(preface: this post is neither food related, nor hilarious. but if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been…. well. here you have it. i’ll work on getting new recipes and posts sometime in the next couple of weeks or so. Thanks for being amazing, you guys.)
The day my dad died, I wasn’t there.
I wasn’t with him.
I was in Vancouver, walking and talking and lunching with a friend. I’d been to the drug store and the grocery store. I’d just got home from picking up some chocolate for the evening – it was Halloween, after all – and saw 2 missed phone calls from my brother.
The past couple of months he wasn’t well. My dad that is, not my brother. In fact, almost 2 months ago to the day he was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. It started with odd complaints of discomfort which developed into consistent complaints of severe back pain. Soon he was coughing up blood. Mom and Brother took him to the hospital. Tests were done. I flew into town. Doctors drew the curtain. He was diagnosed. It was all very linear. Such order, to such chaos.
Outraged – as well as confused, saddened and yet hopeful – we asked the usual questions like “what are our options?”, “what’s the next step?” and the inevitable, “is it curable?”
We discovered it was in fact, not curable; It had already spread to his spine, leg, esophagus and brain. The questions devolved. Or evolved, depending on whether you’re a glass half full or glass half empty kinda person. We asked things like “how long does he have?” and “should we bother with treatment?” and “can natural remedies help ease his pain?” None of these answers were favourable.
2 months went by. Quickly. Dad handled the chemo fairly well. No vomiting, though there was some nausea, muscle weakness and fatigue. A lot of fatigue. But there was a lot of laughter too. The sickest 2 months of his life and he was in the best spirits I’d ever seen him. Jovial, optimistic, even joyful. He admitted to me only days before he passed that he’d smiled more in the last 2 months, and felt better physically, than he had for as long as he could remember.
One day he joked about how an $8 light bulb (a gouge of a price, mind you) would last longer than he would. How’s that for value?
As he died, his outward joy came alive.
During this time: We shared quiet conversations over morning coffee. He’d nap off and on in the day and I’d work – until he woke up…. At which point he’d jabber my ear off and I wouldn’t get anything done. I’d want to affectionately say “Dad – I love you but shut UP” but who tells a man dying of cancer to shut up? We ate cold spaghetti. He got really good at giving hugs. He revealed thoughtful truths and compassion in moments and words that I didn’t know he possessed. If you knew Stu Gardner over the coarse of my childhood, he never was a big talker and he was always very practical: A to Z, Monday to Friday, right to wrong. Affectionate? Yes. Loving? Definitely. Light-hearted optimist? Not so much. The shadow of death made me see who he really was, more than 34 years of life ever had. I don’t know if that’s terrible or not. Maybe it’s a good thing. But it’s during this time – these past 2 weeks – that I discovered his optimism. That I really got to know him. That I felt the closest to him.
The day my dad died, he passed in a matter of moments. Seconds, really. He simply went to sleep. He didn’t suffer the long drawn out 3-6 months the doctors had originally predicted. And thank god for that because that added time would have no doubt been horrifically painful and sick. He was spared that agony and so were we. Despite the sudden loss and grieving and loneliness I now feel, I’m grateful for that.
The day my dad died, I wasn’t there. But he was with me. Through laughter and support and love. And he still is in my memory and heart. This sucks worse than fuck. But I’m trying to remember: Dad made the best of it. He lived. He laughed. He did exactly what he wanted to and made my life so much better because of it. I’m lucky to have been born his daughter. And lucky to have so much time with him toward the end. I’m lucky I get to call him Dad. Lucky.
Be at peace, Dad.