Katherine Battle was nine when her dad died of kidney cancer. In this essay she writes about loss, remembrance and above all things – enduring love. The past can’t be changed – but her voice gives us all hope for the future.
When you lose a parent, you lose a part of you. When I lost my dad to a long, cold, four-year war with Kidney Cancer my entire life was impacted. His death, while devastating has also changed my view in good ways. It has increased my compassion for others and it’s a part of who I am today. I didn’t ask to lose him, but I couldn’t change what happened and I don’t know if I would even change it if I could.
As I grew from the age of four to eight I had prepared myself for his death. Slowly each day passing as my timeline grew next to his and together we aged. I prepared myself to lose his timeline. I knew what cancer was and I knew what was happening. I would spend every minute with him. I tried to suck up as many memories before there wouldn’t be any more to make. I would spend so much time with him I would fear that my mom thought I didn’t love her.
As I watched him grow weaker, it seemed like ten years were squished and cut to fit in the four-year span. Each year dreading the idea his bed would be replaced with dirt and a sharply cut rock. I hated knowing I wouldn’t run up the stairs and see him lying in his bed resting. I hated knowing we wouldn’t read Magic tree house books. I hated knowing I wouldn’t have to help him read because he lost his breath.
You will miss each part. Even the parts you didn’t like. You miss ranting to your friends how your dad ruined your life for not getting you the cereal you wanted. I would do anything to have one last fight. Because I miss having a father. You miss the things that make a father a father even the worst things. Even the things you think you will never forgive, the times you get so mad you say things you wish you hadn’t. But I think it’s important to remember those things too. Looking back, they’re just as important as the laughter he brought. Because they’re all real.
I have gained a lot of knowledge from my father’s sickness and death. But the biggest legacy is love. It’s funny because being in junior high means everyone will be opened to this idea of love and try and grab it. I would often help friends who were going through problems with their “boyfriend/girlfriend”. I would always be there to help and comfort them, but I would get annoyed at hearing them talk about love. Talk about it as if they have been married for years. But as I watched my mom fight for four years to keep my dad living, to see him fight for us, it’s sometimes hard to relate. She looked at him as a gift of life. The type of gift that you carry around in your heart, so delicate that losing it will take a part of your heart. Love is a partnership that you carry.
My mom described losing my dad as if she lost her left leg and had to learn to walk again without it. When I look at their marriage I see those little chains of paper people you make in kindergarten. They are each their own little paper person but they’re connected to the chain. Some paper people may not have the best paper partner and they may even detach them from your chain or some may love their partners. There’s many varieties of paper chains but my mom and dad cherished their connection. For them, it was never a question on how they were going to stay together through the war but only how they were going to run into battle together. But even after he died, I can tell you that my mom still carries all of those memories of love forever.
I don’t think we can accept some truths until they become our reality. But I don’t think that’s bad. Because sometimes we hold onto things that we can’t have. We hold on until our hands become cold and bruised. Because that’s part of love. We love things so much we allow ourselves to become bruised and battered to hold on to the hope that we don’t have to let go. Even when we know we will have to. Holding on is human and our hands will heal.
A lot of people are upset with the world for taking someone they loved, but I’m not. I wish he could have stayed but what he gave me was so much. He gave me everything I needed in those nine years. He gave me all the love I needed. And love never dies.
My dad would have turned 50 on July 30th. I can’t change the past – but I can change the future for others. I hope you’ll consider donating to KCCure to honor my dad.