It's 2:15 am on Friday April 20th and I am sitting at the kitchen table in stunned silence as we have hospice call the funeral home to come get dad. My new way of life without dad has just begun. I hate it.
I don't need to go into the details about the week leading up to his death, but it haunts me. Three months have passed and it is still giving me nightmares. I suspect that it will haunt me the rest of my life. Cancer is brutal and robs you of just about everything. I spent 7 days just listening to my dad breathe and I was there for the very final breath. That is some seriously heavy s**t. I can't get it out of my head. That week won't stop playing out over and over again.
By 9 am, I was running.
Maybe it was just the need to do something. Maybe I just couldn't sit in that house anymore. Maybe it was just the shock, but I went to run. And it was amazing.
Everything was telling me to sit down - to process what just happened. Instead, I took a deep breath and put on my running shoes. Since that moment, swimming, biking, and running has helped me process his death and clear my mind. It's always fascinating what a pair of running shoes can do for your soul.
The demons come to me every night. The nights are the hardest. But instead of cowering in the corner, I have chased them back. I wake up and put on my running shoes and chase them from my mind.
Does it still hurt? Yes. I am absolutely devastated over dad's death. That's the problem with life, we all die. But in my sorrow, I have found a "another gear" as they say in racing. The only thing I can do is live for dad - to honor his memory. I wish he was here to see how well racing is going for me. I wish I could talk bikes with him. I wish he would be here to see me race AZ 70.3 in October. I wish I could tell him about all the cool things I am doing at work. So I actually do tell him. I talk to him when I race, when I am at work, when I see something that reminds me of him.
I learned pretty early on in life that I don't have control of what happens and that it is pretty friggin hard (military beat for the win), but I do have control of how I react. I may not be able to cure cancer or make the disease go away, but I can live for my dad's memory. I can fight it every way I can. And every day I am out there swimming, biking, and running - I am telling cancer to f**k off. I am showing it that I can still live and be happy.
At the ESPY's they award a Jimmy V award. Every year the speeches of the winners are amazing and inspiring. Jim Kelly's was no different this year. He said "Make a difference today for someone who is fighting for their tomorrow." While I couldn't save my dad, I hope that he found peace in the fact that I was fighting for him. I hope that every day I went and lived my life, trained, and raced gave him hope. And as a family, we were relentless until the very end. It is my wish that I can carry on his legacy through racing. I'm not hard to spot on course with the rainbow bike and Fxck Cancer kit. I get asked a lot of questions and I always tell his story. Not only does it keep is memory alive, but helps me heal.
I think what makes this even harder is that dad had one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and he always came home. Growing up as a military brat, death is a fact of life. I have met several people over the years whose parent did not come home. Even though I am an adult, part of me feels like a little girl again. I just can't get over the fact that daddy is not coming home this time.