The news struck me like a knife to my heart. My brothers words echoed in my head “Dad’s cancer’s back.” I felt like a sledgehammer was laying on my chest as I tried to breathe. He had been treated a year before and now it was back. Didn’t cancer know how much I loved my Dad? Didn’t it care it was taking away the only man who taught me how to love? What was I going to do without him in my life? The questions swirled around in my mind and I wanted all my negative words, thoughts, or actions between us to empty out.
I sat down with my husband and had a soul cleansing cry. I told him I needed to be with my Dad. I knew he wouldn’t pull through the chemotherapy this time. The Dr’s weren’t giving him a fighting chance at the cancer clinic. I had to be with him for what would be his last Christmas with us. God bless my husband for understanding and making the trip happen. My heart was aching to leave my only solace from the pain in his arms.
I hugged my son so tightly when I told him we would spend Christmas with his Geedo and Bubba. He was only two years old and he looked up at me with his deep blue eyes “what about Daddy Mommy, I want Daddy to come.” I knew this would be difficult to explain to a toddler who had never been away from his Dad for more than a weekend. My husband gently explained that he would have a great Christmas with Mommy’s family and he’d see him after his holiday.
The decision was made and the trip was finalized my son and I would fly out and spend three weeks with my family. It was a difficult goodbye at the airport as my sweet boy clung to his Daddy. We made a lot of promises and said that Santa would still come to see him on holiday. As soon as we stepped off the plane the frigid temperatures hit me like arctic thunderbolt. It was so cold my teeth were chattering at -35 Celsius as we made our way into the arrivals at the airport I saw my Dad and step Mom standing there waiting for us.
My Dad looked weak as he had just had a chemo session the day before. I was so grateful he was there. He was putting on a brave face as was I as my tears flowed freely without a sound. He hugged me tight and I still felt that inner strength in him that he would hold onto life just a little bit longer. We started out on journey with my son chatting happily away telling his Grandparents what he wanted for Christmas. It helped to hear his happiness bubbling over.
We arrived at our destination and the bitter coldness continued now that we were thick into the mountains of my childhood upbringing. We stayed inside and enjoyed a lot of movies, popcorn, and hot chocolate. I waited till the thermometer registered -10 Celsius before we ventured back outside. It was a typical Canadian winter first it hurt your lungs to breathe then it snowed and it warmed you up again. We built that snowman that my son wanted so desperately.
As I put on the toque and scarf I thought about all those times my Dad bundled me up to go on adventures. Searching for the perfect Christmas tree to fit the fifteen foot ceiling. He’d be out at the lake shovelling off an area where we could skate and come back inside with his cheeks pink with exhaustion and excitement. I thought about those memories so that cancer wouldn’t flood my daily thoughts.
It was a week before Christmas and I woke up to yelling in the house. My step Mom and step sister were helping my Dad into bed. He had fallen and was bleeding out! I was grateful that my son was still sleeping. I asked how I could help and I was told to call 911. I did as I was told and soon the Dr was notified and the fire department was there to take my Dad to the hospital. I still remember that look of shock on the paramedics face when he took my Dad’s blood pressure. It registered at 70/40 and he voiced aloud how was he even still breathing. I replied- “he’s not ready.”
Days had past and Christmas finally arrived much to the delight of my son. He danced around my sisters house with the toddler boisterous energy he possessed. My thoughts were on my Dad who
was just released from care. We would be having dinner that night I was doing my best to be in the Christmas spirit yet inside my heart was breaking.
My family was gathered together and the tension was thick like fog enveloping our minds. We all knew this would be the last Christmas with our Dad and none of us were prepared to say goodbye. I think back on it now seven years later with a smile and a few tears shed. I remember the joy etched on my Dads face as he watched Christmas unfold around him and discovered the real magic through the eyes of a child of the last and best Christmas.