It’s been ten years since my father died at age 88 from myelocytic leukemia. “A young man’s cancer,” his doctor had told him. To which my dad’s quick retort had been, “And after all I am a young man!” When dad called to update me on this latest doctor’s appointment in early December 2001, he prefaced the phone call in his familiar candid manner by saying, “I suppose that when you get to be my age, you can expect the doctor will give you bad news about some tests he’s taken on you.” Then with such sadness in his voice he said, “I just figured I had a least another good five years left!” How can you possibly come up with the “right” things to say off the top of your head when you’re hit with this type of news? You don’t, not really. I was glad that my dad allowed me to cry–his tears had been shed earlier…I think.
During the last six months of his life, my father suffered few symptoms that often accompany this disease. I went to see him on this 88th birthday, April 27, 2002. He was weak and required a little oxygen, but his sense of humor was still keen. “I don’t know about dying”, he quipped towards the end of our visit, “it must work, because surely alot of people do it and I don’t see any of them coming back!”
After his diagnosis, my dad often reflected that he had truly lived a wonderful life!
“I’ve had a really good thing going here.” he’d say with a chuckle.
My father passed away on May 1, 2002
Where my dad had enjoyed mostly optimal health throughout his life, my mother, despite her best efforts, did not fare as well in this area. She had declined considerably in the year prior to my dad learning he had leukemia. Throughout my childhood, I had observed my parents caring kindly for each other, but as far as my mother’s health was concerned, my father always seemed patient in his nurturing when she didn’t feel well. He was also valiant in seeking out good doctors who could direct them to safe and qualified medical resources that could give her better life quality. He became as vigilant as ever during his last months, to assure that my sweet mom would not worry for her physical needs after his death. Ultimately, my mother needed to go a care center, but my dad, in his usual endearing ways, saw to all the details so that as much as possible, it was a home away from home for her. How quickly the residents, as well as the care givers, were enriched by both my parents while they lived there.
I believe it was Mark Twain who said,
“Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry.”
Without even realizing it, my folks adhered to this motto with seeming ease! My mother’s condition continued to deteriorate the next few years, but she didn’t pass away until some three years after my father.
My father stated in the introduction of a brief autobiography he completed prior to his death, that while his life was not particularly unusual, he experienced deeply and richly!
“My life has been a good one, very worthwhile.” he wrote.
What more could anyone ask for as they reviewed their years here on earth: a life well lived with wonderful memories left to linger and be remembered by those that loved you!
Unfortunately, some legal wrangling concerning my parent’s trusts appeared to be the last chapter of their legacy of abundant living. When at long last, the final legal documents were signed and monetary distributions made, I felt reserved relief. The final wishes of my dad and mom for their posterity were achieved the best they could be, considering the circumstances. In the back of my mind however, I made a promise to myself that somehow I’d find a way to honor and celebrate these two lovely people, who did indeed live ordinary lives, but in a unique and steadfast fashion!
What I’m learning now is…
My parents had a genuine “old school” kind of love; such a natural flow of give and take it seemed. They took such good care of each other. As a family, we teased them once in awhile that they did have children to take care of too!
Having been married myself now for a number of years, what I’m learning now is that what my parents seemed to achieve so effortlessly in their relationship, more than likely required a lot more work than I ever realized!
How have you seen your parents nurture each other?
In what ways do you nurture those close to you?
I hope we can all learn to love a little more.
5 thoughts on “A Promise To Myself”
Thanks so much for sharing insights into your loving relationship with your parents and the life lessons they taught you. As you know, we have spoken many times about losing our folks and the strange phenomenon of being orphans in adulthood. While seemingly independent people, well into middle age ourselves, I, at least, find that losing the safety net of having parents to come home to, even for just an hour or two, having a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, or being able to lament on the challenges of life and to simply say, “Was empty nesting (or whatever the current trauma of life is at the time) this hard for you too?” is tough. I’ll always miss my parents deeply and sorrowfully. However, as I think of them, wherever they are now, watching over me, and yes, even just watching me, I realize that I need to make them proud and to radiate the kind of lives they led and the people they were, by my actions and the person I strive daily to be. I need to emulate their fine qualities in my own life. Yes, too often I fall short of their wonderful examples, but it gives me a high mark to shoot for. Thanks Mary, for giving me a moment of pause to again reflect on how dear my parents are to me. Cindy
Wow, Mary. This was beautiful! Having just lost a mother (my mother-in-law), I have struggled with the right words and thoughts that you expressed so elequently. Sometimes the most powerful feelings are those of ordinary times and doing ordinary things. Somehow we don’t always cherish them until later.
Mary, I’ve thought for a long time that the only difference between a true hero and a mere footnote in history was that someone wrote about the hero. You have made your father a hero, which he was already but no one knew. Bravo!
Fred, I’m learning more and more how much each parent is truly a hero in their own right, and that they try and champion the hero in each of their children! Thank you for your kind thoughts!
I love this blog! I will be on here to comment.