Last Words From My Dad

By A Friend • February 12, 2019

My Dad died in November.

He was an ER doc, a Stephen Minister, a street art/graffiti artist, a college professor, a cancer researcher, a bee keeper, and a cookbook author. He was a former US Marine, a book club leader, a community organizer, and even though he could afford a new car, drove an old 1992 5-speed Honda with 200k+ miles on it, just because he liked it. He was the father of five, including two sets of twins, and all of them were born while he was in med school/doing his residency. He loved chaos and craziness, thrived on it.

Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer in 2008 and given two years to live, just one day before our home was ruined by Hurricane Ike - and he lived for 10 years beyond his diagnosis. He loved working with the other cancer patients, and made an entire library in his office of humorous reading materials and DVD's - and was always on the lookout for Butter Rum flavored Life Savers candies because he thought they were soothing to the throat. Spent a week living in the hospital during Hurricane Harvey so the staff whose homes had flooded did not have to come in. Gave up his food so patients could be fed when high water cut off their food supply. Said it was the most interesting thing he had ever been a part of.

To others, he was a doctor, a neighbor, or just a guy. To me, he was a larger-than-life role model, easily the funniest person I ever met, and fiercely protective of those he loved. He couldn't stand the president of his neighborhood HOA - and anytime he saw a horror film or a Halloween witch portrayed on television, he would refer to it as "a documentary about our HOA president."

A couple of days before he died, he told us it was time to go to Hospice Care, where he died three days later. And he left me this message, telling me to share it with all the people I met:

"Please don't send flowers or be sad for me, I had a great life. Instead, give yourself the gift of having joy in life. Have a steak or a couple of great tacos and a beer. Fly a kite with your child or run with the family dog. Forgive someone (or yourself) for actions that happened in the past and move on with purpose. Connect with a childhood friend. Tell a teacher how much they meant to you. Live your life, love without fear of being hurt, and laugh every chance you get. Look for the good. Donate your time with a cause you find important. Or just look within to make things a little better inside your heart.

Don't waste time, folks. The number one complaint I see in medicine is not disease, it's loneliness - don't fall into the trap of thinking you have time to spare. Get out of the house. Put down the phone. Don't worry about "likes", replace all that with people you love. Do more, and worry less.

If you want to remember me well, do one kind thing today, whether it's a smile for a stranger, having a bit of patience for someone struggling with their day, or helping a neighbor - even if it's the head of your HOA and she's an old witch. I'll be watching. Remember, I love you, and always will - and there's not a damn thing you can do to change that."

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