Published on KSL – HERE’s the link

Me and Dad
have multiple blood clots in both lungs and need to understand that if you go
to the wedding, there is a high likelihood that you won’t make it back.  You’d have to be okay with that.”
It was
one week before my niece’s wedding in Oklahoma City, three hours away from
Dallas, where my parents live.  We all
knew that Dad’s lung cancer was in its late stages, but until we heard those words
from the doctor, we hadn’t even considered that he wouldn’t be able to attend
the wedding. 
fact, because we have literally experienced miracles with Dad’s cancer – i.e. a
four month remission, unheard of with such an aggressive cancer – we were
shocked that the end was actually here. 
No more miraculous delays, only weeks left.  We’d had 14 months to prepare, but we weren’t.  I’m not sure it’s entirely possible.
So four
days before the wedding, Dad was transferred from the care of his oncologist to
hospice home care.  How does one react to
such terrible news?  Well, here’s what my
parents did.
First they
cried, and then they moved forward.
skipped the wedding dinner the night before but attended the wedding itself
without Dad.  And Dad spent the day with
two of my siblings, who traveled from out of state to be with him that day.
Sisters Rachelle, Debbie (mother of the bride), me and my mom at the wedding
from the void left by my father’s absence, the wedding was wonderful and beautiful
and practically perfect.  The pictures,
in which we were smiling with genuine joy, don’t adequately capture the full range of
our emotions.  Essentially, we were
celebrating the beginning of Alex and Judson’s new life together while mourning
the end of my parent’s life together. 
Here on earth, that is.
Alex and Judson Waltman
poignantly than ever before in my life, I experienced both true joy and true
heartbreak at the same time.  They are
not mutually exclusive, as it turns out.
It’s now
six days after the wedding, and I’m sitting with Dad in his home while Mom drives
to the airport to pick up another brother.
It’s rough,
this end of life business.
I cry
sometimes.  And then I dry my tears and
move forward.
My dad,
my mom, my siblings and I, we have been experiencing joy.  We listen to Dad reminisce, understand what a
great man he is and feel abundantly blessed. 
We look at old pictures, tell silly childhood and crazy teenage stories (with such a large
family, we have loads), make fun of each other, laugh.  Sometimes, we laugh until we cry. 
Our entire family on a cruise we took at the end of June.  It was fabulous!
The day we returned, we discovered that Dad’s cancer was no longer in remission,
My dad,
my mom, my siblings and I, we have been experiencing heartbreak.  Mom and Dad have to “get their final ducks in
a row,” painful necessities like signing a Do Not Resuscitate Order and
choosing burial plots.  We talk about
life sans Dad.  No one knows, or wants to
know, exactly what it will look like — he’s always been around. 
One sister
and I live here in the Dallas area.  My other
siblings have made or are making their way here from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Utah,
Pennsylvania, Houston and California to visit Dad for the last time. I’ve
already hugged two of them goodbye; the other farewells will be sooner than any
of us want.
While packing
up her car to drive back to Utah, one of my sisters said, “How am I going to be
able to just drive away, knowing this is the last time I’ll ever see him?  How can I just leave?”

Dad with Jenny, one of his precious granddaughters.

Our heartache at how much we’ll miss him is very real, very much on the surface. But our joy is also real (although not so much
on the surface — yet), knowing that Dad will soon be in a much better place.  And that we will see him again; forever is a long time.
It’s rough,
this end of life business.
And I’ve
never loved my parents or siblings more. 
We’re facing it together, head on, and managing to embrace –
albeit tearfully — both the heartbreak and the joy.