Lauren Lynch, a new friend and participant in INSPIRE, the online support group for lung cancer that I belong to, posted today about her father’s passing. I was so very touched by her words and asked Lauren for permission to share them again here:
“On July 8th, we lost my Father. July 7th I had an anniversary party for my parents with a Fleetwood Mac coverband. Dad could not attend, so the band came to the house and played his favorite songs acoustically. Dad was able to enjoy the music, the whole room was nothing but love and we all experienced a very cathartic moment. I am including my eulogy here. It is not a typical eulogy telling memories of better times, but rather a dialogue that I think needs to be had and some perspective of how I survived my Father’s Cancer. I wish you all love and hope on your journeys and thank-you for all of the advice, support and kind words. ❤
First of all, I want to thank everyone for everything. For calls, cards and emails. For medical advice and a shoulder to cry on. For showing my Dad that his family would always be in good hands. Many people here know the pain I feel today… The pain of losing a parent. The truth is, I cannot imagine my dad being here for one less day than he was. Together, we fought the hardest battle we could and fortunately we made it to that point where we all felt it was okay to let go, it’s sad and it hurts, but it’s also a gift to know that things were not left unsaid, to know that you did everything you could. My Dad died knowing that you would all be here, even if he couldn’t and I know he was at peace.
Perspective is an incredible thing. There were so many pivotal moments of this battle that I can either chose to look back on in anger or I can rise above my initial emotions and see life through a different lens.
When I think back to Daddy’s diagnosis I can remember how I shut down for three days, angry at the world…thinking life was so unfair to me and hasn’t this family been through enough. Or I can remember how we regrouped and made the decision that even if Dad wasn’t going to be here as long as we wanted, we would never let him live without Hope. We were never after a cure, we were always after Hope.
I think back to Dad’s 62nd birthday, March 1st, when we learned that the cancer had spread to his pancreas. I can remember the anger I felt, at the disease, at the doctors and all the tears that were cried, or I can choose to remember the strength of my Dad’s arms when my sister and I crawled into the hospital bed with him to be comforted…That’s 3 grown adults, 1 hospital bed.
And last Saturday we could have been distraught once we realized there was no way he was making it down to the party, but instead we chose to be thankful that he was home, that family and friends were by our side, that he still enjoyed the music and that he was still able to tell me “I love you” the morning before he died.
It’s all about perspective, and what you choose to think about. Those are my choices.
To switch gears a bit; I feel this needs to be said, and I hope it does not come off as being callous.
If you’re sitting here today and have found yourself feeling thankful that cancer doesn’t “run in your family”… please don’t….. I’ll let you all in on a little family secret…before October of 2010, cancer didn’t “run in our family” either.
And if right now you find yourself saying, “well I don’t smoke, and I eat healthy and I exercise!” That’s great–I commend your healthy choices and wish that that was all it took. One of the first things we learned while attending Gilda’s Club Cancer Support Center, is that Cancer does not discriminate. I feel as if people have this sense of relief when I tell them that Daddy smoked. Like they are safe. In this last year I have met 20 year olds with rectal cancer, 30 years olds with extensive breast cancer and 40 year olds on their death bed. I am sure they thought the same thing, I eat healthy, I don’t smoke, I’m young… I’m safe.
My point is two-fold. First…a cancer diagnosis does not need justification. There is not one to be found because no one deserves to go through what my Father went through. There is no blame to be had.
Secondly and this is the most important part: never live your life in fear, but don’t be so naïve that this could never be you. If you feel yourself thinking about someone from you past…call them. If you have someone special in your life, tell them…and tell them why they mean so much to you. And if there is some place you have been wanting to get to…go there. This doesn’t have to be on a grand scale; a trip around the world. I am talking about the little things, the break from routine.
The day we found out Dad had cancer, we hiked to the top of the Dinosaur Tree. Daddy landed himself in the hospital the next day, but we did it. Dad always wanted to go back to Sausalito…so we went…He also went to Devil’s games, visited his grandparents’ grave in Sleepy Hollow, helped me build the bar, threw Abbey around in the pool, watched the Bobsled Team win the world championships, reconnected with long lost friends and gave unheard advice to his daughters. He did it all and he did it while battling cancer. These things would have been much easier to accomplish had he started years ago and not been fighting for his life, fighting for his girls…
But it’s back to that perspective thing again. Like Gilda Radner said, “If it wasn’t for the side effects, everyone would want cancer.” Because it is that thing that jilts you alive and makes you look at life from a new perspective. You rise above all the mundane crap that fills our lives and you become aware of what is truly important.
Yesterday was a tough day. Between dealing with Contractors, plumbers, securing lighting for the bar, weighing in on funerals, getting a brick wall built, wrangling our wood worker and trying to figure out how the hell we were going to pay for all of it. I was tired and stressed and just wanted to curl up in a ball and forget the day ever happened. But I didn’t. Because I had promised myself that I was finally going to go to the little red light house under the great big bridge. Dad and I have been saying we were going to go since I read the book as a child. We never made it together, but I wasn’t going to use that as an excuse. So I walked down there with my equally exhausted roommate, and we jumped the fence to the weathered stone in front of the light house and lay there with the bridge running over top of us and the lighthouse behind and I felt this wave of relief. And I felt Dad and I asked him for help in writing this damn speech and I asked him for guidance, and I told him how much I loved him and wished he was there. And we listened to Roy Orbison’s You Got It and I felt thankful and relieved that I hadn’t let the day get the best of me. I didn’t let myself get so clouded by the daily crap that I couldn’t seize the moment.
If there is one thing to be gained from all of this–that is it. Two lessons about life…it waits for no one and it goes on.”
The bar that Lauren’s father helped her build in NYC will be opening soon (I told her that as soon as I was able, I would belly up). It will be called Harlem Public and will be located on 149th and b’way.