Father – fa·ther \ˈfä-thər\ (n.) a man who exercises paternal care over other persons; paternal protector or provider
Sit down, grab your favorite drink, and get comfortable – this is going to be a long and emotional post. With Father’s Day behind us, I finally feel I can share my thoughts and emotions as well as some background about my relationship with my father.
My father and I weren’t very close for most of my life; he was a very busy man. He believed in working hard every day to provide for his family. It is because of his work ethic that I am the hard worker that I am today; I’m very grateful for that (my mom also has a great deal to do with that). He wanted to make sure that his family never went a day without food on the table and a roof over their heads. He was the paternal provider and protector, and he fulfilled that role to the best of his ability through working. However, this also caused a rift in our relationship because he often prioritized his work above all else. To an extent, I can understand that – I’m also extremely passionate about my job and want to give all of myself to it; the difference is that I see how this can affect my relationship with my husband, family, and friends. Unfortunately, my dad didn’t come to that realization until the last three years of his life.
Two years before my dad was diagnosed with cancer, he made several powerful changes in his life. These changes opened doors for me to build a true relationship with him – to get to know him more. Within those two years I truly identified as a daddy’s girl, even though he had always called me one. I learned that he was more than a hard working man. I learned that because of his upraising, he had a different understanding of how to show love; he rarely showed affection to me. I didn’t understand that right away, and don’t fully understand it now, because I know he wanted to be a different protector and provider than that of what he was exposed to in his own childhood – executing it seemed to be difficult for him. His efforts, however, were redeeming and enlightening. And even after his passing, I continue to learn more about him.
In the fall of 2016 his right leg stopped working – it became paralytic. After a series of tests the doctors revealed that my dad had grade IV Glioblastoma Multiforme cancer – a very aggressive brain cancer. My parents had called all of our family to come to the hospital at one time, and I had no clue what was coming. I never would have guessed it. When my mom told everyone, all of us crammed into one small hospital room, I immediately started crying, and my daddy asked me sit with him in his bed. I remember being shocked because I was confused and angry; I kept repeatedly telling myself, this can’t be real. This can’t be happening – not to my family. But in that moment, my daddy was holding me, being strong for me, and coddling me. I wasn’t used to affection from my father, and in a raw moment of fear for himself, he was strong for me in a way that seldom experienced. That moment was beyond bittersweet, and I’ll never forget how it felt to be in his arms.
Based on current research, his doctors gave him a prognosis of about 14 months to live if he went through treatment. Going home that night I remember lying in bed beside Kaleb and crying before finally telling him that I knew daddy wouldn’t make it past 14 months. I understand how negative that sounds, but I was angry with God. He was taking away the daddy he had just given me. Kaleb and my entire family remained positive, but I knew that very night that he wouldn’t be one of the rare cases that lived on for five, ten, even a remarkable 15 years.
While he was sick, my dad was like Superman compared to the man I knew two years prior. It brings to mind the saying “you never know what you have until it’s gone.” I think he felt the loss of his children’s youth and needed to make up for it. And I quickly realized that I needed to embrace my father, through the good and the bad, before he was gone. Before the tumors consumed a majority of his brain, my dad made up for the 20 odd years of my life before that. It was beautiful and sad.
I remember so vividly what my dad said one night in his first few days in the hospital. There were only a few of us in the room, and between sobs he said, “God has let me do things my way all of my life, and now He’s telling me I need to do things His way.” My anger with God subsided. My daddy’s words helped me to realize that my emotions were so loud that I was drowning God out. While I still feel the pain and emptiness from the loss of my father, from the moment I wake up until I close my eyes at night, I realize that God is the only one that can relieve me of that pain and emptiness. I also realize that God granted me with three years that I didn’t expect to have. The thing I’m struggling with most for now is the last day of my daddy’s life. It’s difficult to shake the feeling inside the room with my siblings and mother. I was continually rubbing my daddy’s forehead while my siblings and I shared aloud our favorite memories with him because we truly hope he could hear us. The atmosphere in the room began to shift, and I knew it was coming. So I continued to stroke his forehead until he took his last pain filled breath. Ultimately, I’m grateful that my Heavenly Father nurtured me in the moments that my dad couldn’t, and even now in his absence. I’m also grateful that God blessed with an amazing mother, brother, best friend, and husband to support me in moments of weakness.
Moving forward, I cope with this loss in various ways. I first saw a therapist, before my dad even passed, and stopped my appointments because he insulted my dad when I was in a very vulnerable state. I then picked up on adult coloring books (yay!), but found that it wasn’t enough for me to channel my emotions into so much as it just distracted me for a brief period of time. I now rely on family, my husband, and two other very important hobbies: writing letters to my dad and playing loads and loads of Skyrim.
While I acknowledge this blog was long, emotional, and probably unorganized, it was very cathartic.
“Because someone we love is in Heaven, we have a little bit of Heaven in our home.” – Anonymous