A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith

The Decision

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” – Pema Chödrön

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My dad has cancer. There, I said it. He doesn’t just have some small, localized, fixable cancer. He has the kind that spread all over his internal organs, insidiously invading his whole body. There are tumors hanging on his insides like ripe fruit on a tree, but this fruit can’t be picked. There’s no way to operate and remove his cancer. It dangles, tauntingly, putrefying on the branch, destroying everything it touches.

So we have begun a waiting game. He, waiting for the inevitable reunion with my mother, my sister Maureen and his next adventure in a place unknown to us. Me and my sister Kat, waiting for the inevitability of losing a man whose presence has always been steady and unfailing.

The writer Jane Green, in her book The Beach House, said, “Nothing in this world happens without a reason. That we are all exactly where we are supposed to be, and then the pieces of the puzzle have a tendency to come together when you least expect it.”

There is truth here. Decisions made by a family member living close to my father, the breakdown of my marriage, the independence of my daughter, a contractual obligation that I move out of my apartment by the end of June, are all pieces of my puzzle that, when completed, reveal a perfectly clear picture of what I need to do in response to my father’s diagnosis. I will be moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the duration of his illness, which according to the doctors is expected to be between three weeks and three months. I will be vacating my apartment, putting my belongings in storage, and hitting the road with only the desire to make my father’s last weeks on this earth joy filled and loving.

This was a remarkably easy decision to make. There is, despite my poor skills at keeping in touch, nothing more important to me than my family and friends. I routinely forget to send birthday cards, frequently forget to update my family on changes in my life, and don’t have the best track record for staying in touch. However, that just means I’m a poor communicator, not that I love any of them with any less than my full heart.

It is my hope that this blog will afford me an outlet. It is a chance to chronicle my father’s journey as well as my own journey toward becoming a more whole, compassionate human being. I would like to talk about the lessons I learn, the things my father teaches me, and small moments of each day. I would like to share the joyful and loving moments, and the moments of heartbreak as well. I will share his humor, his stories, and reveal the lion among men that he is. My father has lived an extraordinary life, one that is part of a lineage that has its roots in Ireland’s County Roscommon. I am honored to have the opportunity to share the end of his life with him.

This is going to be a fairly raw journey, to pretend otherwise would be to lie. I have to remember, however, that there is still much joy to be had in my father’s life. There is still much living to be done, and so I will help his failing body accomplish what his strong soul still reaches for… And Life goes on.

“Before us great Death stands
Our fate held close within his quiet hands.
When with proud joy we lift Life’s red wine
To drink deep of the mystic shining cup
And ecstasy through all our being leaps—
Death bows his head and weeps.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke

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Comments on: "The Decision" (8)

  1. Maggie said:

    Your Dad is lucky to have you.
    All sorts of thoughts went through my head as I read your blog. My heart sank, for the thought of the cancer and what your Dad must think. My heart sank, for the thought of losing you to another town so far away. My heart sank, because you’ve been through so much. And then I thought……your so lucky. To be there for your Dad. I wish you good health, friends to keep you company and peace. Peace along your journey. (your lucky to be so loving and close to your Dad)
    Please. Keep in touch.
    Much love, my friend. You are blessed.

    • Maggie, your response brought tears to my eyes. I am the lucky one to have the opportunity to spend it with Dad. I will absolutely keep in touch, and will be back to Dover as soon as the Fates permit. Much love and hugs to you!

  2. I would like to be with you on this journey in what ever way makes sense to you and sets your heart in a place of love. I’ll leave that up to you, but know that encapsulating you in prayer and the Light has already begun. I love you big, my friend!

  3. Terrie DeStefano said:

    Coleen your blog is beautiful of love and courage. I want you to know I am just an email away. My dad went thru 7 years of one surgery after another to include loosing both leg and being on dialysis. We were told he wouldn’t last long on numerous occasions during that time. Only God knows how long we have. Enjoy every minute you have. Don’t forget to take care of yourself as well. Prayers to all of you!

  4. sandra said:

    Hi Col,
    So sorry to hear about your dad . I’m glad you are able to be with him to help him .
    This treasured time together is priceless .
    And YES CANCER SUCKS.
    Your in my prayers,
    Much ❤
    Sandra

  5. Jody Erts said:

    Coleen,
    I did this with my mom. It was hard. For weeks my Aunt and I took turns being with and caring for her. I’d take both the girls (until Sarah started school) every Sunday and drive the 2 hrs to be with her. On Thursday or Friday I’d go home to work 2 days. My aunt would go down on Friday and come back Sunday. My sisters were young, we were there for them too. It was HARD.
    I would do it again in a second.
    You are doing the absolute right thing for you at this time. I just worry that you will be so far and essentially alone. Unless your sister is going too? The Hospice nurses are also there to help you. They listen, hug and wipe your tears away and they get you through your journey. This is your journey as well as your fathers’.
    Anyway…….I just wanted to tell you to put it ALL out there through this journey. As sad and ugly as it gets. This blog will be hard to look back on, but also something to treasure. It’s not all sad and ugly, some moments are precious.
    We, your adoring friends and fans are here for you. We too will listen and hug and wipe away your tears. Love you💕💕
    Also, if you need, when you get back I can ask my aunt (Janet, the one you’ve met) if you can stay with her till you get a new place. She liked you and she’s got 4 empty beds I upstairs that no one is using. They have helped people in the past, so I can ask. Let me know. Who knows?? You may find your Prince Charming or Knight in Shining Armor somewhere in Albuquerque.💏

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