Dancing with Cancer by Rioha

Simply Being! with Rioha

I didn’t think my Dad would die. I thought he was going to pull through and thrive after his surgery. He told us over and over that he had no intention of dying. Instead, he had a day after surgery where we all got to talk with him and the next day, he was intubated and put into deep sedation. Several weeks later, we would gather to be with him as he passed.

I arrived for my visit, the day my Dad found out he had cancer. He had known something was wrong, and the man who never went to the doctor, started getting tests run to find out what was going on with his body. And so began, my Dad’s dance with cancer. I spent most of the summer with my Dad. I extended my visits, and would be with him and my Mom between my business trips and trainings.

He would send me home and I’d be home a few days. When we talked on the phone he would start to say “when” you come back, instead of “if” you come back and I would book my flight back the next day. I was able to BE in joy with him throughout this process. We would look at each other and I would say, cancer really sucks. He would agree. Yet, I was joy. Joy is much more pleasant to be around then pity or sadness, especially when you are sick. I think that is one of the reasons he so liked having me around as he danced. I was able to be with him, without sadness, pity or judgement.

In more than one of our many talks, he told me to just be me. He basically told me to fuck everyone else; fuck anyone trying to have me be anything other than me. He had seen people try to make me smaller: tell me I’m too loud, talk too much, and am too much. He also knew there were times when he had done that as well, and so he asked me to just be me with him. Sometimes, I was loud and obnoxious; sometimes, we would just sit in silence and hold hands and sometimes, we would laugh. One of my Dad’s sayings was “sometimes everything” and this summer and fall, my time with Dad was “sometimes everything”.

I’m so grateful for my time with him and for the opportunity to say goodbye. I have watched my family come together in a way that I did not know was possible. I watched a brother and sister who couldn’t be in the same room, live in the same home, and have discussions with respect, care and kindness. I watched the best of us come out and be with each other. Miracles were created as we danced with Dad and cancer. Dr. Dain Heer asked me if my Dad chose cancer to dynamically change the way my family behaved with each other. He asked me during ESB shortly after my Dad was diagnosed. That always felt right to me, and it turned out to be exactly the case. We may or may not have gotten there anyway, as we grow older, more mature and step more into our true selves. I’m not sure if it would have happened as seamlessly or as profoundly, but I know that it did. My family and I have changed dynamically, in beautiful ways: with care, respect and allowance for each other’s choices and who we are in the world and with each other.

When I got the call that Dad only had a few days left, I thought I was ready. Then 45 minutes later I got the call that it would be that night. Two hours later, I was on a plane and 2 ½ later, I walked into the room with the rest of my family. The energy in the room shifted as I arrived, as if everyone took a breath. We stayed with him, we encircled him and we each touched him. We sang, we laughed, we told stories, we cried, and we filled the room with love. My Dad passed surrounded by his family…by love. His passing was joyful and happened with grace and ease. It was truly beautiful, and when it is my time to transition, I hope that it is filled with as much love, ease, joy and glory as his passing was.
My Dad didn’t battle cancer. He didn’t fight it. He danced with it, and we, his family, danced with it too. When cancer stepped off the dance floor, my Dad went with it.  We all stopped, confused for a moment looking for our dance partner.  We then realized that the dance was over and someone vital was missing. Sadness set in. The music played on and we swayed with tears in our eyes.

Now, we are finding new partners in this new dance…not quite sure of the steps, finding a new rhythm, missing a beat now and then…and yet, dancing on.