Senior Column: Cece Hensley
May 7, 2017
Every Friday during summer vacation, my dad would buy me pancakes at First Watch. On my 16th birthday, he convinced me I would be receiving a worn down company pickup truck but instead, a black convertible with a pink balloon sat in our driveway. One day, he told my family he was taking us to a surprise location because we were bored, and it ended up being a tiger sanctuary in the middle of Missouri. If you couldn’t tell, my dad loved surprises, gifts and making everything special.
It never mattered to me that he had cancer. He was still my dad, my hero and my protector. He was such a strong fighter that he never truly let me see how sick he was inside, and so I pretended his sickness wasn’t there.
But on Dec. 2, 2016 I had pushed off the reality of his illness for too long. On that day, after being rushed to the hospital, my dad was informed by the doctors at Barnes that after three years of chemo, trials and pills, we needed to start looking at hospice care.
The next day, moving vans were parked in the front of our house, bringing in his new bed, oxygen tank and a team of hospice nurses who attempted to prepare us for the weeks ahead.
We had visitors coming in at all times of the day. The hum of his oxygen tank became the background noise amidst the chaos. Even worse, I had the ever growing fear that when I was hugging my dad or talking to him, it would be the last time. I couldn’t sleep, and going to school and hearing my peers complain about their parents or their grades while my dad was at home dying was torture.
I’m sad my last memories with my dad are of him very sick, not himself. But even then, I knew the dad I’d grown up with was still there, even when he couldn’t talk or move from the red chair he loved so much. I knew he was there on our last night together when he used all of his energy to tell me, “I love you,” the last words he ever said to me.
Even surrounded by so much heartache, I learned so much. As cliche as it sounds, I learned about the brevity of life and how uncertain our days here and the people we have with us are. More importantly, I learned who was truly there to support me.
Thank you to my dad’s three best friends: John Cella, Larry Parres and Steve Einspanier. When I saw you three grown men carrying my dad up my stairs so he could sleep in his bed for the last time, I knew my dad had the best friends in the world. You three are family to me.
On Dec. 18, 2016 my dad passed away. Even though I’d been saying goodbye for the past two weeks, it didn’t make it easier. I had never physically felt worse. My heart ached like never before. You never think of the day you’ll be shopping for a dress for your father’s funeral.
Life has been grueling without him. But what has been hardest is that life has gone on. I expected after his passing that the world would stop. But the world kept spinning and continued on without him, even if it felt like I couldn’t. The past few months have been hard because no one can read my mind and know that I think about my dad constantly, and not having him with me is something that weighs on me every day. I just miss him.
I would do anything to give him another hug or to hear his voice, even if it was to yell at me for parking my car in his spot in our driveway. I wish he could see my prom dress, or I could tell him that I decided I was going to Mizzou. My dad won’t be there at my graduation, my societal debut or my wedding. But he left me with the best gift, knowing that he loves me and that he will be with me in spirit every step of the way.
Losing someone you love is terrible. But without loss, we never truly learn to appreciate what we have.