Dear Dad,

This will forever be known as the year you were diagnosed with cancer. Our worlds came to a screeching halt. One minute we were planning our next family beach vacation, the next Mom was calling to tell me the news. I suspect you had her tell me because you didn’t want to hear my reaction.

This year has become a series of doctor’s appointments, tests, surgery, and treatments. I think about you from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed. And even then, I wake myself up at night and find comfort only when I pray.

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The thought of losing you puts a hole in my heart.

I’m an adulta married woman with children of my own. But you are, and have always been, my gold standard. There’s no comparison when it comes to how to live your life.

The man whose honor code goes so deep he used to ask me to pay taxes on my babysitting money. The man who never missed a choir concert, band concert, soccer game, or one of my children’s baptisms. You show up to every event with a camera in your hands.

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You gave me all the advice. You know, that dad advice. Like, “Look a person in their eyes when you talk to them.” And, “Don’t waste your time worrying, it doesn’t change a thing.”

You bought me a tool kit for my 18th birthday. I rolled my eyes back then, but I still have it. I use it all the time and think of you. I know teenage me didn’t appreciate it, so thank you for seeing past that and giving me what I needed instead of what I wanted. That’s what a good parent does.

You taught me to ride a bike, drive a car, and change the propane tank on my grill. The latter you talked me through over the phone while I stood on my deck with a piece of uncooked salmon ready to grill with an empty tank to change out and no clue how.

When I got married, you walked me down the aisle, and I think everyone knew I picked a good man because I had such a great example.

Cancer sucks. There’s no other word for it. The appointments, the treatment, the time we spend thinking about it. I hate it all.

What I do love is that I still have you.

I still have your voice on the other end of the phone when I call. I have your hand to hold when we both need it. My kids have their beloved grandpa, and they’re dying to visit so you can take them to the park and maybe, if they’re lucky, fly your drone. 

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But I’m going to call a little more often than I did before. I’m going to say some things to you I’ve never said like telling you thank you for helping me pick out my first car and explaining how to check the oil with the dipstick. And for putting air in my tires before a road trip and windshield wiper fluid in just in case. Thank you for teaching me the value of a dollar, for helping me inspect my first apartment for things like faulty window locks. For worrying all those times when I didn’t have the wherewithal to worry about myself (i.e. the teenage years).

It’s not that I’m anticipating losing you tomorrowI am praying we have many more years togetherit’s that I want to be sure you know how I feel. Because cancer puts life into perspective. Days that stretched endless before you don’t have that same feeling.

There’s an urgency that burdens my soul, that time is passing. And I want you to know how much you mean to me.

Dad, we cannot imagine being in this world without you. Please don’t make me. You’re not alone in this fight.

I love you.

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