This will most likely be messy. Telling my story. There will certainly be a lot of tears. But there is also laughter. My little family likes to laugh…we believe its good for the soul.
I initially thought that this journey started on the day my dad was diagnosed. But in retrospect, it really started back when I was a kid. My dad was my hero, and I was a daddy’s girl. Not only did I inherit his blonde hair and grey blue eyes, I also inherited his temperament and wicked sense of humor. We were, as my mom always said, two peas in a pod.
But, despite everything we shared, and the happy little family we were when I was a baby, my dad was struggling. He was an alcoholic. Alcoholism is a disease that has no cure. It is something that, I believe, should never be considered in the past tense when the person is still living. If you are an alcoholic, then you are one for your entire life, because it is something that will never go away. The moment you start to believe that you are no longer an alcoholic, is the moment you put yourself at risk for relapsing. With that being said, from before I was born until 8th grade, my dad was an alcoholic in denial. Needless to say, he finally got it together, found the Lord, and spent the rest of his life completely sober. But not before completely destroying our relationship. I reached a point somewhere along the line and decided that I was done. And he knew this.
Our relationship had to start back over from scratch. He and I both understood that there was nothing to fix. To fix something, there has to be something tangible still present to knit back together. For us, there wasn’t anything there anymore to put back together. So we went back to square one and began again. It took time. A lot of time. I couldn’t even tell you how many years. But what I can tell you is that one day I turned around, sometime around my senior year of high school, and realized that I had a father that I trusted, and respected. I truly loved him. He wasn’t just my hero, he was my best friend.
I’m including all of this, because the tumultuous relationship my dad and I shared early in life contributed to the immensely close relationship we had when he died.
After graduating from Baylor University in 2009, I moved back home, got a job, and started planning for grad school. I initially started my college career studying psychology. After switching to art history, a lot of people questioned my decision, gave me funny looks, and called me crazy. My dad didn’t. He supported me one hundred percent, and told me to go for it. He saw that spark in my eye and excitement in my voice when I talked about art. The childlike wonder I had in museums. Others came around to my decision, but he never wavered in his support of me.
One year after graduating from Baylor, I was accepted into a graduate program at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York City—yes, THE Sotheby’s. During the summer of 2010 I began preparing to move to NYC. I had my school text books, 3 awesome roommates, I was already making lists of what I was taking, and figuring out if it would fit in the truck for the drive up. And then I had to withdraw my acceptance. The money simply wasn’t there, and it wasn’t a fiscally wise decision to take out massive amounts of loans that put myself into serious financial debt at the age or 23. The road I was gloriously racing down, this dream road of establishing a career in the art world with one of the most prestigious auction houses suddenly ended, and it felt like I fell off a cliff. I was devastated. This wasn’t supposed to happen. But that’s the thing…it’s what I had planned, not what God had planned for me. As much as I tried to make something happen, I coundn’t bend God’s will for my life into something I wanted to see. It just doesn’t work that way. That’s why it’s God’s plan, not mine.
Little did I know the journey that He had planned for me. One short year later, my life would be turned upside down with a diagnosis my brain knew was coming, but my heart had no clue. Looking back that year that I was “supposed” to be in New York, was precious time that God knew I needed with my dad.
On June 3, 2011 late in the afternoon I received a phone call that my dad was going to the ER. Mere hours later we learned that he had nearly 3 liters of fluid on his lung that had to be drained off immediately. And a tumor had infested ½ of his lung. It was Lung Cancer. And it was already stage 4.