This is going to be difficult. It's not easy to open up to the public about personal and traumatic events in one's life.
My first wife, Lenore, died of breast cancer in 2000. Although we were divorced, Lenore and I remained close, and she was close to my current wife, Diane. When the cancer spread to her liver and her final days on earth were few, I flew to Denver, with Diane's encouragement, to be at Lenore's bedside along with my adult children.
With toxins building up from her failing liver, her condition deteriorated during her final week to the point that she was lying incoherent in the hospice bed at home. We all took turns holding her hand, brushing her hair, placing ice chips in her mouth and gently repositioning her in bed. The only time she opened her eyes was from the pain caused by moving her, but the morphine helped hold that in check. She didn't respond to our voices, but all of us took turns talking to her those final days.
Just a few hours before Lenore succumbed to her terrible illness, family members were gathered in the dining room while I was at her bedside, holding her hand. What followed will stay with me forever.
I was stroking her hair, squeezing her hand and telling her out loud, "Lenore, I don't want you to worry about the kids. I will make sure that they will be all right."
Lenore turned her head in my direction, opened her eyes and looked directly at me. While nodding, she mouthed the words "I know," and then went back to her gentle sleep. I looked up in astonishment, hoping that someone else had seen this, but no one had.
Later that evening her respiration became shallow and eventually ceased. Our children were positioned on both sides of her and were able to send her off to heaven, telling her through their tears that they loved her. The loss of anyone's parent is difficult, but as adults, my children handled it with resolve and reluctant understanding. That is not always the case for young children who lose a parent.
One of our Largo Police Department lieutenants is struggling with cancer. He and his wife are great parents to three wonderful children, all under the age of 10. His condition is serious enough to give us all great pause about what life would be like without him. I can't even imagine how his children would deal with the grief of his passing, which I continue to pray won't happen.
Brian Griese of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers experienced such a loss at the age of 12. His mother, Judi, passed away from breast cancer. In honor of his mother, Brian founded Judi's House, a support community created to help children between the ages of 3 and 18 deal with the loss of a loved one. Through his vision, children and families have a resource where they can grieve in an environment of support, acceptance and understanding.
Should you and your family members be among the thousands of people with a story similar to ours, there is a place to turn for more information and resources. I encourage you to visit Judi's House at www.judishouse.org, or locally, contact Suncoast Hospice at www.thehospice.org. Both organizations have resources to help you with the grieving process. Tax-deductible donations are welcome.
Finally, it's a proven fact that early detection saves lives. Call your doctor today for that screening that you've been putting off.
Lester Aradi is chief of police in Largo.