I lost my dad recently 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.

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