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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



*Columnist note…the following column was written months ago and will be the first in a three part series. It is my hope as always that by telling my story that it resonates within each of you and that you find something in it not only of value, but also lets the reader know that they are not alone.


It isn’t a surprise when I get a phone call about my father these days. After the last ten years or so of heart attacks, stints and false calls, I’ve come to expect the calls saying that he is on his way into the hospital. Usually these calls are met with me saying, “Let me know what’s going on when you get there and I’ll come down if needed.”, but this night was different. He hadn’t been well for months, telling his doctors over and over again that it wasn’t his heart, but as a heart patient it seemed the logical place to start even though every test said there wasn’t an issue with his heart.

I’ve known my Dad to slow down the last few years, being tired most of the time and just not the energetic guy I grew up with, but when he started to complain about being weak and not feeling like he could get out of bed, even to deliver his sermons on Sunday mornings I knew he wasn’t feeling well. So this time when the call came I grabbed my oldest child and off to Iowa Methodist we went to find out what was really going on. When I walked back into the emergency room I knew that something was really wrong. His color and demeanor just weren’t normal and I remember telling the ER doctor that I had never seen my father look this bad.

After a few hours and a few tests they found a room for him and ordered a cat scan of his abdomen. As always he asked if I thought that was alright, and I cheerily told him that absolutely the best thing was for him to stay until they figured out what was going on. The next few days seemed to be a blur as they ran tests and more tests and then startled each one of us with the news that they had found a mass on the CAT scan and wanted to do a biopsy. Finally, someone listened to him and agreed that the issue wasn’t in his heart.

I was busy at work, had already taken what I felt was pushing it, when it came to taking days off of work and sent my ex-wife as a representative the day the oncologist had a meeting with the family, a meeting that Dad couldn’t even get out of bed to attend himself. The diagnosis was that he had pancreatic cancer, stage 4 and that there were few if any options for treatment. I remember looking at that text and thinking to myself, well that seems a little unfair. Here is a guy that finally got his life going down a path that brought him happiness, only to spend months arguing with doctors that his heart was fine and now he’s being told its cancer? What a low blow.

I spent time sitting with him in the hospital over the next few days as he debated taking chemotherapy as that was the only real treatment option, although I knew that it really didn’t guarantee him any time. He held out hope for a miracle, while my own mind went into the mode of wanting to make plans and have conversations that we probably needed to have before his condition weaken to the point where it wasn’t practical to have them. As we had always done, we pretended to be positive to each other in person and separately we both knew that there was an end coming sooner than either of us was prepared for.

I continued to visit, to encourage the family to visit and spend time with him and to keep busy at home in between trips to Powell room 357 to see him. The kids and I stopped a few times, always with treats, Packer balloons, chocolate doughnuts, or just to stop and say hello. Some days he was in a visiting mood, others he would shoo us out of the room quickly. I think inside he struggled with wanting to spend time with people and to keep from being completely worn out. As a family we guarded his room, tried to protect him from well-meaning but sometimes over staying friends and family and looked to each other for support and acknowledgment of what was happening.

After his second round of chemo, we could tell that his body just wasn’t taking it well, and when the doctor told us that he in good conscious couldn’t give him any more we all knew that it was time for God to start calling the shots and we spent the next couple of weeks debating whether or not to place him into hospice care or leave him in the hospital, a rough decision either direction. And his words to me, don’t put this in the paper… I don’t want it to be a big deal.

See you next week…remember…we’re all in this together.