It goes without saying, I'm not the only one heartbroken over my dad's cancer diagnosis. He has a whole community grieving now, but more than that, I have two younger brothers. We've been through a heck of a lot together, and I cannot imagine facing any of this without them. Today I'm posting, with his permission, a letter my youngest brother, Kyle, wrote to our family recently. ~April
Life is not fair.
Growing up I heard these four words often. When my soccer team lost. When my brother got to do what he wanted and I was left behind. When I had to dress nicely for holidays when I would have much rather run a-muck in the woods. Whenever disappointment came knocking and things didn’t go my way. “But, why?” I would ask. “Repeat after me,” Dad would say, “Life is not fair.”
Even now I hear the words every day. Still in my Dad’s calm, soft spoken way, only now they are generally in my head. Thoughts, echoes from years gone by, the words are just as true today as they ever were. There are many things beyond my control that conjure up these words, but more often than not the reason I am thinking them is cancer. Dad’s cancer.
Dad’s Cancer. The very words are hard to write, harder still to speak. My Dad has cancer. How can it be? This man that almost never took a sick day. This man that lead his volunteer fire department for 30 plus years. This man that has been an everyday hero to so many in our community, a symbol of strength and leadership. This man that embodies hard work and self-discipline who worked long weeks for a major worldwide corporation for years and still found the energy to run a successful small business and farm on the side. Who provided for our family despite ups and downs at work and at home. Who taught me that if you work hard enough anything is possible, as well as the importance of taking time to enjoy yourself every now and again. This man who battled back from a bleed in his brain, and the resulting brain surgery. Who fought to talk clearly again, function normally when the doctors were not sure if he ever would. This man who survived a grand-mal seizure less than a year ago and was unresponsive in the hospital for nearly a week. Who refused to lie idly in the hospital and got scolded by the nurses for wandering the halls. This man that has never been known to drink more than one beer in a sitting, who has hiked nearly every day of his life, who has done everything they say to do to live a long and healthy life, this man has cancer? How can it be?
Yet I know how. I know the answer before I even ask the question. Life is not fair. The words play and replay in my head, haunting me with their simple truth.
Even now in the face of all this, Dad is working hard, showing us what strength is. Never touting his accomplishments, just quietly teaching us what to do when life gets hard. He is undergoing Chemotherapy, poisoning himself in an attempt to slow the growth and spread of the cancer. He is buying time for us. Time to spend together, time to tie up loose ends and make things right. Time to see to unfinished business. And time for us to make our peace with it. How much time do we get, nobody knows. We are hoping if Dad continues his track record of being an outstanding, resilient, tough SOB, we’ll get a year or more.
And yet more time, that’s all we want. More time for family, for love and friendship and togetherness.
My Dad has cancer and life is not fair.
Kyle Johnson and his wife Whitney are incredibly talented, which includes both being
professional foresters. They recently left a big garden, 20 chickens, 3 honeybee hives, and a handful of fruit trees in landlocked Montana to move closer to both Kyle and Whitney's families. Like fish out of water (moose out of the forest?), they are now getting their bearings in the coastal rainforest of Coos Bay, Oregon. You can read about their Big Sky adventures on their blog: The Birds and the Bees. From hunting and butchering venison, to canning and preserving garden vegetables, to beekeeping and chicken farming, with a little responsible forestry thrown in on occasion, it's a great read. Take a moment and check it out! (Also, Kyle was a guest blogger here a year ago where he wrote about beekeeping in an urban environment.)
Also, check out Whitney's hand made jewelry and all natural lip balms at her website Montana Wild Designs.