From June 21, 2020
Dear Friends --
A year ago this weekend I went to the US Open at Pebble Beach. A terrific friend had an extra ticket in his group and thought I might enjoy the chance to follow a friend of theirs on the PGA tour, and I immediately jumped at the chance.
There are all kinds of reasons to say yes to a free ticket to the US Open. But I had just one in mind: I wanted the chance to call my dad that day -- that Father's Day -- and hear the joy in his voice when I described all the anecdotes from traipsing miles along 18 holes while navigating the crowds to get close to a green. All small moments that I knew would be a thrilling play by play for him. Is there a better Father's Day call to make than that?
I also knew that day something was very wrong with me. I was fighting a low grade fever that wouldn't seem to quit, and my energy kept lagging. Even though my physical symptoms were mild, I remember that was the first day I began to turn over a thought that wouldn't seem to disappear: "What if this is serious?"
That night I did call my dad, and gave him a verbal postcard from the highlights of seeing the world's best golf, up close. If your dad is anything like mine, he's nearly impossible to shop for, especially on Father's Day. He had zero interest in stuff, but a story -- especially one that involved golf -- was gold. And so that night, I had a little gift of magic in my pocket, ready to share.
Two weeks later I would be told I had stage IV metastatic colon cancer, with a 15 centimeter tumor in my liver, and suspicious activity in my lung.
In the hours and days following, there were all kinds of gut-wrenching phone calls and conversations to be had. This sounds odd to some, but the hardest conversation wasn't telling my kids about the road ahead. It was actually walking through this with my dad. I heard a catch in his throat, and I knew what I was hearing: the tremble in his voice was the terrible realization that he couldn't fix it. He understood he couldn't make all the agony go away.
We talked more in the days ahead, and mostly those conversations were all about hope, and faith, and how God's providence and proximity were generously abundant, in the midst of it all. From a young age, my dad helped me spot miracles in small places, and we were quick to find so many in those first few days, even when it would have been far easier to keep our eyes fixed on the calamity.
And then just 14 days later, he suddenly died. So this is my first Father's Day without a dad.
And yet. The conversation that began the first night I was diagnosed has continued on over these past 12 months, but our chats are rarely about cancer. This mountain has included Sherpa Stanley walking alongside my path, which is to say I think I've glimpsed much of this hike -- the marvelous and the mundane -- from his vantage point along the ascent.
I wrote at the beginning of this trek that the view from my mountain would be spectacular, no matter where the trail might lead. I'm just beginning now to find language to describe what I've witnessed. Much of what I've seen is the love you all have creatively, generously, and faithfully provided. But there's more -- like so many others, I've also learned to embrace a quiet freedom that can only come when life creates unbearable constraints. Somehow, this view includes a far more expansive imagination about fragility: the more fragile the days, the more durably I see the complexity and wonder of the souls shaping this story I now live.
And where are we now in the story? I'm happy to report that I've had a lovely string of weeks to savor the joy of feeling quite well. Lynda Carter maintenance pills aren't too troublesome, my energy is slowly returning, and I've even played tennis -- twice! -- in recent days. My last CEA score was below .5, a data point that hints at no evidence of disease.
Some have asked if this is remission. It's not. It's probably more like an intermission, but it could last a good long time.
Rather than speculate how long, this Father's Day, I'll simply focus on the view for the here and now. And, as captured in the photos attached, I'll see it for holding as many possibilities as the mighty Pacific.
It's probably the best tribute, and gift, I could ever give my sweet dad.
p.s. -- special thanks to my dear angel friend Brigitte for the photos. She captures the view through her lens far better than my words ever could.