Two weeks ago, in the middle of all my daughter's graduations from their respective colleges and high schools, I had to fly out to Las Vegas to deal with a family issue. My dad, struggling with prostrate cancer, was hospitalized for additional health complications and my mom needed some help looking for long term care for him. Within 48 hours of my arrival, I found myself making funeral arrangements instead. A surreal experience to say the least. Once his body decided to shut down, it shut down at a rapid speed. Fortunately, I was able to say my good-byes but was saying them to a man that wasn't my dad and didn't know who I was. Watching someone die, who you love, who is going through a difficult physical death is.....bigger than any words I could possibly attach to it. There was no time for me to grieve as I had to be (or felt I should be) the strong one so my mom had someone to lean on.
I needed to get back home for our third graduation ceremony, so my brother flew to Las Vegas from Philly to be with my mom and pick up some of the pieces that I wasn't able to tie together. She then flew to spend some time here in Chicago with my family. It has been odd, these last few weeks. I feel as though I have gone from the daughter to the mother, helping this woman, my mom, become someone who overnight must take care of herself. Certainly not an easy transition to say the least when you are 75. But it has became so clear to me that we are never done growing. Our journey is never over until it is over. I saw my dad's literally come to an end which could easily be filled with regret but I will never know. As I watched him leave, I wondered where he was in that moment and where he was going. What was happening for him? When I get to that moment, will I have regret or remorse? Will there be a list of should haves, could haves, would haves left on my to-do list?
The blessings I am left with are these. My dad is no longer in pain or suffering, either physically or mentally. Knowing that you have terminal cancer is hard to face day in and day out. My dad was not a particularly strong man; he wasn't one who would have fought to overcome his illness, so there is peace for him now and we, my family, all know that. The blessing for me, for being with him when he passed away, left me with a stronger resolve to not waste my time here. To be authentic and true to myself. That isn't going to be easy as some of the things I want aren't in keeping with how my life is playing out at this moment. But my heart is heavy and knows what it needs to find joy and peace while I still have a chance. So when I draw my last breath, those who love me will know for certain that I will leave with no regrets.