Like a war­rior

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

Most peo­ple have at least one huge fear. A quick Face­book poll of friends yielded fears such as clowns, rep­tiles, tor­na­does, drown­ing, suf­fo­cat­ing, arach­nids, failure, heights, lone­li­ness, un­em­ploy­ment, plane crashes, strange men in creepy places, creepy men in strange places, and a Trump pres­i­dency.

I asked my friends be­cause I wanted to see if any­one was like me. My great­est fear has al­ways been los­ing my fa­ther.

When I was seven and be­came aware of what death was, I re­mem­ber ask­ing my dad to prom­ise me he wouldn’t die. The idea that my first and best friend might die ter­ri­fied me. Since he was my first and best friend and the only loving, ac­cept­ing, sta­ble par­ent I had, he was my ev­ery­thing.

Dad was a war­rior. He took amaz­ing care of him­self. He lived clean and had the most self-dis­ci­pline of any­one I ever met. He ran marathons. He had a Doc­tor­ate in Law. Af­ter he re­tired from the Vet­eran’s Ad­min­is­tra­tion work­ing to help vets get ben­e­fits, he be­came a per­sonal trainer to help oth­ers move to­ward health.

It came as a ter­ri­ble shock to my en­tire fam­ily when, three years ago, he was di­ag­nosed with a Glioblas­toma Stage 4 brain tu­mor. I re­mem­ber walk­ing into that in­ten­sive care room where he was and cry­ing to him, “Daddy, please don’t leave me.” Both of our hearts were break­ing and I was pos­i­tive that I would die with him. They gave him three months.

My war­rior fa­ther lived a few days short of the three-YEAR an­niver­sary of his di­ag­no­sis. Most of that time was qual­ity time. We had cel­e­bra­tions, grad­u­a­tions and va­ca­tions to­gether.

When I found this past Jan­uary that his cancer was back and spread­ing, I braced my­self for our mu­tual death. I des­per­ately clung to fam­ily, friends, exes, any­one that I thought might be there to save me when that time came.

The day be­fore he died, I went to see him. I held his trem­bling hand. I put it to my lips and kissed it. I spoke to him softly and stared into his eyes look­ing for any sign that he was

“The day be­fore he died, I went to see him. I held his trem­bling hand. I put it to my lips and kissed it. I spoke to him softly and stared into his eyes look­ing for any sign that he was still in there. I saw noth­ing but the need for him to tran­si­tion. I also did the un­think­able: I silently re­leased all of my claims on him.”

still in there. I saw noth­ing but the need for him to tran­si­tion. I also did the un­think­able: I silently re­leased all of my claims on him.

The next morn­ing, Mom called me to tell me that he left dur­ing the night. I laid with his body, cry­ing my fi­nal tears into his chest be­fore a mil­i­tary es­cort came to take him. I went home and holed up in my bed­room with my dogs and two adult kids. We binge­watched “Stranger Things” on Net­flix all day.

The next morn­ing, I woke up and re­al­ized that I made it through my first 24 hours with­out my dad - I didn’t die with­out him! I didn’t need any­one to help me get through that. I slept alone – I had no part­ner or girl­friend to hold me through the night or of­fer me words of com­fort. The love and nur­tur­ing I had counted on had been starkly ab­sent. Yet I sur­vived and thrived.

The peo­ple that I had been cling­ing to for sup­port when that ter­ri­ble mo­ment came had been re­moved from my life in or­der for me to see that I never needed them to be­gin with. My les­son: ev­ery­thing I need in my life is within me. My dad put it all there be­fore he left. When I feel beaten down by life, his war­rior blood in me al­lows me to rise, shake it off and move for­ward just like he al­ways did.

I got this, Dad.

Shan­non Hames is a mom, writer, real­tor, vol­un­teer, rocker chick, world trav­eler, and ’80s hair band afi­cionado. She loves ba­bies, ob­serv­ing peo­ple, read­ing great books and tak­ing hot baths. She has been writ­ing for Ge­or­gia Voice since 2010.

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