Monday Milestone

McKinley plays guitar:

Everyday for the past two weeks McKinley has been going over to the guitar and strumming it. And in those moments, I’d think to myself, I have to start playing again— dad would want me to—I’ll feel him with me. But I haven’t picked up the guitar.

When I drive, I sing. Ohh, and I get really into it.  For the last couple of weeks while singing I’ve thought, I should learn this song on the guitar– it would be beautiful. But I haven’t yet. And why not!?

It seems clear now, but my mother actually pointed it out to me in an earlier conversation.
I said, “I’ve been praying for a sign from dad.”
“Today McKinley strumming on that guitar, and being silly– that was dad,” she said. Then it hit me.  All my thoughts from the last two weeks flooded my mind.

I havn’t been listening!

My dad once told me, “God speaks all the time, but very few know how to listen.” My dad believed that at certain times, in certain moments, God spoke through people—That someone could say something to you, and it could be God speaking, and if you weren’t listening, you would miss it.

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Wordless Wednesday

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The Circle of Life: Infancy & Death

I’ve neglected my readers for far to long now.  I apologize for that and am ready to get back into the swing of things.  Since my last post– dad passed away.  And McKinley is now 18-months-old stringing words along– “bye-bye dada” and “uh-oh meme.”

Life is full circle.  I’ve heard it a million times and I thought I knew what it meant.  That basically–we start where we end.  It seems simple to understand, but it’s different to have experience.  And, I know that now.  Now, that I’ve watched my father die.

I do not mean to confuse experience in the sense of “doing” or “seeing” something,  but rather experience as a feeling.   An experiential feeling that is created in part by the doing and seeing. For example:

Let’s say a specialist comes into a classroom to speak about Nazi Germany.  Imagine that this young man knows everything about Nazi Germany. Everything. The following day, another speaker comes to the class.  The new speaker says the EXACT same words as the young man the day before.  Except he was an 80-year-old man from Auschwitz.  And the difference between them is not the “experience” itself.  It’s the feeling the experience created for the older man that makes their knowledge different.

My father would always use that example in his philosophy classes when explaining the existence of God.  To know – is different than – to feel. 

So, here I am with an experiential feeling about my father’s passing.  Life, a circle.  I’ve lived through it, I saw it, and I felt it.  I was there every minute and everyday. Watching new life begin and my hero’s life end. And not just end, but transcend.

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In the end of life–we revert back to infancy.  We revert back to toddlerhood–a self-centered world–back to diapers–back to being dependent–back to napping–losing our ability to walk, and then back to sleeping all the time. And in the end of our life, like toddlers, we get frustrated because we can’t communicate the way we want to.  There are surprisingly many similarities.  It was humbling to watch.

Death is just as magical as birth. It’s a privilege and an honor to witness. But, we mourn death and don’t talk about it.  Why?  Why is it such a taboo topic and painted as morbid and horrible?  What– just because death is depressing?  Death is natural. And it’s normal to be sad when you lose someone you love. It’s going to happen.  So–shouldn’t we talk about it?  Why is being sad something negative when sadness is the only way to understand happiness?  Life is all about the journey, and the journey is never flat.

We mourn because our fear of the unknown and our fear of life without the familiar.  Death is truly the greatest testament of our being, our will power, and our core strength. And we will all question— Is the “truth” I’ve always believed, really true?  It is the greatest hill we all must climb.  But never in my life have I worked hard to climb a hill, without ever coming down.  And isn’t down hill so much better?  And isn’t the climb always worth it?

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Life, for me, will never go back.  I’ll always have to push forward.  Like a circle.  Where does a circle really start and end anyways?  It doesn’t. It just continues to go around and around.  Yes, I am suggesting that life after death goes on.  However, I am not suggesting how it goes on.  That I do not know.  But, my father in-law once told me something I’ll never forget.

“You know, death is like being born.  When you’re inside the womb it’s a dark, comfortable place, and it’s all you know.  And then, one day, you are pushed out into this bright light.  This new world you know nothing about.  You are scared and alone.  But, then you realize it’s this beautiful place.  Why wouldn’t death be the same?” 

 

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Backseat

I waited impatiently for the phone to ring. And when it finally did my mother’s somber voice didn’t prepare me.  Even when something is anticipatory it still comes as a f-cking shock.

My dad had gone in for an MRI of his brain. Everyone told us it was probably nothing. We expected his cognitive issues were because of adjustments in his medications.  I was driving to the grocery store during the time of his appointment.  And started thinking:   I need a sign. I don’t feel right. It’s gonna be okay.  It’s the medications. I dunno though, what if it’s not.  I just need a sign. Please God give me a sign.  The car in front of me brought me back to reality because they were driving 10 MPH under the speed limit.  I caught the license plate: DUEPRAY.  Oh my god, due pray, like do pray. I should be praying right now! I grabbed my rosary that hangs over my rear-view mirror and began reciting the Lords Prayer.  Then, a bird flew past my windshield.  A little bird in slow motion.  I’m  actually surprised I didn’t kill the bird… that’s how close it flew.

When I got home my phone finally rang.

“Well? What did they say?” I asked.  A PET scan a couple of months earlier showed no signs of anything.  We’re talking about cancer, there were no signs of cancer.

“It’s not good Georgia.” My mom was matter of fact.  She even said my name.

“Okay, what is it?”

“It’s in his brain,” she stated.

“No it’s not… wait are you kidding me?”

“No.”

“Are you JOKING me!?” I belted. I seriously couldn’t believe it.

“No, I’m not kidding you.  They found approximately 20 lesions or tumors in his brain,” her voice got soft and broke. I heard sniffles through the phone and could only imagine the amount of tears trickling down her face.

“Ohhhh f-ck.”  Then silence.  “Mom, are you driving?”

“No, not yet, we are walking out to the car.”

“Okay, well just drive home. I’ll call the siblings… I love you mom.”  Then, I hung up.

I was holding McKinley screaming out loud Oh God, Oh God! while sobbing and trying to call my sister and brother. I’m crying now. It’s everywhere in his brain. And time is running out. Precious time with my daddy. Precious time for McKinley with her Papa.

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This might sound strange, but in my mind I’ve always known my dad was going to die.   Duh, the life cycle.  It’s something we know to be fact, yet believe we are invincible.  When he first was diagnosed, the thought changed to- my dad is dying.  And now that his death is upon us, the thought has reverted back to: my dad is going to die.  Really Soon.  It’s not that I didn’t foresee the cancer spreading, I did.  Just not this quickly. I wasn’t ready.

How am I doing? Terrible.  I know it may be social protocol, but it’s really a strange question to ask.  In my opinion.  Different people have told me to be strong, but what does that really mean?  What is it to be weak during your father’s death? And, why is it a bad thing?  I understand they are words of encouragement and sympathy and it helps.  The truth is, I’m not sure I can be strong.  I only hope that someway somehow my father’s voice will ring loud inside me and the words and strength will flow effortlessly.

So, we are preparing for the end.  With hospice. An anticipatory grief (counseling term). A milestone. A really f-cking hard milestone.  Living with and caring for: a parent, a hero, a friend, teacher, and advocate, someone you look up to, depend on, and someone you love deeply. Your father.

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Early in the year, I did a post to raise money for LUNGevity Breathe Deep Newark for our team: The TERMINATORS.  We helped raise, with many others, $23,000 for research.  Thank you again for your help and kindness.  Here is a short movie I prepared of that day (May 11th) and the speech my father gave to everyone (they asked him to give a speech because he was the #1 individual fund-raiser and the only survivor in attendance) 

I wanted to let my readers know that things have been harder lately. Obviously. My father is really struggling. We are all struggling.  Skipping the details of what that means or entails, I’m spending more time caring for him. And so, this blog is something I currently cannot commit to doing as frequently as I was before.

I will continue to try to participate in “Monday Monologues” and “Wordless Wednesdays” capturing pictures of McKinley’s Milestones and family life.  Although, I’m not sure how frequent that will be.  My hours spent editing craft, recipe, and informational posts will most likely take a temporary backseat for now.  I apologize for that and I hope that you’ll remain an avid follower.

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LUNGevity… Fight with me

You can help me fight against Lung Cancer and show your support for someone you know, or for my father. 

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Dad was in the ICU for a week.   The doctors said he was lucky to even be alive.  He had a massive blood clot in his lungs and pneumonia. They were also concerned about the ‘masses’ in his lungs.

He was officially diagnosed in February with Stage IIIB Lung Cancer.  (Read about Lung Cancer.) Let’s put it this way there are 9 stages in lung cancer.  He has stage 8.

As I assume with most people who are diagnosed with cancer, it came as a shock.  My father is only 56!! Lung Cancer!? A late stage!? In a single moment, it was as if years of his life were taken away.  Years from spending time with his grand-daughter McKinley, his wife, my sister, my brother, his brother…me…and many others. (To read my full story see earlier post: Cancer Diagnosis)

Lung cancer impacts one in 14 Americans and kills more than colorectal, breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancers combined.

This Saturday, May 11th my family and I are participating in a walk against Lung Cancer sponsored by Breathe Deep Newark.   Fellow bloggers, please take part in the walk with us and join our team, The Terminators (if you live in town).  If you can’t make it, you can make a donation or sponsor one of our team members by clicking here: Terminators!

Where: Rotary Park Pavilion 925 Sharon Valley Road (across from the Lou and Gib Reese Ice Arena) Newark, OH 43055

  • Check-in: 8:30am
  • Team Photos: 8:30am
  • Program: 9:30am
  • Walk/fun run: 10am
  • Closing ceremony: noon

All my love, Thank you everyone.

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