Haven't done much today; it's a holiday weekend but doesn't feel like one somehow. One year ago today, we hosted a big party for extended family near the lake. We talked, laughed, grilled, kayaked, canoed, and connected; with an undercurrent of apprehension and concern. My father had been diagnosed with lung cancer in recent weeks, and the news stunned and frightened us. He has one of those larger-than-life personalities, and it was unthinkable that we might lose him. His surgery was scheduled for October 14th, and in the meantime we packed in all of the family time that we could. On Labor Day Sunday, he enjoyed the party but was a bit distracted. My mother did what she always did; made potato salad and cookies, thought to bring the obscure condiments and serving utensils, and cleaned up the mess with my aunts while others of us watched the lighting of flares around the lake at ten o'clock. My dad was there, and my daughter, my son and his girlfriend, my husband, my neices, nephews and cousins. I stood in the dark fighting back tears, wondering if this was to be the last summer I would spend wih my father. He had lost weight and coughed a lot. It was impossible to ignore the changes. Characteristically funny, with a quick wit, he became reticent and talked a lot about dying. Mom, who had survived a gruelling battle with breast cancer fifteen years earlier, said she wished the lung cancer had been given to her, because she knew how to fight it. She wasn't sure Dad had that fight in him. In the end, he fought better than we ever expected, and she, woefully, got her wish. At Christmastime, she too was diagnosed with lung cancer. Strangely, though I had become completely unhinged with my father's diagnosis, I really wasn't worried about her. She was that invincible to me. Having done the cancer-go-round once, Mom was clear about her treatment boundaries from the onset. She would have surgery, but nothing else. No treatments like the chemo that had exhausted her and taken her hair; and Hell No to the radiation that left painful third-degree burns on her chest- so that she had to sleep on her side on the couch, with her left arm up over the back of it, for weeks in 1995. But hey, Dad had minimally invasive surgery and came through it quite well. His cancer was staged 1B, and he required no follow-up treatment. He was bothered by a few other complications, but over-all has come through relatively unscathed. Today he made crock pot chili and read outside in the sunshine. Mother had an eight-and-a-half hour, butchering surgery that left her deconditioned, short of breath and whispering. Nerve to the diaphragm? Cut. Nerve to the voicebox? Cut. Pulmonary artery dissected and patched. A week on the ventilator in touch-and-go condition. A permanent pacemaker. Clostridium difficile (you don't want to know what that is if you don't know what it is.) Short-term rehab. placement. Oxygen, medicine, nebulizers. She hated it all. One night in the hospital ER with an infection, the chills, pain and indignity were too much. She whispered "What would it take for all of this to stop? I've had enough of this. I want to see my Mama." And so she got her wish a second time, on May 23rd. Almost five months to the day after they saw "something" on her chest xray, but not before she suffered a metastatic hip fracture, and probably more in other sites, and what had to be unimaginable pain. We loved her, supported her, cared for her, and said our goodbyes. And she was strong, courageous and in control until the very end. So it tortures me to think, tonight, that last year I spent time with my father, so concerned about him, while she toiled back at the party site. We dealt with his illness together, she and I, and we kept each other strong. I can't look back now and regret what I did for him, and I know for certain that she wouldn't want me to. But tonight she is gone. Gone! I still have trouble believing it. What it has taught me is that we don't know what the future brings. Life changes with a phone call. We have to cherish, appreciate and respect those closest to us; to let them know what it means to have them in our lives. No regrets.