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The Day My Dad Died (also known as last Friday)

(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.

Kristy Gardner - My Dad Died

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.

Stuart Gardner - My Dad Died

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.

Dad's Resting Place - My Dad Died - Kelowna BC - SheEats.ca

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.

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  • Nicole
    November 6, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    I’m really sorry for your loss Kristy. I cried my eyes out reading this post because it’s incredibly relatable. Not to say I know exactly what you’re going through, because everyones loss is different, but I can say I’m there. Andrew lost both his parents recently to Cancer and other unknown complications, he lost them in the span of 2 years, this really put life into perspective for me and made me realize I need to spend more time with my family, especially my dad, because he was diagnosed with Cancer several years ago and his health hasn’t been good ever since, everyday I worry I’m going to get that dreaded phone call…. All I can say is, I’m sorry and I hope you’re able to find peace and joy soon and look back on wonderful memories in the next few months.

    <3
    Nicole
    Nicole recently published…The Perfect Earl Grey TeaMy Profile

  • Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie)
    November 6, 2014 at 7:19 PM

    Kristy, I lost my Dad to lung cancer when he had just turned 44 and I had just turned 17. I remember those last weeks – we only had weeks after his diagnosis. Those memories are the most valuable and cherished things that I own. They are wholly and completely mine and his. He has been gone from me longer than he was with me, at this point. But still, he’s with me every single day. Your dad will be with you always too. I promise. There’s no way to make his leaving suck any less…I wish I could do that for you. But I promise, he’ll still talk to you. My deepest condolences.
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) recently published…Daylight Saving Time… Where’s The Justice?My Profile

  • Emily
    November 6, 2014 at 7:38 PM

    I am so sorry for your loss!

  • Camille
    November 6, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    I have no words, Kristy. I am so sorry for your loss and my heart goes out to you and your family in this painful time. You talk about him with such beautiful and heartwarming words and that’s one of the greatest things you can do to cherish a person’s memory. My heartfelt condolences.
    Camille recently published…Carrot Cake Muffins (Paleo, Gluten-Free)My Profile

  • Asiya @ Chocolate & Chillies
    November 6, 2014 at 9:17 PM

    Kristy…I am so sorry for your loss. May your father rest in peace and may you find comfort in your memories of him.
    Asiya @ Chocolate & Chillies recently published…Pumpkin WafflesMy Profile

  • Teresa
    November 6, 2014 at 9:46 PM

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope you have family and friends around you. Your post is a beautiful tribute to your father.
    Teresa recently published…Chock Full of NovemberMy Profile

  • Megan
    November 6, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    Kris, nothing anyone can say right now makes any of this easier, but know this, your dad leaves behind an amazing legacy in you. His laughter, his hugs, his warm spirit, heck, I’m guessing even his fondness for steak and cheesecake is inherent in you, and comes out in every beautiful word you write. Take care of yourself as the most amazing tribute to him, and pump as much Stu-love into this world as you possibly can, I’m sure he had plenty to give. xo
    Megan recently published…NYSUS WinesMy Profile

  • Amie
    November 6, 2014 at 10:31 PM

    I’m so sorry for your loss kristy. You and your entire family are in my heart.
    Amie recently published…Exercise: Pregnancy EditionMy Profile

  • Stacy
    November 6, 2014 at 10:41 PM

    You are absolutely right, love, he is still with you. I know it doesn’t make it feel better now, but if you’re experience is anything like mine, you’ll get to know your dad on a whole other level now. Mom’s been gone over 12 years now (has it really been that long?!?) and in a lot of ways it still feels like she’s here. I’m sending you lots of hugs and love your way, my friend. I’m here if you need me! Xo/ Stacy

  • Ally @ Om Nom Ally
    November 6, 2014 at 11:09 PM

    I’m not ashamed to admit I cried freely while reading this post, I’m so very sorry for your loss. I’m glad however that your father passed in his sleep and that it wasn’t drawn out, it sounds like he passed with dignity and was happy to spend his last moments connecting with the people he loved most. Sending you and your family lots of love and light, with metta. xx Ally

  • Nicole
    November 6, 2014 at 11:26 PM

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Kristy. This must be so hard. I’m thinking of you and sending big virtual hugs! Xo

  • Anna
    November 6, 2014 at 11:51 PM

    Oh Kristy, I’m so sorry for your loss. What beautiful words and memories you have, and may you find peace in this time of grieving.
    Anna recently published…Simply Scrumptious Cinnamon BunsMy Profile

  • Laureen Fox
    November 7, 2014 at 12:23 AM

    Oh Kristy, I’m bawling my face off right now. I lost my mom just six weeks ago. I know someday the hurt will subside but until then it rips my heart out and brings me to my knees. In other words, it sucks!

    You’ve written such a sweet tribute to your dad and I’m surer than sure that wasn’t easy. That hitting publish made his passing feel more real. So raw. So final.

    Sorry, I’m not helping much here am I? Just know that you have my deepest sympathy and understanding.

    Sending you love and big eHUGS!
    Laureen Fox recently published…Blogpost: Food Bloggers of Canada #FBC2014My Profile

  • Jo
    November 7, 2014 at 4:35 AM

    I have never commented on a blog post before but I just wanted you to know that you aren’t alone. My mum died of renal failure last Sunday. In this numbness, I keep thinking back to when my Dad died 14 years ago and reminding myself that a day will come when I realise that a whole hour has passed when I haven’t grieved for him and then a day and then one day, sooner than you think, you will smile at a memory of the person you’ve lost rather than feel the visceral sadness you feel now.

  • April J Harris
    November 7, 2014 at 4:50 AM

    Thank you for sharing this post, Kristy. I’m so glad that you got to spend some time with your Dad before he died and that you saw an even more wonderful side to him than you had seen before. It hurts so much when something like this happens. When I lost my parents six weeks apart seven years ago I felt like someone had ripped out my heart and literally stomped it flat. Concentrating on the positive and on good memories – as you have in this post – is one of the first steps in healing. Although, I confess, you never really heal from a loss like this. It will always hurt but you will find ways to make it more bearable as time wears on. Thinking of you and your family. x
    April J Harris recently published…Crock Pot Apple and Pear SauceMy Profile

  • Becky
    November 7, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    I’m glad he slipped away peacefully too.
    I lost my father suddenly to a heart attack some twenty five years ago. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. I see glimmers of him in my daughter which leaves me equally choked up and at peace all at the same time. It’s weird what gets passed down in our DNA.
    This was a beautiful tribute. xo
    Becky recently published…A most practical give away.My Profile

  • Mary (The Godmother)
    November 7, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Kristy, I can’t imagine how your family must be feeling right now. Your father sounds like an incredible man and a blessing to his family. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll keep you and yours in my prayers as you take time to grieve.

  • Jo-Anna
    November 7, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    I am so sorry for your loss Kristy. <3

  • Bernice
    November 7, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    Kristy. You are wrong. This IS about food. Food for the soul. I am not as close to my dad as I should be and much like your dad was, he’s more of a practical kind of guy. I’m really glad you had the chance to spend so much time with your dad, even if under such sad circumstances. He sounds like he was a great dad tough and practical when he had to be but also loving and funny and caring.
    It’s a tough time. Take care, hugs.

  • Bridget Oland
    November 7, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    Such a beautiful way to remember your dad. You’re right, you are very lucky, in many ways.
    Bridget Oland recently published…Top 4 Reasons to Buy Local FoodMy Profile

  • Fareen
    November 7, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    I’m so sorry for your loss!
    Fareen recently published…my little foodie and his ultimate grilled cheeseMy Profile

  • Lindsey @HalfDimeHomestead
    November 7, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    Yeah.

    This.

    I’m not saying another word. I’m just hugging you across the miles, my friend.
    Lindsey @HalfDimeHomestead recently published…Duck Names! And contest winners…My Profile

  • Louisa
    November 7, 2014 at 6:46 PM

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Kristy. Sending love and light your way.
    Louisa recently published…Leek and Potato SoupMy Profile

  • Kirsten
    November 7, 2014 at 8:17 PM

    Kristy,
    You are so very eloquent, what a moving . . . fuck, I don’t know . . . tribute? portrayal? description? of your time with him.

    I’m so glad you had that time with him.
    Kirsten recently published…Spicy Asian-inspired Kohlrabi Pickle SpearsMy Profile

  • Lillian
    November 7, 2014 at 10:26 PM

    Kristy, so sorry to hear of your loss. You have captured your time with him so well and spent the time you had with him so rest assured in that! Thinking of you during this difficult time.

  • Melanie @ Bon Appet'Eat
    November 8, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    Kristy, I read this post yesterday and I was so touch but did not what to write or how to write it… I don’t know you other than through FBC but I do feel you pain and I hope that you are finding the comfort that you need through your loved ones to go through this tough times.
    Your Dad looked like a wonderful person and it’s a beautiful post you wrote. He would be proud. He is I’m sure!
    All the best to you Kristy and your family!
    xo
    Melanie @ Bon Appet’Eat recently published…Shepherd pie or Hachi Parmentier?My Profile

  • Emily @ Recipes to Nourish
    November 8, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    Kristy my heart is breaking for you. I am so deeply sorry for your loss. I can’t lie, I still cry almost everyday since my mom passed away 4 months ago, but the sadness and tears do lessen and some days it’s only a few tears with big smiles. Hold on to those special memories. Allow yourself to grieve the way you need to. Thank you so much for sharing your memories and experience with us. Sending you HUGE hugs and lots and lots of love. xo
    Emily @ Recipes to Nourish recently published…Coconut Raspberry Vanilla Smoothie with KombuchaMy Profile

  • Sandra
    November 10, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    I’m so sorry Kristy. Your post moved me to tears. You wrote so eloquently about your father – a truly beautiful dedication to the beautiful life you shared with him.

  • Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe
    November 10, 2014 at 6:31 PM

    Oh lady love, my heart hurts for you. I’m so very sorry about your papa. Life can just be a real pile of shit sometimes. If I knew that words could heal your pain I’d send them all to you. But I know that it just doesn’t work that way. So instead I’m sending you lots of hugs and hope for each day to get a little easier. xo
    Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe recently published…Brown Butter Cornflake Marshmallow Skillet CookieMy Profile

  • Catherine
    November 11, 2014 at 9:58 PM

    Dear Kristy, I am very sorry for you loss. You have honored your father with a beautiful and heartfelt post.
    I lost my father at a very young age…and I thank God more that I didn’t have to watch my father suffer. Like you said, it was pain we were all spared from. My heart and prayers go out to your father, may he rest in peace, and to your family during this difficult time. Thank you for sharing. Sending prayers your way. Blessings dear, Catherine xo

  • Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets
    November 12, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    This was a beautifully written and well thought out post. I’m so sorry man. Life can be super shitty sometimes. Your dad sounds awesome.

    I’m here for you.

  • Chaya
    November 13, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    I am so sorry for your loss. When my Dad died, it was also fast and without pain and it helped me a great deal. Hold to that. It sounds like you are. Talk to your Dad and tell me what you want him to know. That also helped me a lot.

    No one can tell you how to handle your grief so please forgive my making suggestions but in the hopes that it might help, I had to share.

    It is only a week since your loss. Gradually, you will heal. I pray for the strength to handle all that comes your way.
    Chaya recently published…Salad Nicoise – Donna HayMy Profile

  • Kelly @ Inspired Edibles
    November 13, 2014 at 8:33 PM

    I’m so sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful tribute to your dad and how incredibly fortunate that you had time to reconnect and discover each other before his passing. Sometimes it’s in the shadows that things become most clear. My heart is with you… much love, xx.
    Kelly @ Inspired Edibles recently published…Sesame-Ginger Beef & BroccoliMy Profile

  • Jon
    November 14, 2014 at 9:04 AM

    Kristy, I am so sad to read this and sorry for you and your family’s loss. Thank you for sharing and being so open. I can only imagine how awful this is and will be. My heart goes out to you.
    -Jon

  • Marlene
    November 15, 2014 at 12:31 AM

    This is such a sad and lovely post, a beautiful tribute to your father. It means a lot to me that you’ve shared your experience. My mother died in June, and now both my parents are gone. There was a time when I couldn’t write about anything, except what I was dealing with. It helps to write it, and it helps others on their own journey of grief to read it. Hugs.
    Marlene recently published…A Crowd Pleaser With a Twist ❉ Chocolate Mousse, Avocado StyleMy Profile

  • Paula
    November 16, 2014 at 7:13 AM

    Hello Kristy ~ This is my first time on your site having clicked over from FBC’s feature and I’m feeling a little like that person you have no idea who they are but show up at a wake and come and give you a big hug like they’ve known you for years.

    I am truly very sorry to hear that your father just recently passed away. As I read through your beautiful post I could not help but think of my own Dad, a man I loved all my life but never came to know and understand until a few years before he died. It’s funny, once we are *all grown-up* and on our own, we feel that we can’t learn anything more from our parents, yet I learned more as I watched them both deal with cancer than I did during the 18 years I lived at home.

    Those last weeks with your Dad, you will come to treasure them even more than you do now as the years go by. What you learned from and of him during that time…that is his legacy to you.

    My sincere condolences to you and your family.

  • Amy
    November 19, 2014 at 3:24 AM

    XOXO pretty. I love your big big big heart.
    Amy recently published…It’s the ConceptMy Profile

  • Diane Balch
    November 19, 2014 at 7:23 AM

    Dear Kristy,
    It’s OK you were not with him at the last moment because you did spend some good time with him before he died. It has been a long time since my dad died, all I can tell you is that the pain does lessen.
    Diane Balch recently published…Storzapretis (aka Corsican Spinach and Mint Gnocchi) #French Fridays with DorieMy Profile

  • Chelsea @ Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen
    November 25, 2014 at 6:48 PM

    Oh Kristy, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I loss my grandpa early this month, and he had lung cancer as well. I know how much you must be hurting right now. But I hope spending time with your family and reliving the memories have been helping – that’s what helped me.
    Chelsea @ Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen recently published…Anniversary dinner at Spencer’s at the WaterfrontMy Profile