I love my family and the relationship that I have with my parents is special. It’s hard to talk about one of my parents without talking about the other, but waking up this morning to the news that Stuart Scott died from the cancer he battled for seven years made me realize that it was time to share a story I don’t often talk about today. My daddy is the first man I ever loved and when I tell you he is one of the best men I’ve ever known, I’m not bragging, I’m just stating a fact.
Several years ago I got a call early one morning from my father. His doctors told him that he had cancer and was going to have to begin treatment for it right away. The news shook me. I never considered my father being one of “those people”. Of course, all kinds of people get cancer, but not my daddy. Some of you may not know this, but I’m a daddy’s girl extraordinaire. He understands me and how I think like no one else in the world because we both see the world in an uncommon way. Nothing, I mean NOTHING will ever shake the love I have for him. When I got off the phone with him, I cried and I prayed because intellectually I knew that one day, my father would no longer be here with me to talk to him but I’ve never faced the reality of that scenario before that morning when I got that phone call. I remember being with him in the hospital. It was one of the most emotional times of my life. I’ve never been more afraid in my life.
Growing up, my father was rarely sick and never admitted to the hospital. This is the man who when my mother woke up in severe distress one night scooped her up in his arms and raced to the car to get her to the hospital. This is the man who never failed to come to my rescue when I needed him. This giant in my life was laying in this hospital bed with tubes coming out of him and he was asking me how I was doing.
Fortunately, the doctors did catch it early and my father came through his surgery and treatment with flying colors and every year that he goes in for his followups with the doctors it is a victorious celebration because my dad, my superhero beat cancer.
Something beautiful happened in the wake of the cancer diagnosis. Part of it was finding and beating cancer. Another part of it was the birth of my nephew. Becoming a grandfather changed my father in a profound way.
This little stinker lit up something inside my dad that has been a pleasure to watch. He touched us all but I think Dad has been most affected. I love seeing the joy and wonder on Dad’s face every time he sees Eli or starts talking about him. There’s a calming of my father’s warrior spirit that has been a long time in the making and is definitely deserved.
The change in my father after the initial diagnosis has taught me a few really important life lessons as well.
1. It’s important to serve others but we MUST cherish our loved ones and that requires that we make TIME for them in our lives. My father has always been the kind of man to offer help to others willing to accept it. He is a warrior, a champion for those who can’t fight for themselves. As a result, he took a lot on his shoulders and carried it for years. How he did this without becoming bitter or angry or abusive just proves to me that with God, all things are possible. As a lawyer, counselor, deacon, I know that my father has seen some ugly, evil things in his life and I am thankful that he is a praying man of God. My father has ALWAYS been there for me when I needed him and I love him for that even moreso now that I’m older and I see that not everyone can say that about their dad.
2. Having a strong and healthy friendship with my parents as an adult is a rare and precious thing. I’m blessed to have my father here with me still. I’m blessed that as adults we are also friends and I’m glad that he waited until I was grown to cultivate that friendship relationship. When I was young it would have been confusing for him to be both my father and my friend. Now, I know how to manage the relationship.
3. Cancer doesn’t deserve my fear. I choose love and life. Not many people know this but eight years ago my doctor found a growth on my cervix and I had to have it removed. Waiting to get the results back was maddening. I was 26 years old. No way could I have cancer! Thankfully, they got it all and the growth was benign. I am not the only person who has suffered that awful wait and I won’t be the last. My parents were there with me the whole way and it made such a difference. Dad’s experience reminded me of how wonderful it is to choose love and life over fear. We all need those reminders from time to time.
4. Try new things. We’re learning as a family how to navigate the traditional holiday seasons without making ourselves crazy. With my parents, my brother and I all living in different states separated by hours of driving time and expensive plane tickets, we’re having to figure out how to use technology to stay connected. We’re thinking about changing when and how we gather throughout the year. We’re learning how to really get the most out of our vacations and creating our own new family traditions. It’s a brave new world.
5. I will enjoy each and every day that I have with my daddy (and all my loved ones). I will also honor the memories of my loved ones who no longer walk the earth with us. I will NOT allow myself to get caught up in all of the nonsense that aims to distract me on a consistent basis. Having a lot of stress in my life is nothing to be proud of at all. Noticing stress is a warning sign that I need to reprioritize and REDUCE if not eliminate the stress in question. Stress keeps me from enjoying my family. My family is my heart and I can’t, I won’t let anything get ahead of them.
As we continue to watch the tributes to Stuart Scott and as we celebrate other greats who are no longer living amongst us, we don’t have to fight back the tears. I didn’t know Stu beyond his public persona, but his story reminds me to be true to who I am and to cherish the loved ones in my life like my life depends on it, because it does. It’s up to us to protect the bonds of our family.
p.s. There are waaaay too many of us for me to post a picture of everyone plus I’m limited by what they post on Facebook. LOL