I described my mom Christine’s experience with cancer and the effect it had on our family in my last post.

Towards the end, mom decided to refuse treatment. I admit I was angry about this because I wanted her to live as long as possible, of course. But I also understood that chemotherapy and medication and everything else was really overwhelming and painful and made her quality of life much worse. The doctors had told her she was terminal and that treatment and medication would only prolong her life at this point, and there was no chance for remission. My mom wanted to spend her last days at home with her family and as comfortable as possible, not cooped up in the hospital attached to a bunch of machines and in pain. I could definitely understand her decision, and it was beautiful to see her feeling better and more herself towards the end of her life.

Mom died peacefully in her sleep one night. I had been staying at my parents’ house with them, knowing she would pass soon. I think she knew it was coming because she had worn her favorite wig to bed, a long curly brown one that most closely matched her natural hair, on top of the short curls that were growing back in after stopping chemo.

When my dad went to wake her up for breakfast and discovered she wasn’t breathing, he was inconsolable. In a way, it was a massive release because we knew the long and hard battle was over. But we had lost a mom.

Dad hadn’t had a single drink up to this point. I explained before in an earlier post that my father struggled with alcoholism before I was ever born, but he got treatment and had never relapsed. As soon as my mom’s funeral was over and all the guests had left, my dad poured his first drink in more than twenty years. I watched, worried, as he drained the glass of whiskey in one go. But who was I to begrudge the man a drink after his wife died? I’m ashamed now to say I poured one too and shared a second drink with him.

But how was I supposed to know that this was the beginning of the end for my dad?