My son’s fiancé flew home to say goodbye to her dad as he was ending a long battle with cancer. Erica sat by his side as he drifted in and out of consciousness. His breathing was labored and even though he was medicated and semi-comatose, she worried that he was in pain.
At one point she slipped of her shoes, crawled into his bed and snuggled up close to him. She started to cry as she said to him, “Daddy, I’m so sorry. You don’t deserve this. You’re such a good man, and you didn’t deserve to have cancer and suffer so much for so long.”
He never opened his eyes, but after she’d repeated over and over, “I’m so sorry,” and “You don’t deserve this,” he whispered, “It’s not your fault, baby. It’s not your fault.”
Herb died while she was on the flight on her way home. When I went to see her, she was grieving over his death. She thought he might have lived longer if she had stayed, and she was feeling guilty.
I told her I thought he was able to let go once she left. He knew she’d been there. He knew he was loved, and there was no reason for him to continue to cling to an earthly body that had been ravaged by cancer.
I never met Erica’s dad. I was impressed, though, when I read his obituary. He’d served in the military. He’d been a college professor. At the end of his life he was surrounded by the woman he’d been married to all his adult life and his two great adult children.
None of us can judge what a person deserves, but I can’t think of anything I would want more at the end of my life than knowing my family loved me and that even though they would miss me, they would be able to go on and live happy, productive lives without me.
In spite of losing his battle with cancer, I think Herb was a very lucky man.