This is my Dad dancing with me at my wedding 5 years ago. It was a beautiful day and the best day of my life. Dad and I have always been close. We are so much alike, that we tend to butt heads, but we are still close and have always been there for each other. I lived with him and my Stepmom, Kathy, in their guesthouse for 2 years before I got married. We had our wedding and reception in my Dad & Kathy’s backyard which is situated on about ¾ of an acre and features a guesthouse, 2 ponds, a waterfall, probably over one hundred trees as well as masses of thick, tropical greenery.
Fast forward one year and my husband, Jonathan, and I were moving 1000 miles away for a new job opportunity. The hardest part of moving so far away was leaving my parents behind. We had always been so close and while we didn’t see each other every day, we knew that we always had the option to. Of course, we kept in touch through phone calls, texts and I visited them at least once a year. It just wasn’t the same, and I put off going so many times because situations in my life weren’t “perfect.”
Four years later, I listened to a message from Kathy asking me to call her back as soon as possible. Soon after, I learned that my Dad had a tumor on his lung which was later diagnosed as lung cancer. A week and several tests went by and then we found out that it had spread to his lymph nodes and liver and that my Dad had Stage IV small cell lung cancer. It’s a very aggressive type of cancer and the doctor told him that he had approximately 2-3 months to live unless he started chemotherapy right away (which he did). I knew I needed to go see him right away.
Since I’m being honest, I was actually scared to see my Dad. I got nervous when he called because I didn’t know the “right” words to say. My Dad has always been the strong one, my rock and never let me down. I could call him with the worst news or a horrible situation I had gotten myself into, and he would know exactly what to say and tell me what I needed to do. Now, I had to be the strong one and I was frozen and speechless.
Getting ready to go on my trip, I was procrastinating packing my suitcase by organizing some paperwork and came across a card that my Dad had given me several years before. I noticed that he signed it “Love Dad.” No comma, just Love Dad. I found his signature touching and I had not noticed before that he had signed all his cards to me this way. I even found my trusty old dictionary and thesaurus which he had given me for my high school graduation with the same signature after the inscription. I broke down in tears.
I decided right then and there to focus on those two words. Love Dad. I would simply love my Dad. It’s not complicated. I didn’t need to over think what I was going to do around him or say to him, I would just love him.
So that’s what I did. I made the trip to see my Dad and I stayed with him for a month. My Dad and I grew closer during this trip. I asked him questions about his past, and his time in the Army. He told me stories about amazing things he had done and accomplished that I never knew about. He said that he once had his pilot license and owned a plane. I had seen pictures of him standing in front of a plane, but I never knew it was his let alone that he could fly it. There were so many memories he was able to share with me and we were able to make new ones during that month together.
Just love. Love with utter disregard, overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness. Don’t be afraid to forgive, hope and trust but most importantly love. Love each other. Be kind to one another. We don’t know how many days we have left on this earth. Practice my Dad’s new motto and “Make every day count.”
Let all that you do be done in love
1 Corinthians 16:14
Tattoo by – Troy Foster