Monday, April 27, 2009

An Open Letter to My Children - Part 1

Last year, as you know, I became something new for me… a cancer survivor. That experience was one that gave me significant pause and invited a certain reflection on my life. It is not unlike the very first time I had a shock about mortality. Back in 1976, I experienced mortality for the first time in a very personal way. My mother, your grandmother, went through a radical double mastectomy to remove breast cancer from her body. As I observed her ashen body recovering from the surgery and before she had fully awakened from the anesthesia, a new thought went through my mind. Could my mother die?

While we were able to enjoy my mother for another four years, that thought, of her possible death, that I had that summer day in 1976 profoundly altered the way I looked at the world. I would say, it was my first true step toward becoming a man. I loved my mother deeply. She was not only a wonderful mother to me, she was in many ways my best friend and the possibility that she would not be with me to see me get married, have a family, grow old with my father and simply live life was unthinkable until that day.

So, on that summer day in 1976, death became part of my life.

In a similar way, when I got the news in October of 2007 that I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, suddenly I was faced with a new step in my life's journey. The possibility of my own mortality. Until that day, I fully expected to go on living my life for many years to come. Now all of a sudden, I had to confront some stark questions. Would I live to see Michael graduate from college? Would I live to give my beautiful daughter Kelly away at her wedding? Would I live to coddle wonderful grandchildren on my knee. Would I be there to congratulate Mark as he made strides in his career? Would I live to walk along forest pathways with the love of my life, Cheryl? All of these questions, and more, went through my mind on that Friday in October 2007.

So now, here I am with over one year since I was declared in remission. As each day passes, the memory of that shocking day fades a bit. Still, I never go a day without pondering my own mortality and wonder what kind of legacy I am leaving.

Yesterday would have been my father's 85th birthday. I thought it fitting as a tribute to him and to do what I could to honor you, my children that I would offer a few thoughts on what I have learned in my lifetime and who have been some of my key influences in my life. I do this both in a quiet way and a public way. I make no special announcement to you, yet I post it here for the world to see. Perhaps, you will run across this at some point and the discovery will intrigue you and you will find it fascinating. Or perhaps, you will find it and think, oh there goes my crazy Dad again imagining somehow that his thoughts are somehow more important than they are. Still I offer these thoughts sincerely with the hope that one day you may find comfort and perhaps a little wisdom in my musings.

For any of you who stumble upon this, and are not part of my immediate family, perhaps you may look at this as love letter to you from a father you may not have known as well but wanted to.

In the next few days, my father!

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