Most of you probably already know this, but last February my dad was diagnosed with a rare slow-growing cancer called carcinoid cancer. Today he had his 16th monthly treatment, and I have been thinking about it all. Also, I started writing a post about my mom the evening before Mother’s Day, but Michael and I each got The Stomach Plague from Hades and thus I am still working on it. Hopefully I’ll get to post it this weekend.
“How’s your dad doing?”
That’s a question I’ve gotten twice in the past day or so. It’s always a little difficult to answer. Can you say that a dying man is doing fine? I immediately feel guilty for thinking this. “Dying” sounds a bit melodramatic, but is there another word for “has terminal cancer but he’ll be mostly fine for years”? I’m not sure. Even thinking of death seems scandalous, and fills me with the fear of being ungracious or unfeeling or inconsiderate of Dad, of Mom, of Jay, of all of us who dearly love my dad.
In the earlier months after his diagnosis, my emotions were such a mess. Anger. Fear. Pain. Lots and lots of pain. This feeling of dread, of having to be The Strong One and hiding all emotion. I think living two hours away didn’t help. He and Mom were out of sight, but certainly not out of mind. I felt so helpless, barely treading water, holding my breath with every speed bump in the road of his health.
Now that it’s been over a year, now that we live five minutes away, it is a little easier to breathe. A little easier to put away the knowledge of the end of this cancer road and focus on the immediacy of life now. A little easier to be truly thankful that he’s doing so well instead of resenting everyone who makes the comment that he’s fine. Maybe they really haven’t forgotten that he won’t be fine forever like I thought they had. Maybe they, too, are living in the now, in the moment where he is smiling and walking and building a deck and preparing to be a grandfather a second time over (congratulations again, Jay and Jen!!) and working and preaching and studying and loving and talking and laughing and being.
Sometimes it’s still overwhelming. Dan Fogleberg’s “The Leader of the Band” never fails to leave me in tears. Sometimes the fear of not having enough time engulfs me until I can’t breathe, can’t see, can’t think.
But if I want to honor him, if I want to honor God, I have to be thankful for what we have now. Take note of the goodness, the silliness, the punniness (you’re welcome, Dad), even some of the conflict and conversation that means that we’re all alive and well and thinking and arguing and disagreeing but still loving each other as fiercely as ever. All of it. I want to be here for all of it. And I am so, so thankful to be able to do so.