my father passed away on april 6th, and i haven't blogged about it until now. it was neuro-lymphatic cancer that took his life at age 66, something i had never heard of before it took the life of a friend and neighbor of my parents' last september, just a month after my father's own diagnosis.
as difficult as it has been, it was beautiful too. capturing & expressing the beauty and the varied deep emotions is a difficult thing, and it has kept me from attempting to write about it.
it was a healing time when i realized a lot of things about myself and my family. things to be grateful for, and things that needed to change. that was a real blessing. we have felt great peace as a family. that is another great blessing.
another blessing was being touched by friends, and even by people who i didn't know well who reached out asn shared the ways my dad had touched their lives and shared stories i had never heard. much of this happened on facebook, and it has given me a new appreciation for that social medium.
a young father and pre-med student in 1971
a father of two, soon to be three (i am sitting behind him, and about 3 years old) and medical student.
as a father of probalby four or five, and young new doctore establishing his practice (yes, my little sister was naughty:)
on his sailboat, one of his great love, early 80's
he passed much earlier than expected, which was a blessing, rather than lingering in prolonged suffering. he planned his funeral when he was still doing well, but it turned out to be one of his last good days before he quickly went down hill. he put me on the program as a speaker, as his oldest child, something i had a feeling he would do, but was really hoping he wouldn't.
this is the rough draft of my talk, my tribute to my father. i added scriptures and thoughts afterwards, but i seem to have lost my final draft:
"I had a life-changing experience about a month ago that began with a sleepless night full of agitation and thoughts of our friends & neighborhood in Japan. In the morning, while I was still in bed I received a phone call about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and as the day wore on, we learned that our last neighborhood had been hit and many of our closest friends had been affected. The main lesson I learned from the following weeks as we hoped & prayed & waited for news is that we are all connected much more than we realize. How one life touches so many others, and that what happens to any one person affects us all, whether we fully realize it or not.
My understanding of these concept was strengthened in the past two weeks as I have received messages both from friends and also from people that I don’t know extremely well who connected to me and touched my life as they told me about how my dad had connected to them and touched their life. Some of these comments include:
“Your parents were both so, so good to my mom when she was going through “her cancer.”
“Not only did he deliver me, he was the 1st person I worked for, he married me, and influenced my life in so many ways.”
“I remember him coming through the line at mom’s funeral with tears in his eyes and said how grateful he was to have known her. She felt likewise about your dad.”
“Your dad was a wonderful man - who also stitched me up more times than I can count while I grew up.”
“I will always be grateful to your Dad for helping us through hard times when “our baby” was born.”
“Thank-You for sharing your dad with our community for the many years.”
“He was my bishop through some amazing times in my life. I am glad to have those memories.”
“Mom worked with him for 25 years and had a great respect for him. I am sure that both mom and dad greeted him, among all the other friends that he had in the world of spirits.”
These friends connected with me by sharing how my father had connected with them. My father spent his life connecting iwth others in meaningful ways.
As John (my brother who also spoke) referred to, it was difficult to understand why Dad was always at work, and why he was so exhausted when he was home. I think he may have gone for years without a full night’s sleep, especially during the time when he was the only doctor in the community. When I was a teenager I started working at his office and I began to understand the reasons for his overload and his fatigue. He truly listened to his patients and gave them every bit of time that they felt that they needed. This was difficult for his office staff and also for the patients in the waiting room, because he was always behind schedule, but it was a true blessing to the patient who was the focus of his attention. He gave everything he had emotionally, mentally, and physically to being the best doctor he could be, and that is how he did everything he did.
I was dropping our oldest daughter Alexa at her dorm at Southern Virginia University last August when I got the call about my Dad’s cancer. When I got back to my hotel that night I prayed about it, and I immediately knew that it was terminal, and with that knowledge came a peace that it was ok, it was the way that things were meant to be. Dad has felt the same from the beginning of his journey through cancer. He has been at peace. He hasn’t been afraid to go, and hasn’t had regrets. That has been such a blessing to our family. He understood that death is just a natural part of our eternal progression.
As Russell M. Nelson said in last week’s general conference….
“We live to die, and we die to live again. From an eternal perspective, the only death that is truly premature is the death of one who is not prepared to meet God.”
I am certain that my father would want the plan of salvation to be discussed at his funeral, and thanks to an idea from my brother John, I felt it best to express his understanding of these principles in his own words. When he first received his diagnosis last Spetember, he went home and started writing his life history. He has bound it and given it to each member of his family. I quote from it:
Other ways that my father was able to connect with others in his life that brougth him great joy were:
- being able to focus on being bisho, as he was called right after his early retirement, brought on by health problems. he was an always available, always on call bishop, and he loved that.
- being able to serve missions, first as a youn gman in Scotland, and later with my mother in Guatemala and in Chile. The only thing that really bothered him about his cancer diagnosis is that it cut the mission in Chile short.