Losing a loved one is troubling, to say the least. Some of us get a warning, informing us of an illness or injury. Others get shocked into reality with the news that someone they love has passed. While both are hard to process, each one comes with their own set of difficulties. With a diagnosis, we may have to watch as someone struggles with failing health and pain. When someone dies suddenly, that is more comfortable for the deceased. They don’t have to suffer for a long period of time. God didn’t prolong the inevitable. Unfortunately, we are left in shock.
Regardless of how it happens, I’m sure there is pain and suffering for the dying and the loved ones left behind. In the end, our only wish ends up being that our loved one didn’t have to endure any pain.
I did great for several weeks. Dad had pain in his leg and a rash that stayed way too long. I did research and called on the doctor and nurses in hopes of figuring out his problem. I took things over to his house that I thought could help. I left my new job to take him to emergency room visits. I paid close attention to what the doctors told us, along with questioning what we were being told. I made several trips to the pharmacy, so he had what he needed at home. My hope was that I was being a good daughter to him.
The first visit to the emergency room, dad was diagnosed with a UTI. They totally missed the true diagnosis that was spreading throughout his body. Sadly, we had to go back the very next week.
After a long day at the emergency room, the rest of the family left to go home. It was just dad and me. As the doctor came in, we weren’t at all prepared for what she was going to say. It was cancer…and it was everywhere. He had it in his lungs, bones, liver, and probably in his brain.
As the doctor read his diagnosis, I felt my anxiety peak. What did I need to do! For what seemed like only five seconds, I kissed my dad several times on his forehead, said how much I loved him, cried, and hugged him. Then, I immediately went into the “take care of” mode.
I sat down to listen to the what the doctor had to say, tried to comfort my dad, and at the same exact time, tried to write down everything that was being said, texted my stepbrother to give my stepmom the news, and texted my sister to get her there as soon as she could. It was crazy. My mind was spinning. I was holding his hand with my left hand, and texting and writing with my right.
All of us were waiting for some sort of diagnosis to explain the pain in his leg, and I felt torn on what to do. I was the only one there to hear what this doctor had to relay. To me, it didn’t seem right that I was the only person hearing what she had to say. They deserved to be there.
Looking back, I wonder how well I did at taking care of him…in that moment. As I heard the word cancer, I wrote notes, scrambled to comfort him, along with texting people. Now, I see my only task, right then, should have been to take care of my dad; simply to be present and comfort him. Nothing else should have mattered in that instant.
I felt I had failed him in that moment. I hadn’t taken care of him at the most critical point in his life. I wanted more…for him. While this may sound insignificant to some, for me, it meant a lot to be there for the person I loved. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my mother, so making sure my dad knew how much he was loved was vital to me.
While I was trying to love my dad, with purpose, I was too busy trying to tend to the needs of everyone and everything. That is my nature. I handle things. Yes, being someone who “takes care of” the needs of others has its good points, it also has some bad. The more important details about life can get lost. They would have been fine with me taking a little time to be there for my dad.
Amid all these concerns, I had started a new job. Because my dad needed to make trips to the emergency room, I had no choice but to take time off in the first two weeks. Once we received the diagnosis, I put the job on hold. My goal: be there for your father. Fortunately, I got to spend the remainder of my dad’s time here on earth with him. I am grateful for that. I wanted my father to know how much I loved him. I was there for him. Sadly, he only lasted eight days before the Lord took him. While I am glad that he did not suffer long, I do feel he left us way too soon. I really believe that he had more time. That thought, in itself, has been one that haunts me, and one I choose not to write about today.
For over three months, I had a rough time of it. Between the trauma of being by his bedside, watching him wither away, to issues that continued to come up, I started to spiral out of control. My anxiety got the best of me. My chest would hurt for days; making me feel like I was having a heart attack. I knew I had to find peace.
Today, I have finally come out of the shadows. Of course, it wasn’t easy. I was on an emotional roller coaster and I needed God to get me off the ride. I prayed and prayed but couldn’t seem to let go of the pain of everything that was happening. Thankfully, once I chose to hand it all over to God, He did. Finally, I was at peace. I let go of the details of what could or should have been, and I let go of the drama that was holding me hostage. I truly believe that my dad knew how much I loved him. In the end, that’s all that matters. Still, I wish I would have spent that pivotal moment being more purposeful and less productive.
The point of my story is this, if you want to purposely love someone who doesn’t have a lot of time, do your best to do it well. Don’t try to do it all! You don’t need to. Yes, there are all the pain-staking details you have to tend to, but let go of the rest. Nothing else is as important…at that time. Allow the moments to happen in sequence. Stay focused on the person in need. Be present with what (and who) is most important to you. Be in the moment. Because when life comes to an end for someone you love, you want the memory to be one where you did everything you could for them. You exhibited love to them…they were your priority.
In the meantime, we can never forget to let loved ones know how special they are to us. Please don’t wait until someone you love is dying to whisper sweet-nothings into their ear. Touch them more. Hug them more. Even the most rugged of men will probably be softened by your words and displayed of affection. All I know is that we shouldn’t wait until the end of life to tell (and show) someone how meaningful they are to ours.
With love and blessings for good memories of your time with a loved one.