Sunday, October 25, 2015

31 Days of Life Stories # 25

Most of the life stories I've been sharing in this series hopefully made you smile or even inspired.  Sometimes, though, life stories are not fun or pleasant but they are part of what shapes us and make us who we are.

One of the defining moments in my life was the day my daddy was diagnosed with cancer.  If you're one of my regular readers, I guess it is no secret how much I adored my dad. I couldn't imagine life without him, so when a diagnosis of cancer was made, I refused to believe it.

I found out that denial is part of the grieving process, as well as anger, and at first I felt he was misdiagnosed. See, he was already better, having spent some time in the hospital! He will be okay. 

Dad needed some prescriptions filled. Since he and mom were so upset and needed to rest, I volunteered to drive to town and get them filled. When the pharmacist saw the script I handed to him, he looked up at me and said, "I'm so sorry. I see your dad is a really really sick man to need these kind of heavy-duty medications."

I didn't know what to say because I still didn't believe he had the C word.

Dad said he was not going to go through chemo. He wouldn't put his family through it. He'd seen "his people" go through that before and it never helped them, and just, No. He said he had about three months to live. (We thought the doctor had told him three months but it was actually his own prediction.) 

It feels like time should stop when tragedy comes, but unfortunately, life goes on in the midst of pain. Vacations end, jobs are waiting, bills need to be paid. And so I hugged my daddy one last time and crying buckets of tears crawled into our car and headed back to Illinois.

Never one to talk on the phone, I began calling him every night just to see how he was. Most of the time he sounded good. And so, I continued to believe it was all a hoax and he would get over it. It was probably pleurisy like he'd had before - not lung cancer.

I mean he was only 55!  He was just too young to die, so much life was ahead.

He went to a healing service and was prayed for to receive healing. Mom asked him if he felt healed. "Well, I hope so," is all he would say.

I knew I needed to go back home and see him, but that would be admitting that it would be for the last time. Somehow I had the crazy idea if I didn't go, he'd still live.

My brother called me and told me I needed to come. "Dad looks really bad, Jerr, I don't think he's going to make it."

I remember that day well because that is the day my dream of Dad not really having cancer died. Tim was one of the most honest people I knew. If he said death was coming, it was inevitable.

In the meantime, I'd been in a bad car wreck. I had a broken arm, stitches in my head, bruises up and down my left side - and choppy hair. (You can read about it here.) I didn't want to go home like that so I scheduled my visit home for a week away.

You can guess what happened, right? He died the day before my flight home.

Here's the part where the anger came in. I was angry at myself for living in a dream world and putting off what I knew I needed to do. I was angry at God because He could have spoken one word of healing and I would still have my daddy.

If someone out there is reading this, and has something they need to do and keep putting it off, I beg you to do it now. Just because YOU think there will be time doesn't mean there will be. Your situation might not involve a terminal illness, but really, none of us know what our last day might be.

I want to tell you this last part:  After that terrible phone call informing me Dad was gone, I went ahead and flew to Florida. We had a visitation for him there and then brought him home to Illinois to be buried. That first night, I slept in the bedroom with mom so she wouldn't be alone. Sometime during the night, I heard Dad's voice in my mind - "I'm not in pain anymore." He spoke in a breathy voice sort of like a sigh. Hearing that, my anger dissipated because really, wasn't that what I prayed for? I had asked for healing and for him to quit coughing and not be in pain. I had just wanted his healing to be on this side of the Journey and not the other side.

I shared this life story with you because I don't want you to live with regrets. I so regret not being there for those final days. Dad knew I loved him and things were okay with us, so at least I don't have that sorrow, but just missing those precious final days eats me up sometimes, even now after 25 years have passed.

Is there something you have put off? Someone you need to see? Something that needs to be made right? Or even, is there something you know you were born to do? Let your life story be one where you did the hard thing and took that first step. No regrets.

This post is #25 in my series, 31 Days of Life Stories. Hundreds of writers are linking up at the 31 Day Writing Challenge hosted by Crystal Stine. There is a wealth of information on many topics. Go visit and see! I'll be posting under the category "Inspiration and Faith."


Simply Linda said...

{{{{Jerralea}}}} Big hugs and lots of love, my friend. Blessings

Faith said...

Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story about your beloved dad with us. It can be so difficult to trust our Heavenly Father when it comes to situations like cancer, other terminal illnesses, deaths, other life tragedies.....YET...He knows WHAT WE NEED AND WHEN HE NEED IT!!!!! I marvel at how the peace and strength of our Lord comes through to us when we press in during those difficult life moments. God never promised us Christians our walk would be easy but He sure does promise us that He will never leave us. God bless you my blogging friend. I've enjoyed your life stories even though I haven't had a chance to read every single one nor comment on all of them. I've neglected my own blog as of is super busy right now (autumn always is for a teacher and busy mom!!). :) I know you get that ...I hope to write more and visit more after the holidays.

betty said...

Thanks for sharing this story, Jerralea. I am so sorry your dad died so young. I think he was a wise man to decide not to pursue chemo; I'm sure it was a hard decision to make but it does take a toll indeed on the patient as well as the family. I do agree about having no regrets in life. I had a similar situation in not seeing my mom before she died. She was 85 years old and in the hospital. My sister, who she lived with, called me and my brother and said the doctors said if you want to come and see your mom, you need to do it within the next 10-14 days (she had fungal pneumonia). I was in denial that she would die and I also was going through a hard time with son at the time and knew it wasn't a good thing to leave him and hubby alone together (in retrospect we all should have gone, but it was just a tough time and I wasn't thinking straight). She did die about a week later. My brother and family had gone to see her. I regretted not going for a long time (still do to some extent) but took redemption in the fact that when hubby had the opportunity to spend the last year of his parents' lives closer to them, even though it was a very hard thing with all we went through with it and though I didn't want to move closer to them) I went along with it so he would have no regrets.


Susanne said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your Dad and for you not seeing him before he passed. I can imagine that this was a hard post to write. I think we all have some element of that kind of a story. Thank you for the reminder and the encouragement to not put important things off because we don't know the time that any of us has. And I love how you saw that your prayer really had been answered...just not in the way you would have had it. That was also encouraging.

Ceil said...

Oh Jerralea, what a touching story! You had so much loss going on, your health, and the loss of your Dad too. I know what you mean about denial. Such a strong emotion! I think we do that to put armor around ourselves so we won't be hurt too badly.

Such good advice about facing what we need to do, and to leave nothing 'undone'. My own father is dealing with grave health issues these days, and it's not easy as you know. May God help me not to forget to tell him how much I love him every chance I get.

Such a touching post. And probably not an easy one to write.

Denise said...

bless you dear