When people you love pass away, life sucks. It’s the type of thing that makes the world ugly. It’s the type of thing where I hate everyone I see for being happy.
Recently, I had this exchange with Alex Trebeck on my television.
I don’t even hate Alex Trebek. Jeopardy is one of my favorite – if not my ultimate favorite- TV show. But in that moment I wanted him to just rot somewhere. And it wasn’t his fault. All he was doing was wishing his mother a happy birthday. Even that wasn’t what made me mad. What made me mad was this:
How come he got to have his mom around until she was 93 and I had to say goodbye to my 56 year old father two weeks ago?
My father passed away on April 17, 2014 from cancer. It had spread to his liver, esophagus, and stomach. He hadn’t wanted us to know he was sick, and every time we spoke on the phone he would say, “Don’t worry about me, I’m alive and kicking!”
He phoned me a few weeks ago to say, “Hey I got an x-ray and they found some lumps.”
“Cancer lumps?” I asked shakily.
“Not sure,” he replied calmly. I know I cried then, horrified at this moment. I collected myself and continued the conversation. I could tell my dad was a little shaken up, but he sounded fine. Plus everyone I spoke to told me, likely just polyps! Likely it’s nothing! So I let myself believe that. I let myself believe, “Its probably nothing!”
My dad kept calling to say he was fine and I believed it. I wanted to believe it. I asked if he wanted us to come up and visit sooner than Easter. My dad made it seem like I was getting worked up over nothing. So again I shook my head internally for getting dramatic.
It wasn’t until a close friend of my father’s called me to tell me that my father was on end of life care that I knew it was too late. There was no hope for surgery or miracle cures. We walked in, and my dad sort of had a look of “Well, the jig is up” and told us what he wanted for when he passed away.
I cannot explain to you the depth of pain and despair that a person suffers when you know someone who has been your hero is going to leave. Watching someone you love pass away is one of life’s cruelest requests.
You would think that as a Christian, my father’s passing would be easier. That I would have someone to turn to in my time of strife. This is not the truth. If anything, I truly believe it makes things harder. It gives me someone to despise. It gives me someone to scream at when I don’t understand the injustice of the situation. But in the end, it doesn’t change anything. If I believed in nothing, it would be easier.
When I saw my dad in the hospital, I saw how close he was to the end. I kept it together and cried in private. I prayed to God. I got so many others to pray for him too. I sat by my dad and prayed. I sat in my bed and prayed. I sobbed openly, I knelt at the side of my bed and ardently prayed. That if I had the one wish God reserved for each person, I was cashing mine in now.
Please God, I prayed. Please let him live. I’ll make you a deal – you make him better, make him fine. Let him continue to walk on this earth and I will do anything. If you want me to never see him again, I will. Do any cruel thing to me just please let my dad live. You brought Lazarus back from the dead, surely you can save my dad from something as stupid as cancer!
But he didn’t. My dad passed away with me and my brother at his side in an ambulance.
You can take that to mean whatever you like. I still don’t get it.
I was lucky to spend that last little remaining time with my dad. I will never regret that. I still try to make sense of what happened. It all happened so so quickly. We saw him on Saturday and he was gone on Thursday .My dad gave me a love and movies and he taught me about Patsy Cline and he showed me how cook awesome Hungarian food. He loved it when I asked for his advice in this because he loved to cook. Where he worked, they are now naming the kitchen “Jim’s Kitchen.” What can I say, the man could cook!
Most importantly, my dad taught me to be a good person. He took me down to the less fortunate parts of Vancouver, to the homeless that he saw and worked with every day when he was a cop. He showed me that people are not as lucky as we are to have a house to cover us and food in our bellies. He showed me that every single person has worth no matter where they come from. He left a legacy of helping others.
And now he’s gone.
I’m furious at everything and everyone. I hate everyone who passes me by looking happy and holding hands. I have to physically look away when I see a father with his children. I’ve always heard that saying of “having your heart broken.” I never believed it until now. A piece of my heart, of myself has been wrenched from me. I could physically feel it for almost two weeks. Two weeks of his horrible pressure, of feeling like someone was pinching my heart in their hands and taking a piece.
Talking with friends who have lost parents I have been continually told the same thing; it will always hurt. Time just makes the hurt happen less. I wish I could fast forward a year. I will never enjoy the month of April again. I just can’t. I’ve realized now that this entry is just a lot of me rambling and I apologize for that but I don’t really know what else to do.
I have been lucky to be given the best husband a wife could ask for. I have also been enveloped by a loving team of friends and family that get when I need help, who have come to my aid to help make my life easier, and I also have a team of friends and family who know when I just need space.
Unfortunately I have also been surrounded by people that publicize things like this:
I’m really glad you beat cancer. Genuinely. I’m glad you got to tell cancer to f*ck off. This is not me saying you suck or that I wish any ugly fate had befallen you. I’m glad you put a positive spin on a horrible, devastating time in your life. What I hate is that people make it seem like you have a choice in the matter. You don’t. Some people get dealt great cards, and they get to live on with their lives. My dad got dealt shitty cards. So do millions of people every year. My father and all the other people that pass from the disease didn’t fight any less passionately than you or your mom or your grandmother or any other cancer survivor you know.
The horribly ironic part of all of this is the main person I would talk to about horrible stuff like this – religious issues, death, the meaning of life – was my dad. He was my even keel best friend that gave great advice without getting preachy. And everyone says, “You’ll hear him forever – in every decision you make” but I haven’t yet. Maybe that comes with time, but I think I’m sick of hearing it. I feel bad for people trying to help because at this point, the only thing that will help is my dad coming back to give me a hug, tell me everything is okay and then flying up to the gates of pearly white.
I’m not dumb. I know that’s not going to happen… So why do I still want it so badly to happen?
I’m sure you’re wondering what the point of this blog entry was. And that’s a fair inquiry. Aren’t you supposed to come here to laugh? Well, I have three answers. You don’t have to like them.
1.) The main point of this entry was this; there is never enough time, so make the most of what you have.
This isn’t to scare you, but to motivate you to make the most of your life RIGHT NOW. My dad is in hundreds of tourist photos all over the world – he saw so much in his few years here. He never regretted anything. He lived his life how he wanted and never wanted for more. He volunteered every Saturday; he spent his life trying to make things better for those that society overlooked. He left behind a legacy of kindness, dignity and love.
I hope you spend the right kind of time on your relationships. You will argue with people, most likely your parents. I regret the times spent fuming at my dad when all I had to do was talk things out. I regret the moments that I didn’t listen to the things he was trying to say. I regret that every moment he was alive I wasn’t there to enjoy the moments with him. Some of these are unreasonable regrets and I know this. But the next time your dad (or someone else you love) gets on your nerves just remember how much love they give you. How much support. How much you value them. Hold them extra tight – there may be a time when they can no longer hug back.
At the end of the day, everyone wants more time. Even if I had spent 100 years with my father, soaking up every moment it wouldn’t change how I feel now. A piece of me, a piece that created me, a piece that held me and loved me and supported me is gone of this earthly realm. I understand that. I guess what I’m trying to say is – for a lot of you, you still have time. You still have the time to spend with your parents. Do not pass it up. Live your life with love and purpose trying to make this world a better place. I know many people that regret the fights they get into, but very few regret the love they freely gave to those who were worth it.
2.) My dad was a hilarious man. I can’t even come close to telling you all the amazingly funny stuff he got into, his sharp witticisms and more. What I will share with you is when I was 12 and my parents were splitting up and my dad worked nights, we would talk on the phone. A tradition was born where every time we spoke my dad would have a new joke for me. He told me many, but the only one I remember now, 16 years later is the following joke which I hope will bring a smile to your face. (Remember I was 12 and he only told me PG jokes at that time).
A string walks into a bar. He asks the bartender for a drink. The bartender says:
“Hey, we don’t serve strings in here. Get out!”
The string walks out into the alley behind the bar. He ties himself up and comes back to the bar and orders a drink again.
“Hey aren’t you the same string that was in here before?” The bartender says
“I guess knot!”
3.) I miss my dad and needed to say goodbye this way I guess. The reason I started this blog in the first place was because of my dad. He is the reason the title is “Odd but Nice”. He said that about my siblings and I, that we are all “Odd but Nice”. He is the reason I want to be a writer, he is the reason that I thought I could be one.
This blog entry is in memory of my father Jim Szekeres. One of my best friends, mentors and the most amazing dad a girl could ask for. I will leave you with the last text he ever sent me; advice that I think applies to everyone lucky enough to still be walking this earth.
“My beautiful baby,
Nothing good or bad lasts forever. Hope is the necessary weapon in the fight against despair. It’s tough to be patient but look around you. You possess all the pieces to make you happy, you just have to put them in the right order.
Your Proud Dad.”
Actually, that’s too sad. Instead I’ll leave you with a video of my dad when he was in MacGyver. He’d probably prefer that.