On June 4, 2017, early in the morning, my dad died. This was not a surprise, although still very sad nonetheless. My dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor, glioblastoma, in January 2014. The tumor was inoperable and the prognosis was terminal. Without treatment he had a 3 month median expected life time. With treatment, about 15 months. He went the route of treatment and responded very well. Ultimately though each treatment only bought time and eventually he ran out of treatment options and the cancer ran its course. He survived about 40 months, well past the 15 month median expected life time for this cancer.
My dad was always someone who wished me the best in my ventures even when he didn't really understand what those ventures were. For example, he was very supportive when I chose to major in physics and astronomy in college, even though he (and admittedly me too) had no idea what job opportunities there were in the field. He was supportive of my choice to go to graduate school even though he had no clue about my field of study. Granted, very few people in the world do and at times I'm not even sure I do. :-) When I moved from Iowa to Minnesota and then to Indiana, he was fully supportive of those moves.
I remember all the times he played catch with me, tossed around the football, and played basketball in the driveway. Even when he was busy after work with outside chores, he took time to play before dinner. I also remember him as a hard worker who did what he needed to for his family. There were times when he was laid off from work. I don't really remember feeling we lacked money or anything, but I'm sure there were times when it was a lot tougher for us than I ever realized. He took jobs that required him to be out of state for several weeks to a couple of months at a time. He did that to provide for his family.
We didn't tell our kids anything until later in the day as this was a big soccer weekend for them. They each had their own soccer tournaments they were competing in so we wanted their focus on those games until later. They both knew my dad was very sick and I had talked to them previously about how this was a type of sickness that he wasn't going to get better. I strongly feel it is important to be honest with your kids on the topic of sickness and death. When we last visited my dad in March during their Spring Break, we all knew he was very sick and not doing well. I talked with my kids about this and explained that it probably wasn't going to be much longer before he died.
Death is a part of life. It's not a happy or joyful part of life, but it is a part of life that we most accept if we are to move forward in our own lives. After their soccer tournaments I spoke with my kids and explained to them that their grandpa had died earlier today. We talked for awhile about how death is something that happens to all of us and even when a loved one dies we will always remember the memories we had. We talked about the Christmas and birthdays we celebrated and the time just two years ago when we bought and launched a bunch of fireworks with him on July 4th. My kids are young and will lose some of those memories, but there are some memories of my dad they'll always keep with them.
The best advice I can offer to parents in difficult times such as this is to be honest with your kids. Don't hide what is going on and don't sugar coat it. Be honest with them. They can handle it. And whatever you do, don't lie to them as this will only set them back later in life.