My Father’s Voice Lives On, My Father Lives on Through His Story
Jan 18, 2019 07:37AM
● By Alyssa McGinnis
We may not have ever won any father-son look alike contest, but my father and I shared many defining characteristics. Friends and family often said we had the same eyes, the same smile and the same pointed sense of humor. But above all, it was our booming voice that always identified each of us as belonging to the other.
My father’s voice could rise above any crowd. It would carry clearly across the many acres of our family farm. When Dad spoke, you listened. Everyone listened. When emotions ran high, especially between the two of us, that voice—our voice—had a way of snapping you to attention.
Big Voice, Strong Will
For whatever reason, commanding voices often seem to come paired with strong wills and stubbornness, two more traits my father and I shared. It was rumored that Dad had a crazy streak back in his high school days, and I was no different. Our similar paths often had us going nose-to-nose as I was growing up. We were both stubborn, but I was young… thus, never wrong.
I remember one argument that got so heated I ended up hanging up on my father after he refused to come around to my point of view. Again, I was young, stubborn and clearly right (in my mind). But my conscience quickly prevailed—it took all of 30 seconds for me to pick that phone up and call him back and apologize. Though it was some twenty years ago, I can still hear him chuckling on the other end of the line, saying “Sheesh, you better now?” At the end of all our hollering, we always managed to restore the peace between us, as best friends do.
My father was more than my best friend. He was the man I wanted to be. Whether he was at home with us kids, out working the fields, at church or in the community, Dad was a natural-born leader that others couldn’t help but look up to. For all these reasons, I wanted to grow up to be like my father.
Five Years to Live
When I got the news of his diagnosis, all I wanted to do was hear that booming voice of his reassure me that things would be alright. That he would be alright. But the doctors said his pulmonary fibrosis came with a life expectancy of about five years, and—despite Dad’s stubbornness—the doc’s prediction proved accurate.
Dad passed in the fall just as the leaves started to turn. It was almost five years to the date of his initial diagnosis. During those five years, I watched the most important man in my life slowly, but steadily fade. He lost weight. He lost his energy. He eventually even lost that boom in his voice.
Throughout the first three years of his illness, the decline was very gradual, and it was during that time we were fortunate to enjoy some incredible conversations. Growing up, my Dad and I would talk often, but the stories we shared in those final years were deeper and drew us closer than we had ever been before. The words he spoke to me his last week will never leave me.
A Story Worth Sharing
The images of doctors, nurses and hospice workers who cared for my father—and our entire family—have also stayed with me. In fact, their assistance throughout five years of pain has become the most enduring, comforting memory of my father’s passing.
I can’t tell Dad’s story without framing it within the larger picture of the amazing care he received from every healthcare worker along the way. His story is their story. And like his booming voice, his story has become my story, because as much care as my father received, I got double that in compassionate help navigating the unfamiliar world of assisted living and hospice.
To say I couldn’t have made it through this experience without the help of others is not hyperbole. I didn’t know what I was dealing with, let alone how to have the difficult discussions I needed to have with those closest to me. More importantly, I had no idea such help was available, and that’s why I tell this story so passionately.
The hospital administration, the doctors and nurses, the hospice counselors… these are the people that helped me understand the situation and the choices we were facing. They guided me as I had those end-of-life conversations with my mom and Dad. They were relentless in their care for us.
Their story needs to be told, because my experience is not unique, it is the rule. For families facing a devastating diagnosis and an uncertain future, knowing there is help softens the heartache and eases the transition into uncharted waters. Stories like my father’s make it known that we don’t have to go it alone. There is a whole system in place ready to care for your entire family. It hurts to tell these stories, and that hurt will never fully quit... but neither will the support of the healthcare community.
My father’s voice will also live on. It will live on through me, as I continue to tell this story of my father’s final years. It’s the story that keeps his spirit alive within me and all who knew him, and I am honored to be able to share it with all who will listen.