The Power of Presence
It was a typical Sunday night when, looking up from my books, I heard a loud thud, followed by groans from the room next door. Running in I found my dad unconscious on the floor, his body violently shaking. I called 911, terrified as the ambulance rushed him to the hospital. As we waited for his test results, I held his trembling hand; he had no one but me. I had to be strong for my dad, but then the doctor uttered three words that would change our lives forever: eight brain tumors.
My heart plummeted. My thoughts began to spiral. How could this be? I took a breath and looked at my dad. He was trying hard not to cry in front of me. He was trying to hold it together. We both were.
I left the room to call somebody. Anybody. But I didn’t know who. My sisters were at college, my aunt was 2,835 miles away, and my parents were bitter divorcees. At that moment, my dad and I switched positions. My next steps were unclear, but I knew I had to take them to move forward. I couldn’t control whether my dad would survive, the speed of his recovery, or the future. But I could channel my energy into the one thing I could control: being there for my dad. As the youngest daughter in my family, my dad had always doted on me. We never had much money to go around, but he always made sure to grab a Cherry Dum Dum for me from the front desk. This time, it was my turn.
Over the next year, I spent my weekends and evenings by my dad’s bedside as he endured grueling chemotherapy. When he had energy, we’d eat dinner and watch the news; it was never particularly interesting, but what mattered was that we watched together. I chose the mystery meat on a plastic tray with my dad over Chipotle at the mall with friends. And when he slept, I plunked my textbooks down onto his bedside table and got to work. I refused to fall behind.
But as he battled brain cancer in the hospital, I fought my own internal battles. While my French teacher taught le plus-que-parfait, I contemplated whether my dad would walk my older sister down the aisle. While my calculus teacher solved logarithmic functions, I wondered if my dad would see me cross the stage at graduation. The uncertainty of my future frightened me; I had so many unanswerable questions.
One day, my mind swirling on my way to see my dad, I was surprised by a nurse who stopped me and said: “Most patients don’t get any visitors. No family, no friends, no one. Your dad’s lucky to have you. That’s why he’s recovering faster than expected.” Her statement caught me off guard, but in that moment, I felt relief wash over me and choked back my tears. I’m an innate problem-solver, someone who always wants to find a solution, but I understood then that there won’t always be a solution. I couldn’t magically cure my dad, but I’d helped him more than I knew.
Now two years later, my dad is thankfully in remission. He is still not fully well and remains unable to work. Though the future is unpredictable, I know one thing for certain. I now recognize and understand the power of being present in another person’s life. People aren’t looking for miracles; they’re looking for someone to take the time to show they care. And I have the power to be that person, not just for my family and friends, but for the very strangers I pass by on the street. I cannot control what the universe throws at me, but I can control how I respond, continuing my journey forward, out of the darkness and into the light.