Earlier this year, on the morning of Pascha, my Dad passed away from lung cancer…
My Dad and I were extremely close these past two years. We reconnected after 10 years of not seeing each other due to his battle with alcoholism. Two years before, he got really sick because of his addiction and nearly died. This was at the same time I was becoming an Orthodox Christian. For the first time in many years, I prayed… I prayed for two weeks straight and asked that God help my Dad and we can reconnect with each other one last time.
By the grace of God, my Dad recovered! I wrote him a letter saying how his alcoholism affected my path in life, but I wanted him to know that I still loved him, I forgave him, and wanted him to choose love. I promised to see him for the first time in a decade if he stayed sober, and so he began his journey to sobriety. After a few months of talking over the phone and him going to meetings, we met at my aunt’s house. It was truly the happiest moment of my life. To see my Dad, to talk with him, to laugh with him, and know that our love was stronger than ever.
Shortly after this, my Dad was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. The doctors told him, he had 6 months to live… I prayed and asked God to give us more time together. We had talked about my journey to Orthodoxy, he attended my chrismation, and I taught him about Saint Nektarios and the monks on Mt. Athos. We prayed to Saint George, Saint Patrick, and Saint Nektarios to pray to God for us. Many loved ones and strangers prayed for us, and I truly am thankful for all their prayers. For the next year and a half, we spent more time together, making memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
If the soul is in good health, bodily illness can in no way harm a man. Illness, then, is only evil in appearance. It can even constitute a blessing for man in the sense that, if one uses it appropriately, one can draw from it considerable spiritual benefit, thereby making of what was originally a sin of mortality into an instrument of salvation.
St. John Chrysostom
At the beginning of February 2020, my Dad began to get sicker and sicker. His memory was fading, his body was becoming weaker. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdowns and we weren’t sure of the severity of the situation. My grandfather, who was taking care of my Dad, didn’t want anyone to visit in person because he and my Dad were susceptible to becoming very sick from others (and could lead to quicker death). We agreed as a family this was best, but it was still very tough to not be there for my Dad in person.
Every day, we would talk to my Dad and tell him how much we loved him. His memory was fading, but he still recognized us and our words. It really dawned on me then, that God granted us extra time together to rebuild our relationship and be able to say our goodbyes with love in our hearts. No resentments or regrets, just pure love. I am truly grateful to God for allowing my Dad to fight the demons of addiction and grant me an open heart to forgive my Dad for his past actions. Our love is something I will always remember and pass onto my kids.
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
After my Dad fell asleep, I have been struggling with my own demons, especially feeling trapped in my room during this pandemic. God has opened my eyes recently to things I need to work on.
God gave me a heavy cross when my Dad and I were separated for so long, but because of repentance and forgiveness, my Dad and I overcame our struggle together. My Dad is truly an inspiration to me to keep going despite any doubts, fears, or hardships. I need to keep going and embrace love, hope, and most importantly God.