Day, night. Spring, fall. Birth, death. Our lives operate in cycles.
Four months ago, I was in the hospital witnessing the birth of my daughter. And four months later, I am back in the hospital witnessing the final days of my dad’s journey with cancer.
My dad and I live in different cities. When I found out that his condition was deteriorating, I caught the next red-eye from Vancouver and arrived in Toronto this morning.
The moment that I walked into the hospital room, I felt an ache in my gut – I knew that the news would not be good.
I started to tear up as I showed him videos of my daughter, Avery. He couldn’t say much as the cancer has spread throughout his body, but he was smiling as we watched Avery giggling away as she always does.
It felt like just yesterday when I spent a month with him in Toronto before I started my journey through fatherhood. He somehow knew it would be the last time that we’d spend that much time together.
Dad, you knew … didn’t you?
Each day felt like a new Netflix episode where he would talk for an hour about a certain lesson that he wanted to pass down. And sometimes, the episode would auto-play into the next (and then, the next). It was as if he was chasing time and wanted to squeeze in every last drop of our time together.
Some of the episodes were replays of his usual musings about life, spirituality, and philosophy. But some of the episodes were new. In one of his talks, he said that he was sorry for spanking me when I was young, and more importantly, he didn’t want me to perpetuate the trauma to my kids.
It’s ok Dad, I forgive you.
Looking back, I wish I recorded our conversations. At the time, his treatments were going well and he clearly had an abundance of energy. But I didn’t realize that we would be approaching the finish line so quickly.
My dad was the first person that I called when Avery was born.
I was sitting by the hospital bed with a newborn in my arms, beaming with joy.
I remember what he said to me that day, “Son, my work here is done. I’ve taught you everything that I wanted to teach you. You can take it from here.”
Dad, what do you mean by that?
Four months later, I am once again sitting by the hospital bed.
But this time, it feels different.
Instead of a baby sleeping in my arms, it is my dad sleeping in front of me.
My visitation hours are almost up.
I have to leave soon.
But before I go, “Dad, I don’t know if you’ll get to see Avery before you go. But regardless of what happens, thanks again for everything – I can take it from here.”