How can getting Cancer be considered a gift? Aren’t gifts something to be treasured? Don’t they make the recipient and those around him happy? Well, yes. And so does Cancer. Sort of.
My husband died from bladder cancer at the age of 53. It was a wrenching experience for my close knit family and I went into widowhood kicking and screaming. Yet, that last year of his life holds some of my most precious memories.
Joe was a very strong and open individual who believed that in spite of his death sentence, he would exemplify his love for his family and friends during those precious last months. Even after he stopped chemo because it wasn’t working any more, he left us “gifts.” Even after he lost all of his hair, became skeletal and looked more like an 83 year old man than a 53 year old one (a hospice nurse thought he was my father instead of my husband), he gave us “gifts”. One of the best of these gifts, was agreeing to marry me again on my birthday. This renewal of our vows after 30 years of marriage took place two weeks before he died. Not only did he silently participate through his pain, but he allowed our son to film the entire ceremony as he put on a brave face.
My children (24 and 27 at the time) wrote beautiful letters to their father on his last Father’s Day, telling him what he meant to their lives. Again, he let us film this experience. That video is shaky and often out of focus as it was difficult to stop shaking as we cried, but we consider it a gift.
Cancer a gift? Some think not. But for me, having the opportunity to give and receive unconditional love cannot be taken for granted. Some people die suddenly without warning and never get to say good-bye or tell their family those three precious words “I love you.” My husband gave us a year of those three words and we’ll cherish that gift forever.