Life Lessons from My Dying Dad (Part 1)

It has been one week since Dad passed away. He passed away exactly two weeks after receiving a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. The two weeks from diagnosis to death included both the longest days and the fastest moments one could possibly conceive of experiencing. When you hear me say that life can change “in the blink of an eye,” I mean this so literally that it is not even close to funny. “The blink of an eye” is about the time it takes for a doctor to close a door and say, “This is very bad news.” It’s about the same amount of time it takes to witness your loving father exhale his final breath and for his heart to stop beating. It’s about the same amount of time it takes to witness your mother become a widow, and it’s about the same amount of time it takes to suddenly become thankful that the pain has ended forever. While I am working through the pain of losing Dad, I am writing here, because Dad was as much of a teacher as he was human. He was always teaching in various arenas. I believe he would want others to learn from him even in his final days. Please consider sharing his legacy with others by passing the link along to others. This post is Part 1 of I-Don’t-Know-How-Many, but there will certainly be more to come.

Addictions Die Hard
Dad crossed his 34-year anniversary of sobriety on August 18th. Because he was too weak and hurting to attend any meetings, he was not able to receive his 34-year coin. One week before he died, a group of friends traveled from South Carolina to West Central Florida to hold a meeting in his home, to pray with Dad, and to present him with his 34-year coin. This was perhaps one of the most selfless acts of love I have ever witnessed, and it was a true testimony to the life Dad has led for the past 34 years as he worked through his own recovery one day at a time and impacted innumerable others to do the same in this time. But on his death bed, within hours of his passing, Dad asked the nurse to bring him a Sangria and later called me his bartender when asking for medicine to help him calm down and breathe easier. Obviously, no Sangria was being served, and I certainly am no bartender. But, what was shocking to me in these moments was seeing Dad fighting these addictions all the way until his final breath. He told me days earlier that he stopped going into the grocery store even before he was no longer physically capable, because he knew nothing was stopping him from buying “enough Jack Daniels to end all his pain forever.” But Dad had more to lose by giving in to his addiction than he had to gain. Because he remained sober until the very end, Dad enjoyed his final days with my brothers, me, Mom, and his closest friends– and he created countless laughs, hugs, smiles, and memories for us even up until his final day. Because he consciously chose sobriety, he blessed the rest of us in his final moments in ways that we can never forget.

Money Matters More Than it Should
When Dad initially went to see a doctor because he had started showing signs of illness that were extreme, he was immediately worried about the cost of the new medication that his doctor wanted him to start on. Later, when the hospital diagnostic imaging made it clear that Dad had very little time left to live, he was again worried about the cost of involving hospice care. When Dad was still coherent, he wanted to be sure Mom and I knew how to access all of his financial information. He broke down in tears as he told Mom that he was truly sorry that there was nothing that he was leaving her. He told her that there is no money, no insurance, no pot of gold anywhere, just his Social Security income that would become hers. Of course, Mom already knew this, but admitting this to his wife, who he felt was deserving of life’s every luxury, was difficult for Dad to admit and say out loud. Making this spoken confession to his wife, I am convinced, was more painful to Dad, than hearing the terminal diagnosis from the doctor. Dad was relieved when he found out that hospice care would be provided free of charge through Medicare, and this was perhaps the only reason he was willing to accept their service.

In the immediate days following Dad’s diagnosis and immediately after his death, a small handful of close family members sent small checks to mom to help pay for whatever she may need it for. Mom would never ask anyone for money, but these gifts have been greatly appreciated and have helped to alleviate some of the immediate financial concerns that we have had. Even so, it hasn’t been enough. The coming months are going to bring too much uncertainty. Mourning for our father, and Mom mourning for her husband will bring a level of grief we have never dealt with, compounded by financial stress for each of us in varying degrees— I cannot fully express this, except to say that stupid money matters way too much more than it should. I can also say that my husband and I will do whatever we can to be sure that our children will not be in a similar position at whatever time it may be that we are called home to heaven. — And I offer my sincere thanks to those who have contributed to helping us out in this area. For those of you who may be reading this who have family that could potentially be financially impacted by your untimely death, please do them an enormous favor and take out even a small life insurance policy. Paying for final expenses has the potential to create a financial crisis for your immediate family. Your loved ones should not have to worry about this. Please, give them the gift of financial stability if it is at all possible for you to do so.

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3 thoughts on “Life Lessons from My Dying Dad (Part 1)

  1. Krista thank you so very much for sharing. I love your Dad and all of you guys so much. I feel and understand the pain and sadness of having to say “See you later” to a parent. Although we don’t talk or see you guys regularly, my love for y’all is strong. Please know I’m here for you if you need anything. Xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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