Thursday, May 9, 2019

Life Lessons from a Dying Man

Today is my father in law's birthday.  We always wake this morning every year since he passed in 2004 and wish him a happy birthday.

When we visited him at his home for the last time, this jovial, upbeat man knew his cancer had him beat.  He knew he was on borrowed time.  It was March and it had snowed.  We were all enjoying watching the birds at the feeder which popped more brilliantly with the bleached background.  The tree branches were covered in snow and it was a serene scene to enjoy that morning.  I had sent him a letter before our arrival telling him how I felt about him and how much I appreciated the Mr lending me a good dad that was around longer than my own.  He always treated me with dignity and respect from the beginning.  When everyone else was trying to convince the Mr to stay broken up with me during an early rough spot, his dad told him to work it out with me.  He could see the long term potential because he got to actually know me.  I had to let him know how much that meant to me.

When the Mr and his mom went downstairs to go through some boxes, I was sitting with Dad.  He smiled at me and thanked me for the letter.  I said I meant every word.  He told me he wished he'd listened to me when I urged him to get a blood test done early in his relapse.  It was easily treatable but the doctor had a God complex and didn't like his patients consulting "Dr. Google."  His parents didn't want to rock the boat and Dad paid for that silence with his life.  But at least the doctor still has his house in the Hamptons which is where he was most of the time Dad needed him during medical emergencies.  By the time he ran the blood test, it was too late and his platelets never returned to a level where he could tolerate treatment.  The doctor's response?  "Oh, I guess your daughter in law was right" which is the equivalent to saying "my bad."  I told you that to tell you to be your own health advocate.  If your doctor has a problem with you asking reasonable questions from "Dr. Google" and won't check a box for bloodwork he has to run, do not walk, out of that office.

As Dad sat there, his smile he was so known for turned solemn as I told him I never wanted to be more wrong about something.  He said he knew I tried to tell him a few times to do it until they pushed back and he was sorry.  I told him they did what they thought was right.  He looked out the window at the snow against the now night sky.  "People always complain about snow...driving in it, shoveling it, groaning about it in general.  I used to, that's for sure.  But now when I hear someone complain about the snow or how cold it is, I want to shake them.  My snowfalls are limited.  Do you know what I would give to see snow fall?  To drive in it?  To shovel it?  Never take the things you find irritating for granted because you don't know how many more you have in front of you and some of us would give anything for just one more."

This is why you hear me talk about building snowmen, sledding, snowshoeing, looking at each snowflake on my black jacket or gloves, getting out to enjoy a walk in the snow even when it's colder than crap and I need 4 layers on with only my eyes showing.  I loved the snow before him but I love it even more after him.  I feel like for every time I see snow, I'm enjoying it twice as much for him.  I feel like through every stupid thing we have to fight for, no matter how stressful it is or how much it makes me crazy, there's someone we've lost, no, many we've lost who would give just one more day to deal with something so trivial.  I will try to remember that during our next home improvement project.

So if one person looks at life's frustrations differently, stands up to medical ignorance or appreciates a snowy day they would've usually complained about, I will have felt I've helped honor his legacy.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

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  1. This was timely for me as my dad passed away yesterday at the age of 84 after a year-long fight with overly aggressive cancer. He was positive to the end an an example to his family - and we were lucky to be able to be nearby and show him love and support until the end. I miss him like crazy already, but I'm trying to focus on his joyful way of going through life rather than dwell on the sadness.

    1. I am so sorry! He sounds like a wonderful man that left you with a good example to make the best of every day. ❤

  2. This was so beautiful and moving to read. You asked about inspirations the other day. Well, the way you open yourself up and share your story is such an inspiration to me. I may not get to comment all the time, but I look forward to reading your posts so much.
    ktjl92 I'm so sorry for your loss. You will hold him in your heart forever.

  3. Beautiful post, Happy Birthday in Heaven to your Fater in law


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