On October 12, 2016, my dad finished the race he had been running for 62 years. His battle with cancer is over, and he is now healed and whole - no more pain, no more suffering, and no more cancer. He's with Jesus now. He's home.
I was privileged to spend the last days of his life with him, and that experience is one I will never forget.
I took these photos a few days before his death, and decided to leave my camera packed up after that. Although I have countless images of his journey through cancer, chemo, radiation, surgery and so much more, the end of his battle with cancer is not one I wanted to remember through photos. I did not want to experience my father's death with a camera in front of my face.
Death is an ugly, painful, hard thing - and yet it comes for all of us. Dad knew his life was almost finished, and spent the last several months soaking up every moment with family, arranging details to make sure his wife of 41 years would be taken care of, and speaking words of blessing into his children and grandchildren's lives.
If there was a way to finish strong, my dad did it.
I want to thank all of you for coming on this seven year journey with me. When I started photographing stories back in 2008, I had no idea that my dad and my family would become one of my favorite (and possibly most difficult) stories to share. And although it's been a long seven years - full of struggle, heartache, and pain - I wouldn't change any moment. I had an amazing dad.
I'll finish by sharing the words I read at my dad's memorial service last week. These words had been forming in my head since May, but came suddenly and clearly to me in the middle of the night a few days before the service. I'm so glad I shared them, and I'm so glad that I had such an amazing father. I'll never forget his life and legacy.
Good morning, my name is Amanda and I am Paul's youngest daughter and most favorite of all his children! :) You see, Dad and I are both babies of the family, which means neither one of us is very shy and we're both used to being the center of attention. ;) This is a shared trait with my dad that I have always treasured and it brought me a special connection with him that I feel no one else in my family had.
But didn't we all feel that special connection? My dad was no stranger to people. Whether you were sitting next to him on an airplane or across the room at a restaurant, my dad could walk up to a complete stranger and make them instantly feel at ease by genuinely caring about who they were. He could walk into a room not knowing a soul, and leave it moments later knowing pretty much everything about everyone. More than anything, people felt like dad was their friend, and if they ever needed anything, he would be their guy
My dad was an engineer - through and through. A man who loved to figure things out and understand how things worked. Even in his last and less coherent hours here on earth, he was muttering 2's and 4's and gazing at the ceiling fan and wondering how the switch on the wall made it turn on like it did. This made him an amazing engineer and an excellent boss (some have graciously said the best boss they ever had), not only because he had the drive to find solutions, but also because he felt like there were few questions that didn't have answers. Ever the teacher, dad had many friends, coworkers, and even superiors that would bring him their questions about work and life and even God and he would graciously and patiently sit with them to help them find answers.
There was one question that dad had that he didn't have the answer to yet. Several hours after his death, some of my siblings and I sat around the kitchen table wondering curiously about dad's first few hours in heaven and light-heartedly asked each other what dad's first question to God would be. Then we remembered: dad already had his first question picked out years ago - long before his fatal journey with cancer even began. It's a question that I think sums up the man, the leader, the husband, and the father that my dad was and shows the true humility of his heart.
Dad's first question to God would not be one of theology or philosophy (although he dearly loved both).
Dad's first question to God would not be one of anger or disappointment or bitterness at the journey and life that God called him to, although it was, at times, a long and difficult road.
Dad's first question to His Savior would be one of awe and amazement at why the King of the universe decided to love and chose him.
Just a regular guy with a special gift for loving people, a brain that never stopped solving puzzles, and a childlike wonder for the God in whose presence he now worships - healed and finally whole.
This is my dad.
If you're interested in reading anything more about my dad's story, you can visit his CaringBridge here: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/paul_I_norman.