me that my father is at peace and that heaven is for real.  If I stare long enough, it looks like the feathers are dancing in the mason jar, waiving to me.

My first visit to the cemetery shortly after my father passed was terrifying.  The first blizzard of the season left us knee deep in snow, with a blast of frigid arctic temperatures.  But I NEEDED to go, I felt something tugging at me to go.  As I slowly made my way to my father’s snow covered grave I noticed a cat walking out of the wooded area from behind the headstones.  He made his way up to our family headstone and sat with me the entire visit..in the snow.  Tilting his head and meowing as I sobbed, carefully watching my every move.  As we slowly drove away, he stood tall observing, meowing .  Maybe he was a graveyard cat enduring arctic temperatures, maybe he was sent to comfort me during my first visit.  However that cat ended up at the cemetery, he was comforting during a very difficult time, and I will never forget his presence.   I made sure to snap his photo as we drove off.

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“Pay Attention to Nature”

Fast forward to six months after my Dad’s passing.  My signs are becoming stronger and distinct.  My dreams (the ones I can remember) are vivid.  My questions are always the same, “Are you eating again?” and “What is it like up there?” 

I am constantly observing my surroundings for signs from my Dad.  With each sign my Dad sends my way, I check for authenticity. (Sorry Dad, but you always taught me to be alert)  Each time I check for authenticity he sends another sign.  Each sign leaves me scratching my head and saying, “OMG is this real life?”  It’s like we are playing a game now, and anyone who knew my Dad knew he had a zest for life and loved a good game.  To say he was competitive is a massive understatement.

My latest blog post somehow connected me with Lisa Scrivens. I’m humbled and honored that somehow on the great big internet she found my little story.  I’m excited, anxious and nervous for our appointment in September.  I wrote my last post like I always do, to share my journey.  Writing is my feeble attempt to somehow come to grips with losing my Dad.  I never in a million years expected it to result in an appointment with someone as respected as Lisa Scrivens.  I truly believe my Dad had something to do with that. 

Following my email conversation with Lisa, I asked my Dad for guidance as I was sitting in my car. I asked him if I should speak with Lisa.   And of course I ended it with, “Are you eating again.”  Please understand, I’m human and skeptical as I walk this grief journey!  As I was bombarding him with questions I noticed a black bird flying, but kinda lingering in my eye’s view with a cookie in his mouth.  I tried to make eye contact with the bird, but I was driving and he was flying and that’s a recipe for disaster, as well as a little strange.  I simply continued my drive, now with tears rolling down my cheeks.

This could be a coincidence, maybe someone gave the bird a big cookie, or maybe just maybe it’s another sign from my Dad.  I’m going to believe that it’s a sign from my Dad.

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Photo Credit:  Pinterest

 

Heaven Now Has Cellular Service

IMG_2605My dead father called me this weekend. Yes, my dead father called me on my cell phone this weekend. He called my cell phone Saturday evening at exactly 7:01 PM.

Wait, what?

This is the part where some readers throw their hands up and say, “This poor woman has obviously lost her marbles while grieving her Dad.” Before you write me off, I have proof that my Dad called me this weekend.

When someone you love dies you lose pieces of them as time passes. Immediately the daily phone calls stop but little by little their scent fades from clothing, slowly their mail stops, and very, very slowly you stop looking for them in their favorite comfy chair. Gradually you accumulate significant pieces of them that are now gone, and accept that this is your new normal. You have moments when you are overwhelmed with the feeling that they are gone forever. Each new day brings a painful reminder of what was.

When my father was alive I had hope, I made it my mission to find someone who could help him. Someone who could restore his ability to eat again. ANYONE. I refused to accept that he would die yearning to eat. I wanted to believe that he would have just one more meal, one more drink with the family. Watching my father spend the final four years of his life surviving on a peg tube was my own personal hell. Towards the end of my father’s life I had a very difficult time being around an abundance of food; it was a painful reminder of what was taken from my Dad. I wanted my father’s ability to eat restored more than anything in the world. I prayed harder than I ever prayed, I begged and I searched the internet to find “the one.” I did all the things a good Catholic girl does when she prays for something, including not walking on sidewalk cracks. Sadly, I never found “the one” and my father died unable to eat or drink. This is something that has burned a hole in my heart and haunts me. I find myself lying awake at night thinking, “Why my father.”

This weekend was the six month anniversary of my Dad’s passing. I am amazed how six months can fly by, yet feel like an eternity. As the weekend progressed my anxiety began to build. The pain in my chest suddenly overpowering. The tears unstoppable. I found myself standing in my bathroom holding onto the counter while navigating the ebb and sorrow of my grief. I asked my father for a sign. Actually, I begged him for a sign, anything just please let me know you are eating again.

I asked for this sign, knowing full well that my Dad has been showing me signs since the moment he passed. He sends me beautiful fluffy white feathers, he speaks to me through music, he has blown out a few dozen light bulbs. He is constantly sending me signs. But like most humans, I’m greedy and I want solid confirmation that he is eating again. I really don’t know what I expected. Suddenly I was having a stare down with the bathroom light. I strangely resembled “Firestarter” staring into the light, like I expected it to blow up or something.

And then it happened.

My cell phone began to ring.

At first I was annoyed because I was preoccupied staring at the bathroom light waiting for my sign.  When I realized the light won our staring contest, I looked at my phone and then my IPAD (they are in synch)and saw “Dad.” I did what any “normal” human would do, I froze. I wasn’t afraid, I was shocked. I stared at the screen wide-eyed in disbelief. Right before my eyes were the letters “D-A-D” followed by his picture. I fumbled and quickly took a screenshot, because let’s be real no one is going to believe that my Dad has wireless service in heaven. I mean I can barely get service in my local grocery store, so this is amazing.

When I pressed accept he didn’t answer, but I quietly whispered, “I love you more Dad.”

I miss my Dad every single day, especially when the days takes me further and further from the last day I saw him, as I slowly begin to forget the sound of his voice, the sound of his laugh or his scent. Even in death my Dad is still my hero.  He finds ways to remind me that no matter what, he’s still with me, guiding and protecting me.

I love you Dad, this is not good-bye, this is only farewell.

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My First Father’s Day without my Dad

IMG_3376One of my father’s greatest gifts was his ability to love others unconditionally, flaws and all.  When I would complain to him about my perception of one’s ignorance he would always smile and say, “Lisa honey ignore them.  Be happy.” 

If you Google “First Father’s Day without Dad” you will instantly become inundated with post after post.  It’s only May and I’m feeling the anxiety building up for my very own first father’s day without my Dad.  I’ve been living on Advil and feeling sick to my stomach at the thought of it.  There are no words to describe the heartache I’m feeling and how much I miss my father.

As a little girl I would rush into my parents bedroom Father’s Day morning with my best attempt at serving breakfast in bed screaming, “Happy Father’s Day Daddy!  My Dad is so rad!!!”  Maybe not the best poem, but hey I was a kid.  One particular Father’s Day I tripped onto their bed, spilled the entire bowl of Cheerios on both my parents, milk and all.  I can still hear my father laughing and thanking me for thinking of him.

You simply cannot escape the Father’s Day madness.  The other day I took a massive detour in the grocery store to avoid walking past the overwhelming, obnoxious Father’s Day display of greeting cards. Bad enough the music they play now makes me cry at the drop of a hat.  I refuse to walk past the greeting card aisle until Father’s Day is long gone.  As if all that isn’t bad enough there’s the never ending Father’s Day advertising.

Buy Dad a grill set this Father’s Day!  

Bring home a delicious ice cream cake for Dad this Father’s Day!

Take Dad out for a big juicy steak this Father’s Day!

Pretty much every single Father’s Day advertisement revolves around food.  Way before I began grieving the death of my father, I was grieving the loss of his ability to eat. Our family became quite creative each holiday.  We proudly pounded our chests and exclaimed, “We do not need to revolve our holidays around food!”  Despite all this, a small piece of me was envious of the endless social media posts proudly displaying other families enjoying a mouth watering Father’s Day meal.  I wanted so badly to take my father to a restaurant for his favorite meal and raise my glass to my father on his special day.

My normal routine leading up to Father’s Day would start with me asking my father the following, “Dad what do you want this year?” Like many Dads he would respond, “You, your sister and your mother are my gifts, just be happy.”   I would then drive myself crazy finding him the perfect set of pajamas, perhaps something personalized for him, something to remind him just how much I adored him.  I would mail him at least 3 cards.  A funny card, a mushy sentimental card and another card because I could never make my mind up. 

This year the will be no searching for the perfect gift, no quest for the perfect card, no beating myself up thinking of something non food related to make my father smile.  My father died after a long, valiant battle with Stage IV base of the tongue cancer.  My only purchase will be some nice flowers and candles to put on his grave.

Just four months ago, I watched my father, the most wonderful man I know die.  First, cancer stole his ability to eat.  Slowly he lost so much weight that you could count his ribs.  Then he could no longer use the restroom on his own or get out of bed on his own.  During the final days of his life he was so weak he couldn’t even lift his hand to press the button on the remote control for the television.   Eventually my father’s voice became so gurgly it was a challenge to understand what he was trying to tell us.  Bit by bit cancer was ripping my father apart and I had a front row seat. 

Now all I’m left with are a lifetime of beautiful memories that send me into a tailspin of anxiety, depression, endless tears and a broken heart.   If you’re reading this and your father is alive promise me you will hug your father this Father’s Day and take him out to dinner.  Promise me you if you were blessed like me you will thank your father for a wonderful life.

If you’re like me, and you have lost a father whom you love and adore let’s embrace Father’s Day with gratitude and courage.  Let’s celebrate the our father’s memory and courage.  Countless individuals walk through life never experiencing unconditional fatherly love, to them Father’s Day represents a massive void.   There are many who will never know the love of a father.  When I think of this, I realize that I have been blessed with a magnificent man for a father.  

My father has always been my hero, the man who loved me unconditionally and made everything better. Even in death, he continues to show me he is always there for me.  This Father’s Day I will do something to honor my father.  Maybe I’ll release balloons, plant a tree, pay it forward.  I haven’t decided yet, but I will do something to make my new guardian angel proud and smile.

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Happy Father’s Day in heaven Daddy, I love you more.

When Cancer Forces You to Say Goodbye

 

Papa & Kayla 2015

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Respect the dying person’s wishes – My Dad had all his senses, HE was in charge.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 

 

My Ode To Cancer

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Grief is the price we pay for love. Where there is great love there is great grief.

No one wanted to live more than my Dad.  He fought like a true warrior.  He wanted to sit on the floor and play with his grandbabies, go on vacations with my mom, and watch us experience all our wonderful milestones in life.   Like so many others, he was ripped off.  Cancer stole precious moments from us, cancer slowly ripped my father apart and forced us to watch a gruesome battle.  Cancer stole my mother’s soul mate, robbed her and my father of their golden years, cancer stole my hero, my father, my biggest fan in life.  Cancer robbed my nieces of the greatest papa ever.  But cancer isn’t all bad.  Cancer also made sure I told my father how much I loved him every single day.  Cancer made sure I left notes behind in my parents home after a visit, cancer made sure I sent flowers and texted my father with a simple, “I love you Daddy.” Not a day went by that I did not call him, not a week passed that I did not visit.  Sometimes I would call so much he would laugh and say “what do you want now, you just called!”  Cancer made sure I thanked my mother for being my father’s caregiver, and keeping him alive.  Cancer made me realize my mother was not just my mother but an angel on earth breathing life into my father each day.  Cancer forced me to take hundreds of “hospital selfies” with my Dad to make sure we could document his brave battle.  Cancer forced me to keep a journal of his 7 year journey, and now write this blog.  Cancer taught me to take nothing for granted and never, ever go to bed angry.  Cancer has opened my eyes to how precious life is.  Cancer reinforced our relationship with God.  So Cancer, you may have won the battle but we won the war because our love is infinite.