Christine Burke was shocked to hear that her dad was dying of cancer. Every day was a struggle but at last, she had to let go off the man she loved the most.
They held your hands as you took your first steps, fed you and sang lullabies by your side even when they were not great singers. When you grew up, they gave the space you demanded and bombarded your life with uninvited pieces of advice you rarely heard. But no matter how many years go by, they are just one call away, always ready to have a little chat or a scrumptious Sunday roast. That is the journey most of us have with our parents.
No matter how many arguments or disagreements we have, our parents will always have a place in our heart. A world without their words of comfort is unimaginable to many of us. It is even more heart wrenching when you realize that you do not have much time with each other.
Christine Burke was left in a state of shock when she received the phone call that changed her life forever. A minor stroke her father had recently suffered led to a more serious, grave diagnosis that would change her life forever. Her father was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
Neither radiations nor surgery could save her beloved father from the inevitable. Burke knew that there was nothing much they could do to save his life. Her world was shattered and she could not imagine looking at the man she had considered larger than life, as a frail and heavily medicated cancer patient.
"It was f**king hell to watch my strapping, larger-than-life father wither away into a frail cancer patient right before my eyes. My dad was dying, and I was helpless to stop the inevitable.," wrote Burke on Scary Mommy.
The condition of her father broke her, she heard him describe the side effects of his treatments and felt his pain. She knew there was no come back and that the deadly disease was slowing killing her father. "I’d lay awake at night and wonder if tomorrow was the day his health would go from bad to worse. When your parent is dying, you die inside right alongside them," wrote Burke.
Like any daughter would do, she juggled between her household chores, raising her own children and her father's health. Things had changed upside for Burke and calls to her parents home not an occasional affair anymore. She kept tabs, checked every day to make sure everything was fine on the other end.
"I longed for the days when our lives didn’t center around the ups and downs of cancer when I could selfishly call my dad just to tell him about a professional achievement or about his grandchildren. A dying parent means never knowing what the day will bring."
Devastated and burdened by her father's condition, Burke counted every passing day and prayed he could make it to the next Christmas or Easter. She began thinking of her kids who would never have the opportunity to make memories with their grandfather.
"You find yourself irrationally angry because cancer will eventually steal your hero and you can’t bear the thought of your children not getting to have their grandfather around when they are adults. Having a dying parent means you have to forgive yourself for feeling selfish," wrote Burke.
There were no more fun days, no girls night out or play dates because all that mattered for could think about was her dying father. As the days of his death approached, Burke was so broken that she looked at her children and began worrying about old age.
"I worried that the fear and terror I felt in those months would be their journey someday when their father and I will face our own health issues. I wondered if I could be strong for them like my father was for me, and I prayed that I could face death with the grace my father showed near the end."
With every passing day, she realized how much she loved the man who raised her. She recalled memories and consoled herself with every teardrop that fell. "It means breathing in his scent and praying that you’ll always remember that your head fit perfectly under his chin when he enveloped you in a bear hug. A dying parent means realizing that the earthly body you’ve loved fiercely will soon be one with the earth," wrote Burke.
Soon, it was time to bid farewell and the man with whom she had spent a major part of her life was no longer around. And Christine had a heart full of burden. "When your parent finally finds peace, you realize that your parent is still teaching you about life. Only now, you are learning about life without your dying parent."