Too young to remember it all. Too young to hear those life-changing words. Too young to grow up so fast. Too young to need to make everyone happy despite the pain. Too young to watch the Dad I knew and loved have to go through this torture, Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiform brain cancer. Too young to watch the dad I knew and loved have to leave his family behind. Too young to have to say goodbye.
When I was nine, my mom arrived in our minivan to pick up my sister and I from a swim meet. With tears in her eyes, she began to tell us the life-changing news. We rushed to the hospital with tears streaming down our faces. Dad was being prepared for an emergency surgery. The doctor confirmed terminal brain cancer. I may have been young, but I knew what the word terminal meant. It meant there would be an end. Dad was laying in bed with great pain trying to be upbeat and protect us. Trying to make it easier on all of us. Telling us how we will get through this.
For the next few months, my sister Kenzie and I had to grow up with the reality that Dad was going to die. Though we understood, we didn’t want to believe this was real. We both took our own roles. I chose a role in which I tried to keep everyone happy. I went to school, got good grades, went to swim lessons and meets, played soccer, and played board games with Dad every night. Having to adapt the rules as Dad’s cancer advanced. It made Dad happy for us to continue our lives as if nothing were wrong. If I’m honest, it was nice for me too. Trying to maintain a routine around the chemotherapy radiation doctor’s appointments and constant Cancer progression can be difficult. Always being happy.
While we took on our routines, Dad took on his planning for our future without him in it and completing his funeral plans with my mom so it would be easier for us. My father covered every detail because he knew that he had to complete them before the Cancer took over his brain. As Dad got worse, our daily routines began to really crack. Our family began to see a counselor. My sister shut down completely because she didn’t like it. But, I tried to make everyone happy by saying what I thought they wanted to hear. The simplest of things were starting to become harder for my dad. He was visibly leaving us.
One day, we arrived home from school to see my dad being transported to the hospital on a gurney. He said he didn’t feel right. Reality hit in that moment. This is going to happen. Dad is going to die. My dad returned home from that hospitalization, and more than ever, life was becoming moment to moment, as we were cherishing the time we had with him, and fearing the day that we won’t. Now, was our last Christmas together. It was so special that my mom and dad had made us each a collage of pictures with Dad. Al the greatest memories with a letter from Dad. It reminded me, and still reminds me of his love everyday.
After Christmas, Dad’s behaviors and thoughts began to change particularly at night. He began to stay in his bedroom for hours. I often went to visit him in there. January flew by, February came and went, but not without celebrating his 60th birthday. It was both good and bad. It was good because we still had him for it, but bad because we knew it was his last. Then March came with the hope that comes with Spring, but Dad was still declining. He was having increasing difficulty walking. He didn’t want to take his medications anymore. His brain could no longer process the way it should. My mom begged him to take his medications, eat, move, go for car rides, and go to our activities as he used to.
On the morning of March 26th, Dad walked out of his bedroom, and before we went to school said that he didn’t want to go anymore. My mom took hold of him and asked me to grab a chair for him to sit in. She told us to give Dad a kiss before you go to school. My dad said, “I love you son.”
While we were at school, my mom took Dad to Hospice. We met them there after school to see Dad in a deep sleep. My mom said that we should tell him how much we love him. So, we gave him kisses and hugs. We headed home afterwards, and let one of his closest friends stay with him for the night.
The phone rang around 9:30 that night. Kenzie and I were already in bed. We wouldn’t know the meaning of that call until the next morning.
When we woke up, she told us the devastating news. I tried making everyone happy through our sadness, but this was too much for me. I couldn’t be happy for anyone, let alone myself. We all clung to each other, with our eyes draining of our tears. Kenzie and I both still wanted to go to school today. I went to school, so I wouldn’t have to sulk all day, and because it’s what my dad would have wanted.
One week after he passed was his funeral. It was clear he planned this to make this moment easier for us. It was a big funeral. Many of his friends and family were there to support us and honor him. The funeral was hard to sit through watching the slideshow that Dad had made for this exact moment. He thought of everything. He left us letters telling how much he loved each of us, and planned birthday cards for until we were 16. The letters remind me of how much he had believed in me and how proud he was of me. We then went to the grave side and laid our yellow lilies on his casket. We said our goodbyes, leaving a part of us with him. I don’t remember much more about that day of April 2nd 2015, but I lost my Dad, my hero, my best friend.
What I do remember is that my dad gave me values, belief in myself, and a desire to make the best of my life. He told me to accept and embrace who I am. To only let myself define who I am and what I am capable of. Life is not always going to be easy, but I am in charge of my path. He said “Son, I am proud of you now, and will always be proud of you.” I will always love my dad who had to leave me when I was too young to remember it all.
Good Bye Dad,