Sunday, February 24, 2019

How Do You Say Goodbye

"Am I a cancer survivor?," he asked. My mom immediately, and firmly, said "Yes!" But I could tell that he was pondering it further, and so was I.

My dad was preparing to be the featured patient speaker at a Relay for Life event in my hometown last summer as we had this brief, but impactful, conversation. His journey with cancer had started 24 years prior. But the end was near, and he was going to lose his life to cancer. I think he was having a difficult time feeling like he was "surviving" the disease.
survivor[ser-vahy-ver]
noun
- a person or thing that survives.
- Law. the one of two or more designated persons, as joint tenants or others having a joint interest, who outlives the other or others.
- a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.

That last line resonates with me, and not just for my dad, but for the entire family.

On February 1st, I lost my dad to cancer.
While I wasn't ready to say "Goodbye" to someone that had made such an impact on my life and shaped who I am today, I did get the chance to. I made it to NY to be by his bedside, just hours before he passed. I shook him awake, and he looked right at me. I said "Dad, I'm here. I made it in time." and he said, "Wow. Wow." before he let out three big sighs. I said, "Dad, I love you. I love you so much." and he said, "I love you too." That was the moment I needed.
For me, it wasn't truly "Goodbye" because I know that he'll still be with me. I'll hear his voice when I need it most, and that booming and quick laugh will never be forgotten. But life certainly won't be the same, and I won't be the same.
I am grateful that his battle with cancer took 24 years before claiming his life. His body may have  been consumed by the disease, but he was NEVER defined by it. The last four and a half years, when the battle got really tough, we focused on the good. The time together, making new memories, and still laughing a lot.
Life will go on. I will survive without my dad. But a piece of my heart will remain forever broken.

A person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks. That was my dad. That is me.

As I reflect back now...Yes, you were a cancer survivor.

I love you, dad. And I can still hear you saying "I love you too."

8 comments:

Unknown said...

Awwww.24 years, Yes, he WAS a survivor.
So sorry for your loss Katrina.

Crystal @EatDrinkCLE said...

Oh Katrina.This is so beautiful and so heartbreaking. I'm terribly sorry. Your Dad was such a fighter. And 24 years definitely is a survivor!

Bite Buff said...

Thank you for the kind words.

Bite Buff said...

Thank you, my friend!

Meghan McCarthy said...

Beautifully said. He truly was a survivor.

Kerry said...

I am so, so sorry. I lost my mom to cancer 10 years ago. Her battle lasted 13 years and she also always resisted/questioned the "survivor" label, though like your dad, she "survived" in the most amazing ways. This was such a beautiful tribute to your dad. 💗

Bite Buff said...

Thank you for sharing your story. It’s certainly been difficult, and it truly helps to connect with others that have been through it. I’m very sorry for your loss. Cancer sucks.

Bite Buff said...

Thank you so much for your kind words!