Life is made up of a series of life-changing moments, really. Everything that happens in our lives has the ability to alter us in some way. There are a million things I could say that changed my life. Meeting my husband changed the course of my life, for sure. Each child I had changed my life. Every job I have had and friend I have made has changed my life in some way. Most of these things are all more of a look-back realization. As in, I knew when I was holding my first baby that my life would change, but the impacts of that change I probably didn't acknowledge until much later.
There is one particular moment in my life that changed my life in a profound way. It was such a huge moment that while it was happening I physically felt the change happen, and I mentally acknowledged it at the same time. It wasn't the birth of any of my children, or the day I got married, or even the day my father died.
It was when I held my father in my arms.
My Dad had been sick with cancer that had spread to his brain and bones. Toward the end my mom and I were his hospice care at home. We watched him get sicker and weaker before our eyes. I am not trying to gloss over the details, but they would be horrible to read, and even more horrific for me to try and write and relive. But suffice it to say it was awful and worse than you could dare to imagine. He gradually went from being in bed most of the time to being in bed all of the time, his body crippling up and wasting away. Because he had cancer in his bones, he was particularly sore in his left hip and leg. One day at work my mom called and asked if I could come over to help clean him up and change him when I got off, because she knew he was in so much pain she didn't want to try and do it herself and jostle him and hurt him.
When I got there and went into their bedroom she was just pulling the sheets back and I stopped in the doorway and was struck by the site. My first thought was that my dad laying there crippled up and wasted away from the disease and not eating looked like Jesus on the cross, all skin and bones. I went right over and knelt on the bed, one arm under his neck and shoulders, the other arm at his side to support the sore hip and turned him towards me all the while apologizing to my dad because I knew it hurt. With that movement my big strong father was cradled in my arms like a child. My world literally stopped in that moment, as the weight of the situation washed over me. It was like lightning struck and the clarity about what was happening just hit me. I actually felt my world change in that moment. A seismic shift occurred and I knew that my view of the world was always going to be darker, that I was always going to be darker, for the rest of my life. My father, the first person on earth who held me in his arms when I was born, my first human protector in my life who had held me this way so many times, was now cradled in my arms and I was protecting him. I remember looking down at my arms and then looking up at my mom and she asked "what?" Because of the look on my face and I couldn't even speak. I was completely overwhelmed by the realization of what was happening.
From that day forward, my life has not ever been the same. My view of the world is a little darker than before. I am more cynical than before, and I don't have as much hope as I once had. Where I might have seen situations with rose-colored glasses and been slightly more positive...I am definitely jaded and it is harder for me to see the light in things. When I hear about cancer diagnosis, my mind immediately goes to the worst case scenario, knowing cancer and the havoc it causes and the inevitable outcome.
I don't remember the timeline of that day, but I know it wasn't too far away when he actually died. I just know that even more so than the day he died, that day changed my life forever.