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Lessons from Losing Dad

I lost my dad a few weeks ago to brain cancer. Glioblastoma Multiforme to be exact. At 76-years-old, he was one of the most caring, compassionate, gentle and brilliant human beings I have ever known. He received his diagnosis in January and in six short months, he died.

Anger has been one of the strongest emotions I’ve had during the course of my dad’s illness. “Why him?” I would continually ask. He was such an amazing person – why couldn’t this happen to some jerk? Plus, he was one of the healthiest people I knew. He ate extremely well (think chicken and fish, garden-grown veggies and fruits, minimal sugar), played tennis four times a week, gardened, hiked, read and spent ample time traveling and enjoying family and friends.

The past six months have definitely been trying and stressful, to say the least, especially for my mom who cared for my dad up until his last breath. Watching my dad die right before my eyes was brutal. Witnessing the love, care and strength my mom displayed for my dying father was what I believe family is all about.

During difficult times, I always try to find the positive things I can hold onto and what I can learn from the situation. What always remains constant for me is how hardship can quickly provide perspective and a clear focus of values that are a priority to you. Like when we were in constant crisis with our family’s mental health and Chloe was in residential treatment, our values of family, love, honesty, integrity and transparency became forefront.

My dad was a quiet, humble man and I never heard much about him among my work circles or in the community – until he became ill. After people learned of his terminal diagnosis, I was overwhelmed with how many shared with me that they believed dad was one of the loveliest people they had known. It of course made me proud to be his daughter but it also made me think about which of his qualities I would strive to exemplify in my life.

The last few weeks up until his death have been intense and with his service just around the corner, I am grateful for my solid family and our love and commitment to each other.

One of my favorite songs during my dad’s illness was “Live Like You Were Dying,” by Tim McGraw. It’s a good reminder about how short and sweet life really is. Here are a few lyrics:

Said I was in my early 40’s
With a lot of life before me
When a moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days, lookin’ at the x-rays
Talkin’ ’bout the options and talkin’ ’bout sweet time
Asked him when it sank in
That this might really be the real end
How’s it hit ya, when you get that kind of news
Man what you do
And he says

I went sky divin’
I went Rocky Mountain climbin’
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying
And he said someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin’

Like tomorrow was a gift and you’ve got eternity
To think about what you do with it
What could you do with it, what can
I do with with it, what would I do with it

Andrea Berryman Childreth

Author Andrea Berryman Childreth

Andrea Berryman Childreth is an award-winning author of the book, ON THE EDGE: Help and hope for parenting children with mental illness, founder of The Lemonade Project, advocate and parent coach. She has first-hand experience with parenting a mentally ill daughter and has struggled with mental illness, herself. Her goal is to help empower people to openly share their stories and improve access to equitable mental health services.

More posts by Andrea Berryman Childreth

Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Avatar Lea says:

    I don’t know how to say it well, but my heart is sad with you. Both of my parents are gone now, and I’ve watched friends lose their parents, it’s hard.

  • Avatar Teri Moran says:

    What a lovely tribute to your father. He was my doctor for many years until we moved. He was my friend ~ always asking about my husband and mutual friends. Indeed he was so healthy and he looked healthy. He was just GOOD in all respects.
    God had a very special mission for him ….
    Warm regards to all the Berryman’s,
    Teri Moran

  • Avatar Judy Korepta says:

    I was a Peer Coordinator (Mentor) for your dad when he became a CASA. I quickly saw that I could help him become acquainted with the CASA procedures, but I would in turn see an amazing man with a quiet strength navigate his CASA cases always putting their interest first and foremost. I will miss him and his wisdom but will always cherish the times I was able to work with him. Positive thoughts to you and your family during this challenging time. Please know he was loved as a CASA, friend, and genuinely kind man❤️❣️

  • Avatar Ken Trautman says:

    Andrea, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have been very lucky to have known you, your mom and your dad. Your dad was surrounded with strong, brave and very opinionated woman, and I don’t think he would have wanted it any other way. My thoughts are with you and you family.


  • Avatar Chris says:

    How poignant, Andrea. Thanks so much for sharing. My heart is with you and your family.