Healthy Living

Lessons From My Dying Father

I think about my father every single day.
03/13/2017 03:34pm ET | Updated March 21, 2017
Lisa & Dad circa 1977

I think about my father every single day. I think about the pain and suffering he endured, and I think about what a wonderful father he was. My childhood was nothing short of magnificent. The relationship I had with my Dad holds a sacred place in my heart right next to the giant hole in my heart now that he’s gone.

My father held my hand my entire life and I held his as he left this world. I will never forget my father’s strong comforting grip as a little girl. I will never forget embracing his hand during his final hours, his smile and hearing him remind us up until his last breath that he “loved us more.”

One of the most difficult parts of saying goodbye to a loved one is figuring out how to survive in this world without that person. My Dad was not just my Dad, he was my best friend. Not a day went by that we did not speak, even towards the end of his life when he was gravely ill we spoke daily, sometimes multiple times a day. Every single conversation ended with, “ I love you more.”

Grieving my father has forced me to prioritize my life. Things that were once high priority are now trivial and meaningless.

Even in death my father taught me valuable lessons:

  1. Be thankful for your ability to eat - My father died unable to eat a morsel of food or drink an ounce of fluid because his cancer prevented him from enjoying something so basic that many of us take it for granted. My father died choking to death on what little saliva was left in his mouth. I had to suction giant clumps of phlegm from his mouth during his final days because he was too weak to do it himself. I choose to live my life and embrace it. If I choose to indulge today and have a cheeseburger washed down by an ice cold beer I will not go complain to my social media friends how I cheated, I will not starve myself the next day because I was “bad.” I will thank God that I am able to enjoy my meals. On the days when life becomes overwhelming I will take a deep breath and be thankful because I know it could be so much worse.
  2. Say I love you - Not a day went by that I didn’t speak to my father and tell him I love you. My last words to my father were “I love you.” There is nothing cliché about telling someone you love them, remember there are many who miss the opportunity.
  3. Love is stronger than death - Feathers, music, blinking lights. Even in the afterlife my father is still showing me he loves me. Love never dies.
  4. Be thankful for your loved ones - Make it a priority to love and appreciate the people in your life. Don’t get caught up in the small insignificant things that you lose sight of the big picture and what really matters.
  5. Death is temporary, love is infinite - Your unconditional love will always overpower death.

A version of this appeared on: The Grief Toolbox