In celebration of Father’s Day, it is fitting to reflect on the life of Saint Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus Christ. Saint Joseph is a model for all fathers, demonstrating a life of faith, obedience, and love. Throughout his life, Saint Joseph demonstrated a deep faith and trust in God. He was obedient to God’s will, even when it was difficult or unclear. For example, when an angel appeared to him in a dream, telling him to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath, Joseph immediately obeyed.
Saint Joseph also showed great love for Jesus and Mary, providing for them, and protecting them. He was a carpenter by trade, working hard to provide for his family. He also protected them from harm, as seen when he took them to Egypt and later settled in Nazareth.
In reflecting on the life of Saint Joseph, I can attest to the witness of my own father striving to emulate his example of faith, obedience, and love. I’m certain many of you have fathers, and father figures, who go above and beyond offering their love, care, and support. In honor of the strength of these great men I would like to revisit something I wrote just before my dad passed away in 2018.
Dad’s cancer is vicious and rapid. When first diagnosed within the first two weeks we were graced with time alone together he had said to me, “This is growing fast, Shannon, I can feel it.”
Regardless, Dad wanted to play the odds. He went to MDAnderson and heard that he had a 90% chance of his body accepting the immunotherapy, Keytruda. That with these high odds he would possibly see the main tumor in his lung shrink and slow the progression of the cancer elsewhere in his body. The key statement made to my father before leaving MDAnderson was the possibility of him living up to 18 months. He liked those odds.
However, merely 6 weeks later, he arrived at my house for Thanksgiving having gone through surgery on his arm only the week before. The cancer had spread to his bones and made them so brittle his bones were breaking, and his arm split in two. They put in a rod and screws to keep it together. He was also dependent on his oxygen which was another new development.
These were not good signs. When I went to visit the following week, he went through more testing to see if the Keytruda was working. On a Tuesday evening Dr. Roque drove to my parents’ home in the country, sat down with my dad and told him the tumor in the lung had grown as well as finding new indications of cancer in his liver and other organs. The Keytruda was not working, for the first time in his life, the luckiest man alive had fallen into the 10%.
The doctors rallied to encourage him to go on an extreme chemotherapy regime, but he knew this form of treatment would quite literally render him useless and he wanted to be aware and capable of having conversations with his grandchildren in two weeks time.
Within those two weeks dad went into the hospital with a blood clot to the lung. Once released, only one day later, back in the hospital with pneumonia. On my last visit with him recovering from pneumonia we sat alone in his hospital room, and he began to talk to me about the things he felt he could never or should never say but now it was time. About how we are all human, we make mistakes, but we need to be true to who God created us to be, not to take the time we have for granted and not allow others to take away our spirit. He told me he was proud of me, that I was the strongest woman he’d ever met, and he backed that with ‘That says a lot’ because he knows many strong women!
He admitted to his own failings and shed a tear over his concerns. And at one point he said, “Shannon, is this what the rest of my life is? Watching Family Feud from a hospital bed?” It was then that I knew we were ready for the final conversation.
I called in Dr. Roque, who came in 30 minutes later to the hospital, and with one of my dad’s best friends present, myself and my mom, she sat on the edge of the bed as he asked about his odds.
“Tim,” Dr. Roque began, “This is growing faster than we predicted. The Keytruda didn’t work as it should have. If we were to do the chemotherapy as we suggested, you’d have a 20% chance of living just a little bit longer.”
“A 20% chance of living in a hospital bed watching Family Feud,” dad said sadly.
“Yes, unfortunately there is nothing that will get you back to where you were before.”
My dad looked directly into Dr. Roque’s eyes, “I don’t like that hand. I fold.” And he wept.
That was Friday, December 14th. My dad is now at home in a hospital bed on Hospice care, watching Family Feud and waiting for his grandchildren to come into town so he can ‘love on them and kiss them’ as is his last wish. He has told the Hospice nurse his goal is to make it through the 20th for our family reunion and after that he is fine with whatever the Lord chooses.
My father is a loved, cherished, well-respected man who has had many people writing to me and posting on Facebook, letting me know how he has affected their lives. He was never a perfect man, and he never claimed to be (though he did feel he was always right and knew everything) but he cared about people and only wanted to see those he loved succeed.
I will end this post with the song he and I danced to at my wedding. “That’s My Job” by Conway Twitty. It sums up who my father is not just to me or my siblings but to anyone he encountered, he felt it was ‘his job’ to give wisdom, to take care of you, to be a support. Thank you for the love and concern you’ve given to him and to us. We are blessed.
My father, William Timothy McGraw, passed away on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2018. He showed up in this world and just as Saint Joseph showed up for Mary and Jesus, he too, showed up for us all, making the most of what living in this world has to offer and teaching us all when to let go to receive the greatest gift of all – eternal life.
Image is of my father, Tim McGraw the day we found out he had terminal cancer September 24, 2018.