MURIEL STOOD LOOKING AT her father as he lay in the hospital bed. Numerous tubes, cords and wires ran from his body to various medical monitors and automated drug dispensing machines. Her father, in a drug induced coma lay dying a slow and painful death from colon cancer. The cancer had spread rapidly throughout his body in the last few months leaving him frail and bedridden, devouring his life. He seemed so fragile and helpless now; nothing like the strong “man among men” figure Muriel remembered him to be all her life. Sickness from the cancer had deteriorated his once strong and handsome being down to a weak and frail, almost skeletal existence of a human being.
Muriel glanced over at her two sisters. Kathleen sat with her head lowered, as if in prayer. Hannah stared out the window into the dark night, her eyes red and tired from crying and lack of sleep.
Muriel’s husband walked into the room followed by Kathleen and Hannah’s husbands, each carrying Styrofoam cups in both hands.
“The coffee’s still pretty hot,” Muriel’s husband said, handing her a cup.
“Thanks Thomas.” Muriel managed a smile, but her voice crackled from the emotional build up inside her. She sipped the hot black liquid as she peered back at the all but lifeless body of her father. Kathleen and Hannah spoke softly to each other and their husbands, their conversation barely audible.
Muriel’s husband placed a hand on her shoulder and asked, “Any change?”
Shaking her head “No” Muriel leaned back, closed her eyes and rested her body next to his. “No, about the same I guess.”
Thomas smiled a sad smile and lightly kissed Muriel on the cheek. With her eyes still shut, she reminisced of a happier time when her mom was alive and her dad wasn’t sick. Those days seemed so long ago now.
* * * * *
HER MOM, DEAD FOR almost four years now from cancer that devastated the family. Her dad’s cancer surfacing almost two years ago seemed so unfair to everyone. Living in Virginia at the time, Muriel and Thomas received the bad news from Kathleen in a phone call.
“Hey sis, Kathleen here...well the test results are back. I’m afraid the news is not good. He’s got colon cancer.”
Muriel’s heart sank with her sisters words. Having lost her mom to breast cancer only a few years before, the thought of her dad now seriously ill seemed too much to bear. Cancer had struck a blow to her family once again.
The youngest of the three sisters, Muriel had turned thirty three years old a few months before her mother passed away. Now to be going through a similar illness with her dad in such a short time span seemed even more unjust. Born into a strict Irish Catholic family, Muriel’s religious upbringing and faith came into question during her mom’s illness. She became angry at God for not answering her prayers to heal her mom.
Muriel found herself in thought cursing and blaming God once again for unanswered prayers for her dad, “No, no, no. This isn’t fair God. Not my dad sick from cancer too. Why can’t our family get a break? I can’t lose him too. Patrick Doherty is a good man...he doesn’t deserve this. You could heal him if You wanted to. Damn You if You take him from me too. Why should I pray to You—a God who is so cruel?”
Now in transition in a move from Richmond to Charleston, Muriel and her husband somehow found time to include trips to Charlotte to visit her dad as he battled the disease. Originally from Charleston, her parents moved to Charlotte right after Muriel was born. Fortunately her two sisters continued to live in or near her father; Kathleen and her husband living in the city of Charlotte, Hannah and her husband in Greensboro. Being close, they were able to assist her father on a more regular basis during this trying time.
On one of their final moving trips to their new home in Charleston, Muriel got a call on her cell phone from Kathleen:
“Sis, y’all better get to the hospital. Doctors say dad doesn’t have much more time.”
Although less than two hours from Charleston, Thomas turned the car around and they headed back north to North Carolina. Muriel and Thomas had brought their two children with them this trip with plans to show them their new home in South Carolina. That would have to wait now.