Bill and I were flying high. We were building our first home, celebrating our young marriage, and anticipating our firstborn. So when 2004 hit, with the dire news that my Dad had colon cancer and just six months to live, we found ourselves saddened and stunned.
Bill had known my Dad just a couple of years, but they quickly grew quite fond of each other. Bill had a knack for coming up with good ideas and Dad would figure out the details. They would then head off to the hardware store, hide out in the garage, and appear hours (sometimes days) later with the finished product. I usually got to reap the benefits of their hard work -- I got a handmade kitchen table and a one-of-a-kind easel. Bill and my Dad formed a special bond -- quite like father and son.
With the news of cancer, all seemed to come to a stop . . . except for the cancer. It kept spreading and eating the life out of Dad. At the time we became aware of the cancer, Dad looked healthy and strong, but within three months his body shriveled up, his skin jaundiced, he was in immense pain, unable to eat, and was barely skin and bones. Thankfully, Bill was right there with me feeling the pain and shedding tears alongside me.
Dad didn't get six months to live -- he only got three. But we cherished every moment. In the last few days, we sat around him as he lay curled up on the bed. Though he was unable to talk much, he would smile when his brother Shepherd would tell childhood stories. My Mom and sisters would hover around him and get anything he could possibly need. I laid there with him and held his frail frame -- scared that I would soon lose one of my best friends.
Amidst all the grief, I do remember this -- his ascension was glorious. That June 18th, 2004 my Mom came over to where I was asleep on the floor and gently told me that Dad had just breathed his last breath. My sisters, my Mom, her sister and friend, and I all gathered around his bed and sat there. We sat there not knowing what life would be like without him, but also knew he no longer was in pain. That day was annoyingly beautiful. There wasn't a cloud in the baby blue sky. The window was open above Dad's bed and the sheer curtains gently danced in the warm breeze . . . And we got to be there when the angels came and took him home.
Death by cancer seemed cruel and unusual. However, the lessons we learned and understanding we gained during that time is insurmountable. Seeing death makes me marvel at life. Watching suffering brings me to my knees. And knowing that in death my Dad went to be with his Savior, brings peace and hope to those of us left behind.