“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13)
The Beginning of the End
I buried my father yesterday.
For me, The Beginning of the End was about this time last year, when I heard his voice call to me in the middle of the night:
“Scott. Help me.”
It was as clear as if he was sitting next to me. I woke with a start, and looked for him — despite knowing he was 700 miles away. His voice rang in my ears for several minutes before I was satisfied it was just a dream, and went back to sleep.
But a week or so later, he got sick.
And then worse.
And a month later he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was already in stage 4 — as widespread as it tends to get. And incurable.
Dad’s health was a wide range of ups and downs the rest of the year. His physical roller coaster ride directed my emotional one. I’ve heard that there are 5 stages of grief, but I just bounced back and forth between the two stages of denial and anger.
His healthy streaks gave us hope, and fed my denial. His unhealthy spells discouraged him, and fueled my anger.
It was a hard and furious anger when it came, and I apologize to anyone who had to feel it. But, mostly the anger was directed at myself, and my ignorance, and my inability to just pick up and go help my father.
My family tag-teamed a lot, frequently trading roles in Dad’s care, driving him to treatments, talking to doctors, researching information, weighing options. It was physically exhausting and emotionally draining. And we were all happy to do it. But, we could not prevent the inevitable.
Like every roller coaster, you get off the ride with your head spinning, relieved and yet sad that it’s over.
I am relieved that he is no longer suffering, as I am relieved of my own suffering. I’m sad that I’m not taking care of him any more. I’m sad that he couldn’t be cured. I’m sad that he’s gone.
The End is the Beginning
The past year was a painful struggle for my father, and it was painful for us all to watch.
My brother and I argued about which would be better: to die quickly and immediately without warning, or to deteriorate slowly and suffer the way our father had.
There is no settling such an argument, but as I look over the past year, I can see that the prolonged death of Dad’s battle with cancer did indeed bring some gifts along with it.
There is the peace that comes with knowing that he is no longer suffering, the long-awaited relief from our own suffering, and particularly, the gift of Time.
Time gave my family got the chance to tell him how much we loved him, and we got the chance to show him so by caring for him, and fighting cancer alongside him.
In caring for Dad, I learned some things about myself, about my family, and some really cool things about my father that I hadn’t known before. I got to see, quite vividly, the kind of man he was, and appreciate more fully what I was going to lose when he passed away.
While my father’s death brings a deep sadness, a vast emptiness that seems like it can never be filled, I have learned that there is a gift in that void.
In a sermon preached at Trinity Church, at a mass dedicated to my father, the priest made mention of the cycle of life: Something must end for another thing to begin.
Life is a series of endings and beginnings. We give up crawling for walking, innocence for wisdom, the single life for a family, a low-paying job for a higher paying one. We must give in order to receive. Something must be released to make space for something new.
Like the passion of Christ, you suffer, experience death of some kind, and afterwards, there is a resurrection. A new kind of life begins.
My father was a beautiful and loving, caring man who sacrificed a lot for his family. That’s what good fathers do. They sacrifice their lives so that we may have lives of our own.
While I mourn his death, and groan in the void of his absence, it does give me some hope to think that maybe this was part of some master plan of his. That in dying, he was trying to prepare the way for something new and wonderful for his family, setting us up for a beautiful gift that we have yet to receive.
Dad, I look forward to seeing what new things you have prepared the way for. I hope that I am ready for it. I miss you, and I love you.