"About six months to live," the doctor's voice blared over my car speakers.
Being a nurse, I knew the doctor was lying. It was her effort to lessen the pain of losing a loved one. After a pregnant pause, I responded, "Really that long?"
My dad, who had lived nine lives, was reaching for his tenth. Like a battle-worn boxer, he was instinctively fighting against an opponent that he had beaten before. But this time was different. Cancer was now aggressively attacking his prostate, liver, pancreas, and spine. We know the probability of him winning this battle was low and that the best we could hope for was a peaceful death. With so much real-life happening all around me, my true love kept nudging me to get back to what makes me happy. In thirty days, NaNoWriMo begins. My original plan was to have the edits of my first novel complete and to use October to prep the second book in my family saga series - "Freida."
Although twenty chapters into the final edits of the forty-two-chapter book, it's clear I will not finish editing my novel until the end of December. Life events happen. I drew from that resilience my parents instilled in me, hoping and praying that I had not used the last drop. Is it bottomless, or does it recharge like a battery?
Despite always having family around him, my father was a solitary man. He valued his privacy and his time alone. He lived his life in sporadic episodes and disjointed chapters. In my mind, I was a secondary character in his life with little backstory. But from conversations with friends, I learned he thought I was a plucky protagonist and a rock star. I knew he loved me and was proud of me, and was his "Baby Girl". I would have loved to hear that from him.
Good things can come from painful experiences. No matter how they present.
My father's illness showed me I have a supportive group of friends and family. I am very fortunate, grateful and I appreciate them immensely. I let them know they are all valued and tell them at every opportunity.
In the end, my dad craved family time, and we were there for him. He craved attention from his family secondary to his own need for solitude, but things changed. It's never too late.
Our six-month cycle of hospital stays and home health- then hospice ended abruptly. As I sat at his bedside, I reflected on his life and my life with him: the long conversations and the laughter.
On a fall Saturday evening in early October, I said goodbye to a man who lived on his terms and died on his terms. He lived his life the best way he knew how.
Ultimately, life has a way of re-centering your perspective. We are here, and we die. That sounds cold, but nothing is more accurate. The key, don't die without sharing your glory with the world. Live. It doesn't matter if the woman at the grocery store says something rude or a coworker torments you. Try to create the life that you need so your soul can flourish, nurse your genius. Be the author of your life. Connect with the meaningful characters in your life's story, edit what isn't working. Rewrite as necessary.
I held my father's hand as he drew his last breath. Reminiscent of when he marveled at my tiny new hand holding his finger in my first moments of life. Now I rest my literary pen for a more significant, more important task, writing the obituary for my father, a loving, intelligent, and complex man. Dad, say "hi" to mom for me.