dadTeach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

I have learned during this year that watching someone die is a very sacred thing. In a way, it is a holy experience no different than prayer. You learn in stark terms what it means to be human—good and bad.

My dad last January had surgery and during it they found that his cancer had spread to other areas of his body. In the spring months, he fought the disease hoping chemotherapy and radiation would heal his body, but just yesterday we found out that he only has days to live.

I read some years ago in a psychology class about what it means to have a good death (or also a bad one). A “good” death is when someone has come to peace about their situation and have the love and support of others around them. While I hate what is happening, my dad to some degree is dying well. My mom is continually at his side and she has been a model for me of what it looks like to be dedicated to someone for a long time. A good marriage is lots of sacrifice—don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Yesterday was when I found out my dad only had a few days to live. He was able to get on the phone with me and even though he was mostly incoherent, I was able to speak some important words to him that I have always wanted to say.

Dad, I want you to know that I love you.

Dad, I want you to know that I am glad you came into my life.

Dad, I want you to know I am grateful for all that you have done for me.

I fought through tears to get these words out and I think he did hear me. My dad was not the type of person who would say I love you and therefore, I was also reluctant to speak those words to  him. Over these last few months, I knew that had to end so I began to tell him that I loved him whenever I saw or spoke to him. Initially, he would just say thank you or something else, but even he had to break down and tell me and others that he loved them as well.

Through all of this, I have learned this as well, don’t let the events of a loved one on their dying bed finally get you to say things that you always wanted to—do it now.

The day I met my dad, I was just five years old. I met him because he was involved in a car accident with my mom. This moment is my earliest memory. I was standing next to him as my mom was in the back seat of the squad car getting her ticket. I remember kicking stones at him in anger and this in some way foretold our next thirteen years together. We were always fighting with one another. Over the last twenty five years we have slowly let go of our anger toward one another and now he is one of the people I love the most.

I don’t want him to go. In so many ways I am so grateful for him and to some degree I have regrets that I didn’t spend more important times with him. I know that I can’t change that, but I also hope I have learned an important lesson that I can apply to my life in the years ahead.

I have been fortunate in that I have not had to face the loss of many friends or family, but now I am standing in its terrible wake. I am about to lose my dad. Death is awful, but it does offer us something helpful—it helps us to remember what is really important. It helps us to remember what really matters in life. It helps us to do things that we were always scared to do before.

Love you dad.

In: Spiritual Formation