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A Victory Lap

A Victory Lap

The legacy of the dead will survive in the memory of the living
– The Mission (movie)

Tonight I was going through my personal email before heading home  and saw a note about the parent in our class who has been fighting cancer for the last few years.  He had been told that he has a few weeks left.  I have given this parent and his wife Donald Wilhelm’s book, This Time’s A Charm, and although this parent does not need to read about another person’s cancer  I felt that there are many similarities.  What made me smile about this particular email was a great little note which made me cry and smile at the same time.  It just reminded me about the human spirit and the strength that exhibited when it is faced with death.  There is a calmness as well as an inspirational outlook when you investigate.

My father had always told me to try and put myself in the other person’s shoes to understand what they are going through.  This was not a difficult one.  With two young children of the same age as my own two children, I can just imagine the sadness going through his mind of not being able to see them grow up, not being able to take care f them and his wife, and not wanting to leave too much of a mess behind me.  I had first thought that I didn’t want to bother them.  I wanted to let them have their last days together and not try and take their kids away to take them off their hands for a couple hours.  They didn’t need their kids away from their dad’s last days.  They’ve seen him suffering for several years, but now he need to see his sons and give them some last memories of how to live strong.  A last lesson that a father can pass to his sons in the hope that it will help them to live without a dad.  They later mentioned that he wants his kids with them til the very end.  I believe they think this time is very special and they have said more than on one occasion that each minute is a gift and that they are cherishing each one.

What got me over to their house tonight was the email though.  In it was a paragraph and some photos ( I’ve received permission to share them):

So……..on XXX’s “bucket List” was a final entry: to enter the Antique Motorcycle Show.  On Saturday, (after the hospital visit – and after they had received such devastating news) the family & some neighbors got together and loaded his 1926 Indian onto a trailor and towed it to the show.   He was a passenger – and was able to get up & walk around a bit at the show.  His Motorcycle won!  He did a victory lap at the show, and when he came home – he said he will die a happy man.

As I mentioned, I cried and smiled as I read the email just before leaving work.  I just had to stop by and visit.  I was pleased to see another father there visiting the family.  While smiles were there and he proudly held on to the award for his motorcycle, I could see his sadness and that he was sick as he had to leave a couple times during our conversation.  His wife smiled and joked and I tried to stay within the moment which is hard to do when there is a 500 pound gorilla in the room.  Watching their children play around the room saddened me.  They seemed to ignore the conversation and
I did not want to stay too long out of respect for taking up too much of the limited quiet time they have together.  I also was feeling a bit guilty.  I thought of my own children at home and couldn’t help but feel very fortunate.
Winning in Life

Winning in Life

Upon my return home I gave my children both a big hug. My son knew what was going on and asked me how his classmate’s father was doing.  I told him the truth and how we need to be wary of this situation and do what we can when the time comes to help them.  Although our sons are not close, I believe my son unfortunately understands the gravity of the situation given what are family has gone through this past year.  As I put him to bed his questions out of concern for his classmate showed incredible compassion.  Then I saw his own concern and fear as he asked me how I was doing and if we are okay in our family.  He was putting himself in his classmate’s shoes.  Even when I told him “We’re okay”, he did ask for reassurance.  I just reminded him to take one day at a time and enjoy it and give it your best, but not worry too much.
As I shut the door on his room after kissing him goodnight, he gave me those final last words that we greet each other with every day, “Dad, good night, and take care of your body.”   I laughed because kids are still innocent to believe that words will make things alright.    To me it is just that you never know what those last words might be to someone.  My words to this dad which might be my last to him? I can’t remember.  I’m sure that they weren’t as profound as I’d want them to be, but I just didn’t want to say goodbye either.  I didn’t want to remind him or anyone of the looming days.
Life is too short to not have a bucket list, but it is also too precious to live by it as well.