Six Years Ago This Week

My dad died six years ago this week. We knew he was dying. It wasn't a surprise.  My husband and I drove up to Grass Valley so that our little one's didn't have to witness it. My father-in-law drove me down the very next day so that I could say goodbye before it was too late.

I can't help but dream about and miss him, especially when August draws near. He was a strong man, filled with heart, and eager to help anybody and everybody. He had a quirky sense of humor and the most beautiful of voices. My relationship with my brother and his family is evidence enough of the endless devotion and love he shared with us. He spent thirty-three years in the states working non-stop to create a foundation that would outlive him.

What bothers me about his death is the fact that he went way before his time. We live and work and follow the norms, we expect to live long enough to see our kids grow up, get married, have kids, become grandparents, and finally retire and enjoy the fruit of our labor. But this isn't how it always works. Sometimes, the unexpected happens. We get ill before we retire, and all the hopes and dreams we've held onto begin to evaporate.

This is what happened with my papa. He became ill six months before retirement.  It was at a Life Party I threw for one of my cousins.  He passed out on the steps of his front door and was discovered their unconscious. We rushed him into the emergency room, worried, and scared. It was too soon, he was only 64.

The doctors jumped on it. They wanted to run tests, MRIs, eegs, blood tests... He refused. I couldn't  understand then, why?

"Let them help you," we begged.

"No!" was his short and curt response.

"Please, papa, we love you! Let them run the scans so we can see what's going on?"

That's when he lowered his voice and spoke candidly. "Do you not understand? I have worked way too hard for too long to buy a house that will one day survive me, and help support your mother and the two of you to throw it all away today!"

"I don't understand," I whispered, "You're life is invaluable."

"That's not how this country sees it," he said, "I have no health insurance. If they do everything they want to do today, I will lose the house and all my hard work will slip away!"

I heard him, respected his decision, and let it be. We checked him out, and took him home, attempting to figure out how we could get him the insurance he needed to be cared for with the same integrity with which he treated everybody else his entire life.

Fortunately, six months later, he was of age to apply for Social Security and Medicaid. He was able to seek help without losing his integrity. Unfortunately, the diagnosis was chronic and he slowly withered away over a five year period (which should have been the happiest time of his life- surrounded by grandkids and a dutiful wife, he should have been enjoying his retirement instead of losing his abilities...)

Six years later, I understand his decisions with more clarity than ever before. I understand the hard work he poured into creating a home for us. I understand his desire to give us a foundation to build upon. I've realized that if I were faced with the same choice he was, I would have chosen to wait, just as he did. I would have wanted my kids to have the money they needed to continue learning and growing... Unlike the stresses he faced though, I do have insurance.

This insurance has covered more than $60,000 worth of chemotherapy, surgery, and colonoscopy bills over the last six months. What bothers me is that there are many more people out there like my papa, holding on to life because they are being yanked about where their health is concerned. Referrals, delays, and frustration prolong the health care they need to survive while our government kicks about hypothetical topics and dallies in providing all human beings with the same privileges we should all receive in spite of who we are and how much we make a year.

There are many individuals in my colon-cancer support group that have to work through their treatments so that they don't lose their insurance. This in itself is unimaginable to me, but it is a fact of life for them.

What is the solution? I believe selflessness and love of others is the path we need to walk to help us create a system that will benefit all, according to their needs. Otherwise, injustice will continue to poison our country and increase the division between the wealthy and the lower class.

I miss him, my papa. I miss his wisdom, his hugs, and the way we used to dance. I know though that he's given me a sound foundation to stand upon in order to share my gifts with others, love my family endlessly, and use my words to fight for what is right. So although the day of his death is quickly approaching, and he is terribly missed, I also know his fate was not unique.  So many others are walking the same path today...

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Till next week, go live, thrive, have fun and do great things!

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