The month of May has been designated as Melanoma awareness month, which is ironic since my father passed away on May 3, 1991, after battling Melanoma for exactly one year. He was given a year to live on May 3, 1990, and died a year later. The 30 years that have passed since is a long time, yet it has breezed by like the wind.
I remember May 3, 1991 so vividly. I had been making at least one trip per week to Nashville to see my dad for several weeks and had been there a couple of days earlier for what would be the last time I saw him.
May 3rd was on a Friday that year and my son Davey had a baseball game that afternoon. I was coaching third base when my dad passed away. He died at 6 p.m. EST and at that moment, things seemed to slow down and almost stand still. I didn't know it at the time, but that was the exact moment he died. I felt so helpless because the man that I loved and respected more than any other was gone. The man who supported everything I did and was always there for me would be there no more.
He taught me about baseball, and other sports. He provided me with Christian guidance and taught me how to love unconditionally. In the final year of his life, as sick as he was, he delivered audio cassette tapes of the sermons from his church, to shut-ins who weren't able to go on Sundays. During the final few months of his life, his doctor offered to give him medical marijuana to ease the terrible pain he was in. He refused because of the bad influence it could have on his grandchildren. He was the greatest man I ever knew and I told him that the last time I saw him.
Last fall, my daughter Christi found a suspicious place on her leg and, because of what she had witnessed my father go through when she was 12 years old, she went to a dermatologist and had it checked out. Sure enough, it was Melanoma but due to the fact that she got to it early, she is cancer-free. Christi gives her grandfather complete credit for saving her life, some 30 years later.
Cancer, especially Melanoma, is an incredibly awful disease. Doctors and scientists have made great strides in the last 30 years but there is still no cure, Now, as it was then, early detection is the best way to defeat it. My father never knew he would give his life to save the life of his granddaughter 30 years after his death but he did. In the words of a Lefty Frizzell/Merle Haggard song, "That's the way love goes."
Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com