I found this bracelet in my bathroom drawer this week while I was cleaning. Slightly covered with some dust and makeup. I haven't look at it in I can't remember how long...I received it sometime after my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Purple is the color for pancreatic cancer awareness. I guess that's the point of these bracelets...to spread awareness and to keep people who need prayers on your heart. To me though, it represented mortality.
I wore it to contribute to a cause. But in my mind it was a constant reminder and symbol that my dad was dying. I carried that thought with me all day, everyday. I spent 13 months trying to mentally prepare for the inevitable. It's amazing how your mind can't comprehend the thought of someone close to you dying. It's too big a thought to even process. You can't even fathom how you will get through it. But when it happens, you just do.
It's amazing how your mind goes into a combination of shock and survival mode during times of tragedy...
I remember sitting down with the funeral director and my uncles, 12 or 13 hours after my dad's passing. The whole time, my mind was like, "Is this really happening right now?"
I remember so many months ago my dad talking to me about funeral arrangements when I would visit him at work. I hated when he talked about that stuff. To me, it felt like he was giving up. But, he was being realistic, and I knew that too. Even when I was sitting at his bedside at the hospital, I kept looking at him, thinking about how he was alive right in front of me...and how it wouldn't be much longer until I would be at his funeral...but again, you can't even wrap your head around it.
And here I was, sitting with my uncles, planning the funeral and visitation for my dad. Something he never asked of me when he was alive, but something I knew I had to do for him. It was my last way of giving back to him and commemorating his life. Or so I thought...
I also remember spelling my dad's name as the funeral director wrote it on his death certificate. That took me back to all the paperwork I filled out growing up that would ask me for my parents' names. Kevin Shalawylo. My dad.
As we got further down the death certificate, I looked to my uncles to try and remember the time of death. That whole night was blur. I guess those 3 days my dad was admitted to the hospital were a blur.
The time my dad's body gave out. The time he took his last breath. The time my whole world changed as I knew it.
I cried. I kept waiting for him to breathe another breath, but also dreaded it since he was in so much pain..gasping for air. And then, he was gone.
I cried on his shoulder, feeling his warmth for the last time. Knowing it was the last time I would ever hug my dad. Ever again. I knew I would miss him deeply... miss those random texts saying hi or telling me to not be out driving on nights when roads were bad... texts asking me to bring him dinner to work. That text or phone call at 10:08pm on my birthday; my birth minute.
It had been a process, but I had also been preparing myself to let go of my dad. Which was so painfully difficult since I only began to really hold him close and have real hope for our relationship just a few months before his cancer diagnosis.
I was so confused. I couldn't understand why God would allow such a thing to happen to my dad at such a time when I thought things were starting to look up for him...for us. It just didn't seem fair, and to be honest, it still doesn't seem fair. It brings me to tears at the most random of moments thinking about how much my dad suffered in this life.
Even though I was angry and deeply hurt over the situation, I never felt angry with God. I knew in my heart that God doesn't cause cancer and pain. How could a God who loves us so much that He sent His Son to bring us eternal life cause death? The truth, is that God doesn't cause death. We caused death by not listening to Him in the garden at the beginning of time. We fell short. And God created us to have free will knowing that we would fall short.
And God also didn't send His son to earth to die. To quote my pastor, "When God came, we put Him on the cross. We killed Him." But what did God do? He sent His beloved Son to us, knowing that we would kill him at just 33 years of life, and in turn used that very moment of death to complete the greatest Love story of all time.
I also don't believe that God causes us to go through these trials for the sake of testing us. But rather to teach us how to learn how to cling to truth, even in the midst of seep sorrow. Can we still see the Light, even while we feel stranded in some of the darkest of places? And the answer to that is yes. That Light never leaves us. It is always there, waiting for us to move towards it.
In my dad's final moments, although the most unbearable of my entire life, I still felt wrapped in Love, and I knew my dad was finally in Good Hands. And maybe he always was and just never knew it.
Even though it didn't feel fair that my dad was diagnosed with cancer at a time when things started looking up for us, I am clinging to the truth that God planned for this very time, each of my dad's breaths had been measured out. And within that space of time measured out by breaths, God brought that healing with my dad; it was God's gift to me. I was able to let go of my dad with total peace, knowing how much he loved me. And trusting that he knew how much I loved him.
I remember sitting in my dad's room with him the day he passed away. He kept pulling his oxygen off. He wasn't listening to anybody. But finally, I gently yelled at him and said, "Dad, leave your oxygen on!" He looked at me and nodded. He listened. And I'd like to think that gave me a few more hours with him, anyway.
I don't know what lies ahead. But I am still trusting that God is Good. I would like to believe that my dad knew how much I loved him and that my dad found peace with God and within himself his last few days here.
Even though some days are still difficult for me as I grieve, I still have hope in the promise that this life is not the end. And maybe, when it is my time, and I get to the other side, my dad and I can pick up right where we left off. He will still be annoyed that my hair always looks crazy, and we will finally be in total peace...no pain, no fear, no sorrow.
I would like to think that somehow these trials here really are preparing us for what is to come. To be in complete and reverent awe of the beauty of eternal life with the total understanding of why it was so important to trust Him on our way there. May we all continue to step Heavenward together.
He was. He is. And He is to come.