The unexpected loss of someone close can be devastating. The known and quickly approaching loss of someone close, I believe, is even harder.
The second of these has been at the forefront of my mind over the past few days. My father was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), A.K.A. Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in May 2007. ALS is a muscle wasting disease and slowly, or not so slowly in some cases, destroys a person’s motor-neurons thus rendering them unable to control muscle movements leading to atrophy and eventually death. Sadly, there is no cure and the only treatments available really only treat symptoms, not the disease itself.
Since his diagnosis in May, I’ve had time to come to terms with my father’s impending death. I accept it as a fact that I cannot change. It has made me realize that I haven’t been “living” my life fully and I have since changed some of my lifestyle habits to improve myself, help others and make better use of my time on this earth.
However, with the arrival of the new year came the realization that this year may be his last. As I watched a television show the evening of the 1st, a statement was made about a person passing and not being around for his grandchildren. I immediately thought of just how unlikely it is that my dad will still be alive to meet or know my children, when and if I ever have any. My unborn children will never get to know their grandpa. The thought of this destroys me and tore me apart inside. I was a wreck and barely made it through work the following days.
The hardest part for me is everything I want to say to him, but feel I can’t. Our family hasn’t really talked about the fact that he will die from this disease. We all know it, but by talking about it, it makes it real. It’s become the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge. I want to tell him that I love him. That I’m proud of him and the life he’s led. That I know he did his best to raise my sister and I, that it couldn’t have been easy and that he was and is a good father. That I hope to be as good of a father to my children someday. That all I’ve wanted to do was to make him proud. To thank him for coaching my little league team and for coming to my basketball games in high school and being at my college graduation. So much more…
As the tears fall once again, I know I have to be the one to bridge the gap and start the conversation. I have the opportunity to say a long goodbye and make sure nothing is left unsaid so that there can be no regrets later on. So many people don’t have this chance when they lose someone close. There are things that need to be said, should be said, and although it may mean none of us can live in denial any longer, at least we’ll be in it together as a family. I think it will bring us closer and make the bonds even stronger.
I thank the friends and family I’ve talked to over the past few days for listening to me ramble, cry and ramble some more. Without them I’d still be a complete wreck and have no direction or resolve to take action. With that said, off I go to write a letter to my father saying everything I want and need to say. I’ve decided a letter will give him a chance to read my thoughts, memories, concerns and fears, and allow him time to let it sink in before responding. I look forward to the conversations that will follow as hard as they will be to have.
I love you Dad. Talk to you soon.