Today is my dad's deathversary. Five years ago today, we lost my dad to pancreatic cancer. Well, technically he died from a stroke, but the stroke was a result of a weakened cardiovascular system from chemotherapy for the pancreatic cancer. So it's still cancer. Cancer sucks. Ironically, November is also Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Fitting, I suppose.
I know I should be—and I am—thankful for the years we had together. We had about 6 months after he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. My younger cousins have lost both their father and mother to untimely deaths while still in their 20s. I didn't lose my dad until I was 33, but it doesn't make it any easier. He may not have been perfect, but he was a perfect dad to me and my sister, and I'm still dadless. While his memories live on and are happy ones, there are plenty of days I feel robbed of all of the new memories that we should have been able to make and should still be making. He was only 65.
I am an thankful he was able to meet my children, his grandchildren, and spend lots of time with them. In fact, just weeks before he died, he and my mom babysat our kids for a week so my husband and I could go to France to attend my best friend's wedding (she happens to be the daughter of one of his best friends, too).
My sister isn't that lucky. She had her son almost 4 years after he died. He'll never know my nephew. He'll never see those blue eyes and pale face that looks exactly like my sister, who looks a helluva lot like my dad.
My twins, now only 7, barely remember Papa. They mostly remember the idea of Papa and see photos of Papa. I doubt they actually remember him. Sometimes they ask about Papa and ask for stories about him. And they also ask about how he died, about cancer. Those conversations are particularly difficult this time of year. And I never know what to say to my mom on Thanksgiving. Or on the anniversary of his death. Or his birthday. Or their anniversary. I never have the right words. So I focus on telling her that I love her and miss her, and I make sure she gets to hear her grandchildren's voices. Same with my sister.
You'd think that after 5 years, I'd have gotten out of the habit of referring to my mom's house as my “parents' house” or talking about my hometown as “where my parents' live.” But I haven't; I wonder if that will ever change. Sometimes when I'm at their house, I can still smell him, still feel him. I'm sure he's still there.
Be thankful for the days and memories you have. Sometimes, you don't get the chance to make more. Hug your little ones a little tighter and tell the ones you love what they mean to you every single chance you get. Don't take life for granted because you never know when someone's life will be cut short.