Jan's Corner 2012
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17 December 2012
My Dad recently passed away. This past year, I watched as his health got worse and worse. But his health problems really began 38 years earlier. As a young man, my Dad was healthy and physically active. My mom was pregnant with their 6th child when my Dad went in for a supposedly routine surgery for what was thought to be an ulcer. Seven hours later, my Dad came out of surgery with no stomach and a diagnosis of cancer.
There are no words to convey the courage my Dad exhibited over the years, because from that point on, he lived a lifetime of daily physical pain. Because of polyps, scar tissue built up and all kinds of other complications, including another bout with cancer, Dad had 21 major surgeries. The last surgery was a year ago. After each surgery Dad fought to get better – or at least as better as was possible to have enough health to have a good enough quality of life. This last time, he fought and fought and his body didn’t get better. It was like his body said, “Enough.”
I have had the privilege of watching my Dad display incredible courage throughout his life and especially this past year. He never, ever complained. Even this past year, as my Mom lovingly, tenderly cared for him, my Dad’s concern was always for her. Through all the years of pain and health troubles, my Dad always had time for others – especially his family. Near the end of his life, he reflected that having health problems actually made him spend more time with his family instead of pursuing career opportunities. Yes, he did work after the first cancer. But he worked with pain. There was a time where the job he had when he first got cancer didn’t work out for him anymore. He was too sick. He spent a time not working and became Mr. Mom. Then, he went on to find a whole new career. He had to adapt to this new life of pain. And he succeeded.
One thing I remember in particular is many people with all kinds of problems – physical and otherwise – would come and talk with my Dad. He had a lot of compassion for people and they knew it. His pain made him empathetic to the sufferings of others – even if their hurts weren’t necessarily physical. Even a few weeks before he died, I was with him when a neighbor called. This man was going to have minor surgery the next day and he was nervous. He wanted to come over and talk with my Dad. I was so touched. There was my Dad, literally on his deathbed, and yet he was still helping someone else.
I don’t remember much about my Dad being sick and in pain all those years. I remember him being fun and I remember him being happy. Because of his love for the outdoors, nearly every weekend he took his kids (and other people) fishing, hunting, camping or somewhere in the mountains. He worked with us, played games with us, talked with us. He came to every sports event my brothers played in.
Because of my PC, I didn’t play sports. I didn’t really even like sports. When I was in high school I wrote for the school newspaper. For my very first story, I wrote a feature article about the football team. I guess it was ok because my advisor assigned me to cover the first football game of the season. I didn’t know a thing about football. My Dad sat down with me and together we watched football games, all the while dad explaining things, telling me things like what a 1st and 10 was. I continued writing sports stories into college and Dad was my best supporter. Sitting together with my Dad watching all those football games while he explained them to me is still one of one of my fondest memories of my Dad. And what does this have to do with life with PC? Well, everything. My Dad often told me I was an example to him. The truth is, he was – and still is – the ultimate example to me of how to successfully live a life with pain. Our pain might have been different. But we both had it every day. My Dad showed me through example that pain doesn’t stop a person from living a happy life. Pain doesn’t stop us from spending time with family, working (even if it means different kinds of work) and serving other people.
These last few months, when we all, including my Dad, knew his body just wasn’t going to rally this time, my Dad was asked if he had any regrets, or if there was anyone he needed to talk with or if he had anything left to do. His answer was no. That’s the way he lived his life. When he died, there was no doubt I knew he loved me. He had told me through words and his actions often enough.
My goal is to live life, regardless of my PC or my pain, like my Dad lived his life with his pain – with courage. My Dad was a praying man. I often heard him say in his prayers with us as a family, “Help us have the courage to do the things we know are right.” My dad certainly had the courage, in spite of daily pain, to live his life to the fullest and do the things he knew to be right.
That is how I hope to live – happily and with courage - even with PC pain. I’m not there yet. But I thank my Dad, for leaving me such an incredible legacy as I strive to be like him and live life valiantly.