My Dad recently was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. While the doctors aren’t giving any specifics of “how long”, they also aren’t encouraging of us to make plans past the winter months.
As I write those words and contemplate their meaning, it is very easy for me to fall into sorrow and pity. Yet, I’m coming from a different place. While I love my Pop and I have difficulty imagining a physical life without him, I’ve been living from a place of gratitude for him and the last two years of his life.
You see, this is actually the second time he’s received the same diagnosis. Two and a half years ago he was given the same diagnosis and given only a few months to live. In the days after, my family and I did fall into the shock, sorrow, and pity that could befall anyone given the same news
At that time, my wife and I were mere fiancés, and our children were babes (5 months and 2&1/2 yrs). Our two biggest fears, beyond Dad dying, were that he wouldn’t be physically with us to see our wedding and that Caleb and Amelia would grow up having no memories of him. That second fear loomed largest on me. I have no memory of my Grandfather, Pop’s Dad. He died before my fourth birthday. My Pop has had such a huge affect on my life, the thought of my children not knowing him first-hand was nearly too much for me to bear.
To allay our first fear, we threw together a wedding in six weeks. It was beautiful and joyous and we were happy beyond words to share the day with Pop and the rest of our immediate family.
During that period, Pop also got a second opinion. This new hospital felt that his cancer was only Stage III (as opposed to Stage IV), and that with an experimental surgery and some chemo/radiation treatments, he could live a lot longer. Halleluiah and “get ‘er dun”! Low and behold, almost three years later he is still alive and buying his grandkids anything and everything they want. Caleb and Amelia now know their Grandpop. They love him dearly and have distinct and lasting memories of him. Of all the things in my life for which I am most grateful, this is at the top.
So now we are faced with the same news as three years ago, and this time it’s definite. No second opinions are necessary. The chemo he is receiving is to control the cancer, and maybe extend his beautiful life for another few months. And I gotta tell you, I’m not sad. I mean, of course I’m sad. I love my Pop and prefer having him physically with us. However, I got my wishes from three years ago, for me and my kids. As well, Pop and I long ago reconciled our old squabbles from years past. We’ve made our peace. We’re good.
So, I’m sure that when he leaves for his next journey I will shed many tears of grief. Right now, though, I’m having too much fun to think of that inevitability. These past three years have been a gift, and I want to squeeze as much enjoyment and gratitude out of it as I can.