Friday, March 7, 2014

What is Good About Cancer?

Mom, me, and Dad: Summer '13
You don't think about your dad passing away when you're 20 years old and engaged to be married.

I had always imagined dancing with him to a daddy-daughter song at my reception. I had imagined him playing with my kids and being their grandpa, giving them all the advice he's given me.

Life has a way of being unexpected.

What's Good About Cancer?
What’s good about cancer? I’ll tell you.
‘Tis something together we beat.
Though death comes to all and we never know when,
to conquer lung cancer’s a feat!
This sickness has brought us much closer.
Together we conquered the foe.
No matter what happens hereafter
this trophy forever will glow.
The struggle has helped prepare for the day
when gathered to fathers we’ll be
when we finish this race of mortality
more ready, courageous, and free."

My dad wrote this poem last fall when he heard that we had beat his lung cancer. Three months later, in December, his cancer was back, this time Stage 4, and incurable. 

I don't bring this up to dwell on the fact that we can't talk any more, or that my kids won't grow up knowing him. I bring this up to explain what kind of a man he was. 

Taken 3 months before he passed away
As a little girl, I was pretty devastated when I found out that my dad was already married and I wouldn't be able to marry him someday.

In High School, I was often accused of talking about my dad "all the time", especially when giving any kind of advice.

I have always trusted and leaned on my dad's experience and knowledge of the world. It is from him that I know what role to play in it.

He always encouraged my writing and inspired my interest in studying English. He was an avid ESL educator and I thus grew up tutoring students in grammar and English rhetoric. He's read every poem, essay, and story that I've laid in front of him, gently correcting and improving, but mostly just encouraging.
Dad and I in Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat
Summer 2012
My dad's impressive intellect combined with some off-the-wall hobbies, creates a wonderful coexistence of distinguished professionalism and pure goofiness. He is notorious for his knowledge of every species of North American bird and his mastery of art ranging from religious sketches to histology textbook illustrations. 

I can't forget to mention that anytime he could get anyone mildly interested in a topic in any way related to ancient Altaic people, specifically, Scythians, there was no mistaking the gleam in his eye as the familiar words "syth", "Caucasus Mountains", and "Amazon warriors" bounced around the room. He was always eager to find out how new people he met could in some way be interested in Ancient Japan and it's connections to Ancient Israel. 

The fact that he wrote a poem about what is good about cancer is very reflective of his personality. He always made a special effort to find the silver lining. He is the kind of man that when you look into his eyes you know what is right and what is wrong. His influence is irreplaceable and I will never stop missing (or talking about) him.


  1. I feel for you here, I really do. This is something I can relate with. One was the loss of my dad, albeit for a different reason. And the other was my own fight with what I am not sure if it was cancer or just a tumor. Your dad's outlook is impressive.

  2. Seeing this appreciation of your father says a lot of good about you, as well as him.