Thursday, December 18, 2014
Last December I was flying home from my final business trip of the year, exhausted after three months of lots of business travel and a very hectic Fall. I decided I needed to start having more fun and that 2014 was going to be my year of fun. (See my 2014 Intention blog post for all the details on this). If you’ve been following my blog, you may remember that 2014 started out as anything but fun. We began the year with burst pipes and a frozen drain that caused lots of water damage in our finished basement (read about all that fun here: The Start of My (not so much) Fun Year). And now, looking back at how this entire year unfolded, I can tell you that dealing with the basement water issues was merely the tip of the iceberg.
My year of fun was quickly forgotten when, in early April, my Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It’s amazing how quickly something so serious not only shifts your entire life but also puts everything in perspective. Fun was no longer on my radar screen. The only thing that mattered was my Dad. Many of you know how this story ends. The next five months would prove to be the most painful and heart breaking of my life. I’ve been through a lot of shit in my 44 years (parents divorce, my own divorces, losing dear friends); some self-created, some not, but nothing could prepare me for the experience of watching my ever healthy, health-conscious, fit, strong, vibrant Dad decline so rapidly. Watching him suffer and die is by far the most painful thing I’ve experienced.
My Dad was always a huge presence in my life, for my whole life. I never expected him to not be a part of my life so soon. Both his parents lived into their 90s and I thought he’d be around for at least 20 more years. In fact, I would have bet my own life on it. But no, my Dad passed away in September at the age of 74. On top of that, we lost one of our sweet dogs to cancer in October. If I had to classify my year as anything, it would be my year of loss, certainly not my year of fun. And yet, that is not how this year ends for me.
My life shifted repeatedly with each phone call from and doctor’s report about my Dad. With each event I gained more and more perspective about life and somehow gained more and more strength to deal with the cards we were handed. Each time I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. Each time I’d think he couldn’t possibly be any thinner or look any worse than when I last saw him, he would. And each time I could not bear to think of what he must be going through, someone was there to pick me up. I found comfort in places and from people I didn’t know existed a year ago. The perfectly timed phone calls, texts, emails, and cards of comfort from so many of my dear friends and extended family members always arrived exactly when I needed them. There were blessings and gifts everywhere. Despite the fact that my Dad was suffering, there were blessings all around us.
Somehow, when I was sure I would not be able to get through another day at his bedside, I found strength deep inside me. I was lifted by my own faith and belief that there is a greater plan for us all, even if we don’t understand it, we must believe it is meant for our good. This was the plan for my Dad. Have I accepted it? Not yet. I still haven’t accepted that he is gone. I imagine that will come in time. Yet, my faith is strong and I know he is in a better place.
This year was also about being present. Knowing my time with my Dad was finite made each moment with him one to cherish. I imagine life would be much better if we acknowledged that this is true for all of us – not just those who are terminally ill. Imagine how we’d treat each other if we knew that each moment could be our last and our time was running out. I took full advantage of knowing this about my Dad. I told him everything I ever wanted to say. I repeated things I knew he knew about how much I adored him, how much he taught me, how his voice would be in my head forever, and his love and strength in my heart always. I said it all and then some. I remember thinking that he must be sick of hearing me tell him how much I love him and then I knew that was impossible.
My year of fun turned into my year of loss turned into my year of gifts. I received the gift of strength from others and strength from God. I received the gift of knowing my time with my Dad was fleeting, and the gift of recognizing what is truly important in life. I was also given the gift of perspective, which, looking back is what I needed more than anything and certainly what I needed more than fun. Without the perspective about life that I gained this past year, I’m not sure I would have fully experienced the joy of living a year of fun. I also don’t know if I would have been present enough to fully enjoy it. It’s amazing that we always get exactly what we need even when we don ‘t know we need it.
So, 2014 was definitely not my year of fun and it was definitely not at all what I expected it to be. I would love to tell you that I’m going to try again and make 2015 my year of fun but I don’t think so… I think I’ll hang onto all the things I’m taking away from 2014, strength, presence, and perspective, and see where that all leads me in the next year. One thing I can be sure of is I’ve got a kickass guardian angel watching over me, and 44 years of love from him in my heart that will last me forever.
My faltered year of fun taught me many important things that I hope you can benefit from: cherish your loved ones, tell them what they mean to you, remember what’s important in life, and always know that you are much stronger than you think. Wishing you a new year filled with love, peace, and joy.