Everyone says it. "I wasn't prepared," or, "I wasn't ready." And it's true. Even though I knew it was coming, death is a knock at your door you are never ready to answer.
My father was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer on his birthday, April 14, 2005. On my birthday, June 7, 2005, he was told he had fewer than six months to live and we should prepare for the end. The doctor recommended against chemotherapy, but told my father he should get radiation treatments. My dad agreed and reluctantly went for radiation, which was really meant to minimize the growth of the cells and tumors that would later appear.
My father was the greatest man in my life, but we were often estranged. He was there for me growing up. He taught me how to ride a bike, he helped me with my homework, he cooked and cleaned, but he drank. I wasn't a daughter without a father - that is, until I was older.
I didn't know it when I was a kid. Like most children, I was oblivious to the world adults lived in and he was just my daddy. My parents separated a couple of times before my mother left with finality when I was in high school. And, because I was so naïve to it all, I stayed with my dad.
It was then that everything changed. I became a caretaker and I was forced to grow up quickly. After I graduated college and moved back home, I became angry with my father. The drinking bothered me. I just ran away from it, and eventually, we stopped talking. Still, on some level, he was my dad and I loved him.
I always knew that when my phone rang, it was going to be the phone call I didn't want to answer. I was right.
It was my mom's voice on the other end of the line. My dad was at her house. He had just been diagnosed and my sister and I were asked to come and see him. I can't even put into words what that moment felt like. I think I had a mini panic attack. I was overwhelmed and felt the light around me get dimmer and dimmer. It turned out I wasn't prepared for this.
My dad's illness was horrendous. It was ugly. The cancer had spread. It was everywhere, including his brain. The anguish of watching him suffer was almost as bad as going through it myself. It was a very quick and painful four months. My dad died on August 8, 2005, and I wasn't prepared to watch him take his last breath. I wasn't ready.
It doesn't matter whether you know it's coming or you're completely blindsided, you are never prepared to say goodbye. Whether you see that person every day, once a year or once in a blue moon, nothing makes it easier to know you will never see that person again. Ever.