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Dad’s Last Gift

Posted on August 7, 2012, 10:09 AM
Dad’s Last Gift
Duane Smith with his daughters.

by Meghan Smith

You always think you have all the time in the world. But what happens when you wake up one day and learn your time is nearly up? What would you choose to do with the time you had left?

On May 31, 2012, I received a conference call from my parents along with my three sisters. My father, Duane, had been diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma – a cancerous growth in one of the ducts that carries bile from the liver to the small intestine. We were told there was no cure, no fix and no surgery that could help. That this was terminal, and we had to prepare ourselves to only have Dad for another three to six months. What are you supposed to do with that kind of time? 

As I later admitted to my mom, my immediate reaction was one of sadness and, strangely, of guilt. Sadness because I would inevitably lose my dad. And guilt because I knew he wouldn’t be there to one day walk me and my boyfriend, Josh, down the aisle as he had with my three sisters. I felt so selfish, thinking of myself and what I wouldn’t have while my dad was dealing with the news that he was going to die. But I knew he wouldn’t be there for one of the most special days of my life, and I felt cheated out of the experience that my sisters got to have. Thank God for my mom. She told me that the moment the doctor explained the diagnosis and the length of time Dad had left, she had the same thoughts.

We were supposed to have at least three months, but six days after that phone call, my dad took a turn for the worse. I had stopped by before work that morning, and he was up talking and walking around. He seemed tired, but nothing out of the ordinary. I arrived back at my parents’ three hours later and he had gone downhill and was continuing to decline at a phenomenal pace. As us Smith women have always done, we kicked things into high gear, making phone calls to loved ones to get there, for the priest to come, and for hospice to come back. With things moving as fast as they were, it again crossed my mind that we were out of time. Dad really wouldn’t be there to walk me down the aisle. I called Josh, my boyfriend, and told him he needed to get to my parents’ house immediately.

When Josh arrived, Dad was still able to get a few words out and able to look at us, but you could tell his body was giving in. Josh had been amazing through all this. He knew the pain I was in, having gone through the loss of his own mother years earlier from cancer. He also knew that my family had certain traditions. I always told Josh, if you ever ask me to marry you, you have to ask my parents’ permission first! Now was the time. I wouldn’t be able to have Dad there on our wedding day, but at least I could have this.

Josh sat in another room, nervous about what was about to occur. I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t asking my dad. Then, finally, I realized: most guys who ask a girl’s parents for permission to marry their daughter don’t have 20 sets of eyes staring at them! So I proceeded to kick everyone out of my dad’s room so we could be alone with my parents.

At 6 p.m., Josh walked in the room and stood next to Dad’s bed. Dad looked at Josh and smiled. With Mom standing next to Dad, her hand on his shoulder, Josh told my parents he loved me and wanted to marry me and hoped for their permission to do so. Now Dad, being the sarcastic man that he was, looked up at Josh and said a single word:

“Grovel.”

Josh broke into a smile and looked at me like Did I just hear what I thought I heard? He had. My dad repeated himself. “Grovel.” So Josh proceeded to get down on his knees and asked, begged and, well, groveled for my dad’s permission. My dad smiled and said yes. I gave him a huge hug and told him how much I loved him before we let everyone else back in the room and in on what just happened.

At 1:12 a.m., a little over seven hours after Josh asked my parents’ permission to marry me, my dad passed away. He had his wife and his four girls around him when he finally let go. It was seven days after he was diagnosed.

Time is everything. I’m so happy we had that moment in time to ask him. Tradition, especially that one, was a big deal to my dad. I know he loved Josh and having Josh ask his permission meant the world to him. While I won’t have Dad there physically to walk me down the aisle and dance with me, I know he will be there watching every moment.

A graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Meghan Smith resides in Peoria, Illinois and is currently attending school for radiography then, hopefully, ultrasound. Her goal is to work with patients currently in the fight against cancer and those warriors who have won their battle. In November 2009, Meghan herself was diagnosed with Stage IIB malignant melanoma. After two surgeries, she was relieved to find out it had not spread to her lymph nodes or distant organs. She then became a huge advocate of melanoma awareness, Stand Up To Cancer, and Aim at Melanoma.

She and Josh have been together for over two years. And now that they have her father’s permission, they will eventually start doing something about a wedding! 

 


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Comments

Posted by Calvin Nokes | August 07, 2012 1:49 PM

What an amazing story, Here’s to a long and happy life from a grateful anal cancer survivor.

Posted by suzanne | August 07, 2012 2:08 PM

excellent illustration once again! life is short not a dress rehearsal…so happy you got your Dad’s blessing!!!!!

Posted by Lisa Freeman | August 07, 2012 2:14 PM

Thank you for sharing, your story was very powerful and had me crying about your loss and my loss of my father all at the same time. I lost my father just barely two months after we got his diagnosis. It was hard to focus on what you wanted and needed before your time was up with the first men in our lives.God Bless!

Posted by Julie Seel | August 07, 2012 2:38 PM

Meghan, your story was very touching and close to home. My wonderful husband was diagnosed with kidney cancer at Christmas 2010. He had surgery and chemo but passed away all to quickly 16 weeks later. We were told he might have 5 years but that wasn’t meant to be, so it was a shock when his health deteriorated quickly. The day he passed away he watch Bolton play soccer on TV (his team, and they won). He said he was tired at lunch time and he passed away by 5.30 pm with my son, daughter and our closest friends around him.
My daughter (a sophomore in college) is interning with a wedding planner and intends to make it her career.  I know she gets choked up as the bride and her father get ready to walk down the isle, and it is hard for her to see the father/daughter dance. She has thought about your exact situation. She wishes her Dad could meet her future husband and “make him grovel” just like your lovely Dad did. I’m so happy for you that you were able to have this happen and know that your Dad is supportive of your marriage. I have no doubt that he will be with you when you walk down the isle.
Wishing you the very best of luck with your studies and your health. You are obviously going to “make a difference” with your life, and I am sure your father is very very proud of you!

Posted by Shelly Merenda | August 07, 2012 4:09 PM

That was a beautiful heart touching story! Thank you for sharing. I know your dad is watching over you and Josh and I am sure you WILL very much feel his presence with you when your wedding day finally comes. He will still be walking you down that aisle—as your guardian angel! Peace be with you all as you continue to grieve, May Duane rest in peace with our Lord!

Posted by Penny Hoffman | August 07, 2012 5:19 PM

I work in hospice and some of the end of life stories are amazing and heartwrenching. I applaud you for getting dad’s permission for your marriage as I am sure that gave your dad peace to know you were marrying someone he knew and approved of. My mom had MDS which turned into leukemia we did all she wanted when she was told nothing more could be done and that is what matters in the end for them to be loved and happy.

Posted by Donna | August 13, 2012 12:08 PM

Through tears I can smile and feel so proud.  Meghan is my daughter and Duane was my husband.  She captured the moment and expressed the need to continue a family tradition.  There are golden moments and memories even in saddness.

Posted by Nicole | August 13, 2012 6:12 PM

Your Dad sounds like he was a fantastic guy. You had me crying and laughing with your story. May he rest in peace and he will surely be with you on your wedding day.

Posted by Teresa Delinski | August 14, 2012 11:48 AM

What a heartfelt story you have been able to share, thank you.  Through all of this your father maintained his sense of humor and at least you can look back and chuckle at his ornery sense of humor.  What a blessing he was.  Hugs!

Posted by Meghan | October 12, 2012 8:36 AM

Thank you all for the great comments.  I am so happy this story touched so many people and hope it continues to be shared!  To update, Josh and I are now engaged!! This September he proposed on a much needed vacation cruise between Grand Cayman and Cozumel.  We couldn’t be more excited, but I do still wish dad was here to put his say in on the dress!!

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