I lost my stepfather to squamous cell lung cancer on September 11, 2006. It was crushing to my heart to see this once robust man of 76, die from the effects of cigarette smoking.
I recall as if it was yesterday the rage I felt when what we were led to believe was a very small operable tumor, was in fact the tumor the size of a grapefruit. We as those who loved George had thought that the scare of stage 1 lung cancer was all we would have to deal with. We confronted my stepfather, and said that he had to stop smoking. He was one of the blessed ones. He was being given an opportunity to stop smoking before it was too late.
Too late. Well, it turned out that it was too late. The palliative care oncologist even after dad had exhausting radiation treatments, told dad to put his affairs in order. He would be dead in three months.
Too late for hope. Too late to change the devastating and cruel course of his impending death.
I remember feeling so helpless as I saw my stepfather with a heart as wide as tomorrow die a little more each day. Each time I saw him he had lost more weight. I stayed strong for him and his son, Tim, Tim’s wife, Liz, and their children, Matthew, Kathryn, Victoria, Danielle and Kelly. Then, where no one would see but my wife, Karen, I would cry about all the tomorrows I would never have with my dad. Remember all the laughs we had together. Reflect upon all those so many times he would give me those huge teddy bear hugs. No one could give a hug quite like my dad. How I miss those hugs!
As his calcium levels rose the blessing was that he started to lose touch with reality. He went back to the days of his youth, a far happier time than this painful unchangeable death sentence.
The oncologist was bang on in saying dad had three months to live. That last day of sorrow and yet with the comforting assurance that dad’s pain was over, will forever be etched upon my memory.
Tears flow as I remember that last day with my dad. He was given morphine to lessen the pain. He began to drift into unconsciousness as respiration decreased.
In my last moments with this man who had taught me about being a man of integrity, knowing when to fight and when to strategically withdraw, and how to laugh, he held my hand.
Through the torrent of my tears, I said, “I love you, dad. I will miss you so much.”
Then, love’s embrace was over. Dad was dead.
In my faith concept, I know he is in Heaven, where there is no more sorrow, no more pain, only a supernal joy,