A few days ago I was standing in church with my 5 year old Hannah. Her face was illuminated by a single candle as the entire congregation sang silent night in the darkness. She looked up at me with an expression full of hope and promise and said, “I love you, Daddy.” This year has taught me the meaning of bitter and sweet.
2014 started on an incredibly high note for me. After years of hard work, I was deeply honored to be given the opportunity to take over as the new Executive Director of the Sierra Nevada Alliance in Lake Tahoe, California.
This was the dream opportunity I had always hoped for. I moved out west to start working with others to protect 40,000 square miles of the most sacred wildlands on the planet.
But sacrifice was required. I was leaving my wife and kids back in Pennsylvania to finish their school year. I got myself a tiny trailer in Tahoe, worked hard all week, while spending my weekends going on epic solo hikes and kayaking journeys of exploration.
However, in the midst of our family’s late summer move, I was diagnosed with an incurable form of stage 4 colon cancer. I spent over a month in the hospital, I lost nearly 50 pounds, and underwent several surgical procedures to prolong my life.
Unfortunately, we had to leave our new home in California and move right back to Pennsylvania to begin my end-of-life cancer treatments. All of our efforts would now be focused on just buying me more weeks and months. But ever since things took that terrifying turn, another remarkable thing happened. Our family has been overwhelmed by a massive tide of generosity, prayers, and help of every kind. This third turn of events was unexpected. I wish I could convey the scale of help we’ve received but even putting a dollar sign on it would be missing the point.
I’ve heard from long lost high school pals, old drinking buddies, college friends, fellow environmentalists, and even Coast Guardsman that I served with in Alaska in the early 90’s.
Everyone wants to help us. Everyone understands what terminal cancer can do to a young family like ours. Everyone “gets it.” Allow me go one step further and say I’ve never felt alone. That is a bold statement, but I’ve never felt alone in my struggle. Not one single moment.
So, we end the year on a positive note. A note of hope that is not timid or wishful. Our hope is fierce, it demands from the very fabric of existence that I survive. This hope is unreasonable. We know full well we are asking too much from this medical situation. But I WILL live to post a 2015 year-end blog post and look back on this coming year with pride. I WILL live to see Hannah, age 6 telling me she loves me in that same angelic light next year.
With Fierce Hope,
Happy New Year Everyone
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