We lost my dad this past weekend. That’s a funny way to start writing something where the titel is “Grateful”. But here’s the thing, when I took a minute to think about how things went I am grateful and I can see God in a lot of parts.

My dad, Malcolm Shearer had cancer. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in February of 2017. The oncologist had just talked to my mom and dad about how the type of cancer my dad had usually meant a life expectency after diagnosis of 6 to 118 months. We were coming up on 5 years.

Five years of opportunities to talk and say things and travel and laugh. Of course it was also five years of lots of pain and hard things too. But there were trips and fun. In that time he discovered YouTube on TV and so there was lots of music and crazy videos and full length movies that I didn’t even know were on YouTube.

My dad and mom love British shows, especially the ones about murder. The TV was also always at a high volume because who even wants to wear those stinking hearing aids?

We knew that the cancer he had was not going to be cured and it was in a place that was inoperable. So I knew, but never said outloud to anyone, that eventually there would come a time when cancer treatments would no longer work to keep the cancer at bay and there would be a day when the doctor said there isn’t anything more we can do. Who knew it would be almost 5 years before that happened?

Dad turned 80 in September.

Good and Bad Days

In the summer things were good. He was getting some strength back from the last round of chemo and we all (my brother and sister in law, me and Lou and my parents) went up to Vermont for a fun long weekend at my sister’s house and it was joyful. At the end of summer dad had another scan and the cancer had spread to other organs and they needed to start chemo again.

He had had chemo at the beginning of his sickness when they were aggressively trying to kill the cancer. But not long into it his oncologist told them aboout a study that they were going to do with a mixture of two immunotherapy drugs and he thought my dad was a candidate for it and could he sign him up and the answer was go ahead. That combination of medicines was the key I think. Of course there were still side affects and difficulties but it worked wonders for dad and at the cancer center in the hospital he was somewhat of a wonder patient to all the doctors who knew about his case.

About a year ago I started seeing tv commercials for the combination therapy that dad was on. What a marvelous thing to know that he was part of a study that can help thousands…maybe millions of people live longer with cancer.


I think it was the end of September because of the spread, and whatever the oncologist was seeing, they needed to try a different way because the immunotherapy wasn’t helping anymore. Chemo is brutal. and who even knows what was happening. Was the new, terrible pain from the chemo or was it because of the places it had spread were near nerves and that caused the pain? Who knew but it was terrible regardless of where it came from.

In mid October he had a chemo treatment and ended up in the hospital because of very low platelets and was in the hospital for 3 days I think.

At the end of October I was worried about both my mom and dad so I packed the car and brough all of my stuff so I could work. I had skirt orders and my very firzst collection had been announced and planned so I had soem stuff to do but I can work from anywhere.

My mom described days where dad didn’t get out of bed. He was so exhausted and in so much pain. I wanted to be here and support her. Luckily my darling is a very understanding man. I told him I thought I’d be gone about a month.

Who would have predicted it?

The day I got to their house, which was a Wednesday, there was some funny thing that happened and dad was having less pain and he was eating a little more and moving around the house a bit though he was using a walker now which I hadn;t seen before. But my mom joked that I was going to think she was a liar about all of the stuff that had been going on.

On Sunday he was a bit more tired and had some strong pains but overall was doing ok. On Monday morning at around 5am I woke up to a man who was suffering and found out the pain had been going on since before 2am. they had tried a couple of strong medications but nothing gave relief so we called the ambulance. By 6:30 we were in the emergency room. Before 9 we found out there was a tear or a rupture or some other kind of hole in his stomach.

Nobody really knows what cause the tear/rupture/hole. On a healthy person there would have been emergency surgery to repair the damage.

This was the week that I knew was coming while I listened to doctors explain that they couldn’t do surgery to repair the thing and that they were not going to give him anything by mouth, not even water, while they waited and hoped that the tear would repair itself. At the same time they were doing everything to keep an IV in him. He had a port but there was something about not mixing medications so they needed an IV. Every day his IV would fail for some reason and they would have to place another one. He was fully bruised from his fingers to his shoulder on both arms. I was begging them to either find another way or just stop. One night they changed that sheets on his bed 4 times because of bleeding and fluid from his arms.

By the end of the week he was beginning another dangerous drop in platelets. A doctor from oncology came and told us that more chemo wasn’t a good idea as the next roudn would kill him.

Also by the end of the week I began asking pointy questions of the nurse about if any of this was going to get him better. Luckily, his nurses were straight with me. So I had the hard conversation with my mom about stopping everything. (At the beginning of the week there were hard conversations about DNR and advance directives.)

On Wednesday the 10th of November he was discharged and entered into hospice care at home.

The Blessings and Gratitude

Now, not a lot of that sounds like things to be grateful for but let me tell you abut the blessings I saw.

My sister who lives in Vermont has a full plae right now but she was able to come down and see dad for one day and it was his best day in the hospital. He was joking with her and he felt pretty good that day.

On the day they brought him home he was laughing with the ambulance people and fooling around a little. He was awake and alert so he could answer the questions of the hospice people as they got all of that situated. He also got to eat a little of my mom’s potato soup which he loved. The hospital recommended a diet of soft foods so mom go to right to work to make him something he would enjoy.

The next day, Thursday, he wasn’t really awake all day except for a coupld of times he said he needed to go to the bathroom. He wasn;t strong enough to get himself up but I’m grateful that Lou had arrived also on Wednesday, just in time to be there to help move him.

My parents’ house was scheduled to get the roof redone and the very day that dad came home was the day they came by and said they were starting the next day. What a disaster I thought. It’s going to be so loud. I couldn’t believe the timing. But God sent rain so they didn’t work on Friday and Saturday.

On Saturday night we all sat around in my parents’ room near dad who was not awake although if we said his name he would open his eyes a little. We talked and laughed and watched music videos on YouTube that were the kinds of things he would have watched if he had been in control of the remote.Finally, around 9:30 everyone went home and it had been a good time.

I told my mom that dad’s next pain medication should be around 10:30 and did she want me to stay up. Nope, she’d handle it so we went to bed. At 12:30 she woke us up and a long night of waiting for people began. Three days is quick. And a blessing.

There were parts of this last five years where I wondered where God was but now I look back and I can see God all through it. And I’m grateful.

And now for the final bit of gratitude in this part of our story. On Tuesday the 23rd we will have a service for dad and then a lunch after for everyone who wants to attend. All of our people who can be here, will be here. The Colorado contingent, the 2 who live in Indiana, the deployed guy is coming from Kosovo, the other two army guys from Washington and Kentucky. It will be lovely to see so many who I haven’t seen in years and many of them will stay for a giant Thanksgiving where there will be 26 or 28 people. Who knows how much turkey I need?

And to any of you who, over the last five years, have offered a prayer for my family or offered service or helped my mom I am grateful. Those things were invaluable and we love and appreciate you for them. And we are Grateful.

Just one final thing. If you want to read my dad’s obituary which was a team effort in writing between Marlene, Sherri, our mom and I, you can see it here.


2 thoughts on “Grateful

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