The Coldness of Scarlet

A few months ago I sat in the car with my dad.

It was raining and the air was still cold and uninviting outside.

Inside, the dry air of my car’s heater zapped any remaining moisture from my skin.

I was thinking about work and going back to school.

I was thinking about all of the photos I needed to edit.

He told me he had skin cancer.

I stopped listening.

All I could think about was the heat in the car, that now seemed to be radiating out of my core. I thought of my lengthy to-do list and the fact that I had to be up early the next day for work. My mind worked rapidly to distract me from the ice-cold reality of illness.

That scarlet word hung in the air until it was interrupted by a hot-flood of tears that seemed to fall without any permission. My chin trembled and I bit my lip, I wanted to be “strong,” more for him than for myself.

This disease and I have a history.

Just last year I walked through the shadows of death with the only boy I have ever loved. I absorbed the fear, the sorrow, the hatred, the remorse, the love and the grief.

I watched him become a shell of the man I had once known and I watched myself, consumed with his loss, fall apart in a way I had never experienced prior to his father’s death.

Loss has a way of consuming its host.

It is a slow progression that starts deep inside of us. It gnaws at our stomach and then it migrates into our hearts and finally it consumes our minds. Our worlds. Our every waking-sleeping minute. And when it is done with its feast, it leaves us deeply scarred.

All of these thoughts fell with the rain and the coldness of the damp air shook me to the core.

I look back and forth between the deep laugh lines and the wrinkles in the corners of my dad’s mischievous eyes. His worn leather hands, that taught me how to ride a bike and showed me the layers of tree bark and revealed that they, too, had lessons to teach us. To the warm glow of his skin that has seen more summers than I have met in my lifetime. To the gentle roll of his voice, a voice that use to put me to sleep when the nightmares persisted. This man who taught me what love is and taught me how to believe.

I know that we don’t get to choose how or when the people we love us leave us, but I can’t face a world where he isn’t there holding my hand.

God has a plan for our lives and this was never it. Death was never a reality of the Garden, but He has a way of teaching us through our own fear, pain and suffering. My dad has found a new found strength within himself. He is more motivated and optimistic than I ever remember him being. He is taking more calculated risks and is chasing after his dreams, instead of turning away from them.

This brush with the coldness of illness has made me more aware of life. It has taught me to care more and to take hold of the fact that nothing is promised in this life. I feel more motivated to dream bigger and to worry less.