September 27, 2014
Written by Matt Ferland
For many people the loss of a parent or loved one is almost unbearable. The feelings you go through run the gambit of emotions. It takes a lifetime to learn to live without them. Some people say it gets easier with time but I am not so sure.
My story, unfortunately, is not uncommon in today's world. Cancer robbed me of my best friend, my hunting partner, and most important of all my Father. Although he fought the good fight and beat one type of cancer in a 5 year battle, another type came out of nowhere and within a month's time, he was gone.
Pancreatic cancer is devastating to everyone it touches and it made me learn some things about myself I did not know nor did I ever want to. I saw my lifelong hero, a man larger than life, loved by most and respected by all, simply fade away. I was never really a nursing type person. It made me very uncomfortable not to have the skills to help. I lost my father-in law about 8 months prior and did learn from that loss. I realized my presence and my effort to show compassion was a benefit for him as well as his family and friends. He was home with Hospice Care in his final days and I was there. I had to leave for a few days for business and my family insisted I go. The first day I was gone he passed. I will always regret that decision even though I did get to say goodbye. He was a great man and I had so much more to learn from him. I miss him very much.
That experience prepared me for the toughest test of my life. For 30 days I stayed with my Dad. We got to talk about the past, what was happening now and the future. Some really hard conversations, things you never really want to have to discuss or hear took place. He did tell me he was proud of who I was and he was sorry he had to go. Then, we made the decision to take him home with Hospice there to wait for the process of life to end. My family pulled together and made him as comfortable as he could be. My mother remained strong and that gave my sisters, brother in laws and my wife the strength to get through what was happening. We also had the help of great friends too many to name and can never be repaid. Dad took his final breath as we stood next to him the day after Christmas and was finally at peace. The next couple of weeks were really a blur for me. Truthfully, I was in a state of shock and the person I always turned to for advice my whole life was gone. I fell into a dark place. I found it very hard to care about much of anything. Going through the simple daily motions of life were a task. I made a consorted effort to keep others at bay so no one really knew how bad I was hurting. I became very short tempered and snapped at my wife for literally nothing. I am very fortunate to have a wife who is very smart and knows this behavior is not me. Still today, she is very supportive and gives me my space to try and coupe. I know this has been incredibly hard on her as well to see me drowning.
Three months before Dad got sick I had an opportunity to bring him on a goose hunt with some great friends of mine. I was thankful at the time they allowed me to bring him and now, after what has happened, I am indebted for life. It was truly the biggest trophy hunt I could ever have. We had hunted together since I was about 4 years old. He carried me many miles and gave me his jacket more than once. So, for almost 40 years, we lived to go hunting together. It was our thing. We talked about it every day and both made a living at it in some way. During the last fifteen years or so, Dad was not always been able to come on my hunting and fishing adventures which encompass 30 states and 7 Canadian provinces. But, you can bet by the time we were done talking about my experiences, he felt as if he was with me. In all reality he was. He even learned to go online to view my pictures. This was right up there with getting indoor plumbing and color TV for him.
On our last hunt together, we smashed some geese. Dad was never much into waterfowl. He loved critters with antlers, but I convinced him to go and he had a ball. One of the best decisions I made was to film the hunt and I will always have those images of him shooting and laughing with me. Sadly, I have not been able to watch them yet. It was the perfect hunt and that's why it's my biggest trophy.
As I start preparing for this upcoming season, I am questioning if it is even worth going. Not to be able to share the stories with him seems wrong. The fire that drove me feels cold. I know he would want me to go and I refuse to disappoint him. But the whole thing feels hollow right now.
My advice to all is to enjoy every day with the people you love. Learn everything you can from them while they're here. The hunt is not always about what you kill but more about who your with.
My question is for everyone who has gone through this.... How?
All my love Dad,
Your son Matt