In April of 2008, the day before spring break of my senior year, my parents told me my dad had stage 4 kidney cancer, which had also spread to his kidneys. It was a work-related cancer, which happened over 20 years ago and he only started to feel the effects in January. He was going to undergo surgery and an aggressive chemotherapy to try to fight it, but after all was said and done his body couldn’t take the chemo and he was to live the rest of his life as best as he could. When my parents broke the news I was completely shattered, luckily I was going home to be with him and support him through this tough time. Once we found out the chemo wasn’t going to work, I contemplated not going back to college to be there for my dad, but with the hard work I put into my four years, my dad refused to let me stop just short of walking across that stage. I also have to say how appreciative I was that my husband went back and talked with all of my professors who were willing to allow me to stay with my dad and finish college from home. Nonetheless, I went back for the final month of school and was able to walk across the stage as my parents proudly watched. I was so happy to be able to share that moment with them, especially my dad who was my biggest supporter my entire life.
I had big plans after I graduated; I had a grand plan to open a high-end salon in San Francisco and live my best life in California. All of that was put on hold as my husband and I packed up our things, sold what we didn’t need and moved back home to Hawaii to be with my family and help take care of my dad. This time was so tough. My dad was not getting better, in fact what once was a healthy, strong 50 year old man, my dad had reduced to a frail, sickly man who had aged 30 years in months. The cancer had eaten away at him and it was not looking good. One day I received a call from my parents that my dad’s oncologist had given him two months to live. My heart completely broke and I was overcome with despair and so much sadness. I immediately went home to spend as much time as I could with him and bring whatever joy I could to him as he was as sad and discouraged as you could imagine anyone who was just told they had months to live would be.
That night, I got on my digital knee and proposed to my husband through a not-so-romantic text saying “Do you want to get married?” We were planning on getting married the following year anyway, and it meant so much to my dad to be there so he answered back through text “yeah okay.” After telling my dad we were going to get married, he started crying tears of joy and I was happy to give him that moment where he had lost all hope. We decided three weeks from then to have a small ceremony with our closest family and planning a reception at a later date. Let me tell you, from a professional in the wedding industry being fresh out of college, planning a ceremony in three weeks pre-Pinterest, pre-David’s Bridal (in Hawaii at that time, wedding resources were very limited) was tough. I bought a $300 dress off the rack and bridesmaids dresses and groomsmen shirts from an aloha shirt store and we found what seemed to be one of the last available photographers for our date. During this tough time, it was a nice way to give everyone something to look forward to.
The day after my sister’s highschool graduation party, as we were checking items off of our wedding to do list, we got a call that my dad had stopped breathing and we rushed over to the hospital. I can still remember that night so vividly. Family came to say their final goodbyes, sang songs, and lifted up their prayers to send my dad back home. I remember those final moments of silence as we said goodbye, the shock and disbelief that this was real and just like that he had drifted off and was gone. I remember waking up the next morning and felt the most peaceful, calm feeling. The sun was shining through the windows and birds outside were softly chirping. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, but at that time I knew he was at peace. The question we were asking now was do we continue with the wedding? The one person who we wanted to be there the most was no longer here, but because we were only two weeks away we decided to continue with the wedding as planned.
The next two weeks were very hard on our family. We had planned a funeral for my dad just one week before our wedding and I didn’t know what emotions to feel. On my wedding day, as excited as I was, it was most definitely a bittersweet moment as my dad and I always talked about this day. He knew what he wanted to wear, looked forward to walking me down the aisle, and already picked out the song for the father-daughter dance. I will always look back and treasure those conversations and memories of him.
As I was walking down the aisle, my mother-in-law and a few other people said they had seen a bright light following me. It was something that wasn’t just the sun peeking through the church it was something different. We got through the ceremony, thanked everyone for coming and went to the beach to take photos. When we got our photos back from our photographer, we were shocked to see a ray of light shining down on me in several photos. Once we saw this we knew he was there with us and was watching from above. I still get goosebumps when I look at our photos as I know he wouldn’t have missed it no matter what.