This story is by Tina Smith and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
They say the secret to having it all is believing you already do. But, when you lose your best friend, everything becomes hard, even the simplest tasks. Hi, I’m Darcy. I am 17. It’s hard to believe it has been 11 years since he left us. Life was so different before…
“Wakey, wakey! Eggs ‘n bacey!”, Mom shouted from downstairs.
Ummm! My mouth watered as the smell permeated the house. Mom would always fix a big breakfast on Sunday mornings before church. I would scurry down the staircase like a squirrel in search of his next nut. Dad sat at the table, meticulously finalizing his notes for the sermon. I stole the seat next to him. He would practice his message on me. I hung to his every word as if my life depended on it.
“Good morning Darcy. Are you ready?”
“Yes sir!” I replied.
Dad and I had a special bond. I’m not saying I was his favorite, but I took more of an interest in his teachings than my siblings ever had.
He would always say, “Darcy, one day God is going to use you to do great things.” But, when you are in Kindergarten, “great things” can be throwing a Tea Party for your stuffed animals.
I have 4 siblings. Meg was 15, Charles 17, Daisy 18 and Luke was 21. I was only 5. You could say I was kind of a surprise. Luke being the first born was given a biblical name because Mom’s favorite holiday was Christmas and the Book of Luke is where you can find the story of baby Jesus.
That April, Dad came down with a spring cold. The pollen formed a thick yellow haze from budding trees and flowers. We thought it must be allergies because we were all suffering just the same. For the first time ever, my dad had missed a Sunday service.
Mom said, “Jo, it’s time to quit playing tough guy and go visit Dr. Crane. That cold’s not getting any better, if anything, it’s getting worse.”
“Claire, there is no need to bother Ben with a cold,” Dad said. “I am sure once the season changes, I will be just fine.” But with Mom’s persistence, Dad reluctantly agreed.
Dr. Crane had treated all of us for minor illnesses. He had been a close friend to Mom and Dad for years and a member of the church. He ran several tests, but Dad needed more aggressive studies.
“Jo, I’m sending you to the city for more testing just to be safe,” Doc said.
From that day, things were never the same. After more bloodwork, spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies, Dr. Crane’s worst fears were confirmed. He called Dad and asked if he and Mom could come in for a consultation.
“Jo, you and I have been friends for a long time. That is why I sent you to the city, to see the best doctors so we could get a clear diagnosis. I wanted to make sure that my findings… well, I hoped that my findings were wrong.”
“Ben, what are you trying to say?” Dad asked.
“It breaks my heart to tell you and Claire but…, you have cancer. I am going to recommend one of my friends who I would trust with my own life. He will discuss treatment options. I am so sorry you are having to face this. I know the church will do whatever is needed to help you and Claire get through this. We are all here for you. If there is anything you need, please don’t hesitate to call.”
The days and weeks to follow grew darker for our family but Dad’s faith never wavered.
Dad told Mom, “Claire, we believe in God’s healing whether it’s here on earth or divinely in heaven.”
Mom tried to keep her faith, but I remember her crying in her room as she slept alone for the first time in 23 years. We all dealt with it differently. Luke rarely came home from college. Daisy, a Senior at CHS thought it inconvenient for all this to be happening during “her year”. Charlie stayed with friends a lot. When he was home, he seemed a little off, acting all weird. I didn’t know it at the time but, looking back I think he was doing a lot of drinking and partying. Meg was Mom’s support but what teenager can handle such a huge responsibility. She tried to help Mom with the housework so that Mom could focus on Dad. With all her schoolwork and coming home to cook, it was just too much. Then, there was me, almost 6 and trying to understand all the “adult talk” about Dad being sick and not being able to come home from the hospital.
“Mom, why does Dad have to stay in the hospital for a cold? I have had plenty of colds, even really bad ones. Dr. Crane gave me a shot one time and sent me home with stickers. The best part was that I didn’t have to go to school.”
But mom sat somberly with her arms wrapped around me and said, “We pray your Dad will be home soon.”
Dad came home for a short time, but his immunities were low. There were no hugs, but just having him home gave us all a feeling of hope. Although Dad was weak, he insisted on gathering us around for a short sermon in the living room. When he began to speak, there was a glow on his face as if the sun shone from it. After a few weeks of being home, Dad had to go back to the hospital. I began to have a feeling that there was more to this cold than I was capable of understanding.
After a few more weeks, Mom said, “Your dad is coming home to stay.”
I couldn’t believe it! I was so happy. Why was everyone else so sad? Dad had his own room. Nurses came and went all the time. If Dad was better, why all the medical staff? Why didn’t he get out of bed?
“Luke, I’m so glad you’re home,” Mom said. “This is just what your dad needs.” There were tears in both their eyes as they embraced.
Daisy decided to not go to college yet. “It’s okay Mom! I don’t blame Dad or you. This is where I need to be.”
Charlie spent more time at home instead of with friends. His phone rang. “…Yeah, sorry man! I can’t. Spending some time with Dad tonight… Today has been a good day. He wants to read the Bible to us… Thanks man, we really appreciate it.”
Everyone pitched in to help Mom and Meg with housework and cooking. We were all together again.
There was a heaviness in the air as we all sat in Dad’s room. The treatments had turned Dad’s body into a thin, fragile existence. He read from his Bible, breathless but bold. I had turned 6 and could help Dad when his voice became too weak to speak. Mom helped me with the pronunciation of some of the words. We read from John 14:1-3, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If not, I would have told you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to myself, so that where I am, you may be also.” It was clear that this was not just a message of God’s hope, but Dad letting us know that everything was going to be alright. He would be alright. This would be his final sermon, but even in his last breaths, he would leave this world doing what he loved.
My family had tried protecting me from the truth but did more harm than good. At 6 years old, it was hard for me to understand why such a “loving God”, that Dad had preached about every Sunday, would take him away from me.
Now, looking back on what I learned from Dad in his faithfulness to God, I see what the years of resentment stole from me. We limit ourselves by putting up walls. When we choose to stay in the darkness, light cannot come in until we open the door. There is another quote that says, “When there is nothing left to lose, you have everything to gain.” I felt like I had lost it all, but I had to choose to rise above it. I started volunteering at the Cancer Treatment Center and plan to pursue a career as an oncology nurse after graduation. Knowing now what Dad went through has helped me to be compassionate with my patients going through their treatments. We place limits on ourselves by allowing our circumstance to define us. I choose not to. I hope I make you proud Dad!