Father’s Day Memories

My dad passed away seven years ago, on March 30, 2010. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. Father’s Day stirs memories of pool parties and cook outs, my dad grilling, waving a spatula around as he chatted animatedly. 

I also remember the long summer evenings of my teen years, when my dad and several of his friends would roar off into the night on their motorcycles, usually with me and one of my sisters perched on the back of a couple of the bikes. That was freedom to me, riding along in the gathering dusk, the cool wind tangling my long hair. The songs of the summer insects and the distintive rumble of the motorcycle as it sped down the road invited my soul to soar. 

Father's Day Memories
In fact, I strongly connect motorcycles with my father. He always had one…or two or three…as far back as I can remember. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of sitting as a toddler in front of my young dad on a Harley Davidson as he slowly cruised up and down the street, giving me a ride. Toward the end of his life, Dad favored a yellow Harley Davidson Fat Boy and finally, when he grew more frail, he rode a black Harley trike. 

That motorcycle connection carries sweet significance today. 

After my father passed away, my gracious stepmom invited my sisters and me to pick out shirts of my dad’s to keep. I don’t recall what Linda and Debbie chose, but I took home a shirt that my dad wore shortly before he passed…a Harley Davidson sleeveless tee. 

My dad fought a valiant two year battle with pancreatic cancer. When he drew his final breath he was a shadow of his former self, so the shirt I selected was small in size. I tucked it away in a drawer and never expected to wear it, as I knew it would not fit me. But it was Dad’s. The essence of who he was clung to that shirt like a fragrance. I was grateful to have it. 

Imagine my delight recently, nine months after adopting a plant based lifestyle, to try on the Harley Davidson shirt and discover that it now fit perfectly. It forged a stronger connection with my dad, to be able to wear his shirt. I knew then that when Father’s Day arrived this year, I would wear the sleeveless t shirt in honor of my motorcycle dad. 

And I have worn the shirt today, with a sense of joy and remembrance. With my jeans, black boots and the black t shirt, I look like a biker babe, or at least, a wanna be biker babe. I think I needed a doo rag to pull off the look! I have felt my dad near in spirit, exuding joy himself. Surrounding me throughout the day has been a deep abiding love, as real as the fabric of this shirt we have shared, a father’s compassion for his child…a daughter’s adoration of her father. 

Father's Day Memories
As I drove to my mom and stepdad’s house this afternoon, to join my sister in treating Walter to a father’s day lunch, I scanned the road around me. Since his death, my dad has sent a yellow motorcycle across my path each Father’s Day, as a way to let me know he is near, that death is not the end, that his soul is eternal. 

The street I normally use to get to my mom’s is closed for repairs. I was forced to drive another way. The pavement was wet, and the air cool, after hours of thunderstorms. Would anyone be out on a motorcycle today? As I drove I began to ask, “Where are you Dad? Where is the yellow motorcycle? Where are you?” 

I was almost to the turn off to Mom’s. I kept watching…asking…hoping. Suddenly, over the hill ahead popped a motorcycle, the only one I would see today, roaring toward me and then flying by. 

It was a yellow motorcycle. My iPhone lay forgotten on my lap. I didn’t get a pic. But I laughed and thanked my dad for his timely love note. And I recalled that one of my last memories of my dad involved a motorcycle as well. On his birthday in October of 2010, six and a half months after his death, my father’s ashes were released from the back of a motorcycle as it cruised over the hills of Eureka Springs, AR. Freedom was won for my dad as his soul soared. 

Happy Father’s Day Dad. I am wearing your shirt. I am thinking about you, remembering so many things. I am grateful to be your daughter. I love you! 

Father's Day Memories

Surrender 35: World Cancer Day

I was aware that today was World Cancer Day, however, I didn’t intend to write about it. I didn’t want to write about it. I hate cancer. I pushed the idea of doing anything or blogging about it away most of the day. And yet, the topic of cancer popped up over and over today, partly, I’m sure, because of the day of awareness. 

 

Although my family has not been as hard hit as many have by this disease, we have not been untouched. 

My sweet daddy passed away after a valiant two year battle with pancreatic cancer. That was almost six years ago. Greg’s brother Ray, my Grandma Mildred, my cousins Bill, Steven and Mindy, Uncle Dale…all succumbed to this disease as well. One of my clients, who is also my friend, just found out his young adult daughter has stage four glioblastoma. One does not have to look far to find someone affected by the ravages of cancer. 

 One of my favorite pictures of my dad, cuddling my daughter Adriel.  

I reluctantly looked up info this afternoon, about World Cancer Day, which launched in 2000 with the purpose of raising awareness about cancer, promoting research to cure and prevent the disease, and improving treatment. This year’s theme is “We can, I can”. 

Thankfully, there was good news from the American Cancer Society. There are 14.5 million people alive in the US who have or had cancer. And while individual cancer mortality rates vary, depending on the type, the five year survival rate for all US cancers diagnosed between 2005 – 2011 is 67%. That’s a 19 point increase since 1977. 

  
The bad news is that 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year. The leading cancers are lung, breast, bowel and prostate. 

World Cancer Day wants to continue shrinking the burden of cancer, according to its website. In keeping with its theme, organizers have suggested certain goals. Collectively, they said “we can” inspire action, create healthy environments, build a quality workforce and shape policy change. They suggested “I can” understand that early detection saves lives, support others, return to work and make healthy lifestyle choices.

 

For me to take a “head in the sand” approach to cancer serves no one, helps no one. I at last realized that my reluctance to recognize this day was a way to pretend that the disease doesn’t exist. My resistance clued me in to the fact that I was taking myself out of the flow. I don’t want to do that, or pretend any longer. I checked in with my friend, asking about his daughter. I researched what’s going on in cancer research, discovering there are some promising treatments and possible cures being developed. 

And I found an awareness raising campaign, Talking Hands, in which this year’s motto is written on the palm and a photo taken. The pic is shared on social media with the hashtags, #WorldCancerDay and #WeCanICan. The photos will be collected on the worldcancerday.org site. I wrote on my palm with a purple marker, for my dad, because pancreatic cancer uses a purple awareness ribbon. 

  

ESPN anchor Stuart Scott said, “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.” 

My dad taught me the truth of this. My dad decided to live every day of his life, doing what he loved to do. Cancer didn’t win. Dad won. He also taught me that how you face death is as important as how you live your life. He faced his with courage and grace and even humor. And he loved us all through the experience, before he said goodbye. Thank you for such an amazing gift Dad. I love you. We can…I can…raise awareness…and beat cancer.