Hi it’s been a minute.
I guess by now most of you have heard what happened, but for those of you who haven’t heard, my dad passed away Monday June 24th a little before 8:00 am.
This whole year, was supposed to be the year I had my shit together. I had my assistant firmly in place, I had all the weddings I needed for the year (and let’s be honest a few more than I actually needed but really wanted), and everything looked pretty damn good. I had all the intentions of being more prepared this year, more on top of things, and for the most part I was. I was writing regularly, producing content and pictures that I was proud of, and more dedicated to the gym and my health than I had been in years.
But then we learned dad was sick.
As soon as we learned dad was sick, our whole family readjusted. We started making our plans around treatments and doctor’s visits. We had more family dinners and spent more time checking on one another. We moved Trevor and I’s wedding up so that dad would be as healthy as possible, per the recommendation of his doctor. And even then, after this first major readjustment, we were doing fine. Everything for our last minute Colorado wedding was working out, everyone could be there and we rented a beautiful house to stay in and get married at, we felt comfortable clinging to this small thread of happiness and light in our very dark situation. Everyone was excited including Dad.
But even the best laid plans go nowhere sometimes.
Dad’s illness went from “we can fight this” to the “fight is already over” very quickly. Without going into too much detail, all the plans we had made and all the hope we had, changed in a matter of 5 days. That is not a joke, the fight ended for our family after just 120 hours. At that point we of course had to call the people dad loved most and involve them in this journey, despite how painful it was. Most of the reactions contained confusion, and I guess this blog post is a way to curb that confusion.
Just know that it was a shock to us as well. We are filled with confusion, disbelief, and utter sorrow just as much as everyone who received a phone call that day. It is contrite but we honestly thought we would have at least more time to fight this, and at the very least just more time to prepare. We also made a conscious decision as a family to not talk about it publicly. There would be no t shirts with a catchy slogan, no Go Fund Me’s, and no stream of facebook posts filled with updates. We wanted to circle our wagons and protect ourselves during this process, because we honestly thought that life after cancer would include dad. It had to. We also knew that if we lived this journey publicly, it wouldn't just invite friends into it, it would unfortunately just invite people in who wanted to watch it from afar, to talk about it with their friends. And that is not, and will never be, how we live our lives. So we decided to tell our inner circle in our own way and rest assured that everyone who needed to know, knew. For the most part we knew just as much as everyone else up until the last five days. We honestly were not given the impression by anyone, including the doctors, that the progression would go the way that it did. The doctor specifically stated that his cancer was one of the most aggressive cancers he had seen and it was simply too aggressive to beat.
We were not prepared, so while everyone else is dealing with this sudden change, just know that we are too.
Dad passed away 10 days before we were supposed to leave for Colorado to get married. We missed it by only 10 days, and that is really hard to swallow. When I get mad usually it’s anger about that. It’s one thing to mourn the loss of a loved one, but it is another thing entirely to mourn the loss of an event like a wedding that was supposed to give hope and happiness to everyone going through this. Planning this wedding gave everyone something to look forward to, it seemed like everything was leading up to Colorado and we were so excited to tell people this part of our story. We were fighters in the face of a strong enemy and we were going to make it work. Not to mention it was going to be so beautiful with the help of our friends and family. We had vendors and friends calling in favors and moving literal mountains to help us pull this off for dad.
To make the process easier in Colorado, Trev and I decided to have a civil ceremony in our front yard with my father and my grandparents, under our oak tree. The same oak tree we cut a branch off of to include in Trevor’s wedding ring. So if one of your questions is, “Did your dad get to see you get married?” the answer is yes. He did get to see it, and I have the most amazing pictures and I am so so grateful that we decided to do it.
A lot of people want to know how we are doing and it is a super hard question to answer. I think because it happened so fast we are still managing things and that is the emotion we are feeling first and foremost. We are organizing a large celebration of life, picking out plots at a cemetery, sifting through tons of messages and posts about dad, and trying to manage the media coverage about his unexpected death. We all have things to do and that feels okay. We have things to accomplish and at the end of the day we have done those things, and are often too exhausted to do anything other than lay down and sleep at night.
The one thing I can say with 100% certainty is that our community has gone above and beyond anything that we could have expected of them. We were hardly alone, in the hospital or even in hospice care. Two of my uncles (which is just an easier term than explaining that they are my dad’s fraternity brothers who have been around my whole life) sat on either side of my father the entire time he was at hospice, learning how to take care of him from the nurses, and talking about old times to make sure he knew we were there. We would rotate out and spend time holding his hands and updating the nurses when the brothers needed to go home and take care of our animals. A steady stream of people flowed in and out of the hospital and hospice house, so much so I think we became a nuisance to everyone else who worked there. We never wanted for food or coffee, we never longed for company or reprieve from the sadness. We had literally everything we needed and more should we want it. We even came home to check on our house after dad passed to find that people had been cleaning our home. There was not a dirty dish or dust ball in sight.
Our community is how we have gotten through this devastating loss, and it is how we know we will be okay. We can only think that dad was comfortable leaving us because he knew he had built relationships with the right people who would never leave us or let us fall and for that we thanked him.
One of the mothers of one of dad’s most cherished athletes told us that she knows we sacrificed a lot to let dad be a part of so many organizations and be in the lives of so many other people. She told me that she hoped we didn’t resent anyone for having so much time with him, and the only thing I could tell her was that it was a pleasure to share him with so many people. Dad had lots of kids, sons and daughters, we just happened to be the ones who shared DNA with him. And to every single one of those people, please hear me and understand that it was an absolute privilege to share him with you. He always said that all of his best memories are kept by other people, and while he said it jokingly when he was alive, it has taken on new meaning now that he has passed. We are now getting to hear from so many people about the impact he made on them, and it truly feels as though we have been given a small gift. Don’t ever feel like you shouldn’t share those with us. We may cry because the thought of dad not being there to hear those stories is still raw, but we treasure those memories that people are sharing with us because it feels like dad is giving us a little gift. A small piece of himself that he had given to someone else, and it has now found its way back to us.
Dad has been gone for 3 days as I write this. Our fridge is full of freezer meals, big Scott (one of the brothers that stayed by dad’s side in hospice) is banging around our kitchen trying to find pots and pans so he can cook us dinner tonight, and all the arrangements have been made so we can say our final goodbyes on Friday. I went downstairs to his workshop today, looking to find a few more pieces of him. To feel familiar feelings and see familiar things. The lights at his work desk were still on and a mini mountain dew bottle was sitting half drank on the design table. The hide we had just bought from Oregon sat cut up on a desk from the bag he just made me, and all the orders he was going to make for friends and family are still on a mini white board next to the shitty picture of a cat he tried to draw for me one night. I sat in his lazy boy and talked to him, telling him I couldn’t believe how many people were messaging me, that I hoped he saw his impact, and that we had people coming in from Boston, Philadelphia, and Alaska to say goodbye. That the Kansas City Star wrote an article about him along with three other newspapers, and his picture had been on the news. I cried because while I know he’s no longer facing a competitor he can’t beat, I selfishly want him there for all the things he will miss. I told him that I loved him and that so many people will miss him. I told him that I hoped he was back with all of his cats and all our old pets wherever he ended up. I hope he hugged his father and told him about all his accomplishments.
I walked over and ran my hands over his sewing machine, thread still in it from sewing on a project just four weeks before, and flicked the lights off before heading up stairs.
Don’t be afraid to remember him. Don’t be afraid to share him with us and with everyone you know. Please love on your people a little harder for him and for me. Fight the hard battles and come out on top because dad lived his life preparing other people to conquer their battles with confidence and pride.
We see all the love and support and we want to thank you. I will never be back to normal but I will be back soon, just a bit different than I was before. Thank you to everyone who has helped us in this time, there are no words that capture what everyone did for us.
Until next time,