A Daughter Reflects on Her Father’s Legacy of Love
Published on September 20, 2023
When Lori Huertas’s father, Jose, was first diagnosed with terminal cancer, he was given 6 months to live. Lori moved home to TN and became her father’s primary caregiver. When a fall brought on a rapid decline in his health, she knew she needed more support and reached out to Alive.
“It’s not that we ever stop grieving, we just learn to live on without the person but with the hope that we gave them the quality of life and care that they deserved and that we’re going to honor them by remembering the best of them.”
When my dad was first diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma two years ago, he was given just months to live. We lived in Florida at the time, and the doctor recommended chemo; the first round caused him to almost have a heart attack. We were told that any future chemo would keep him in the hospital, and we didn’t want that. The lymphoma had spread around his heart, so we kept him on hospice care until he improved enough to move around on his own again.
Connecting with Alive
Once we moved home to Tennessee, I wasn’t going to do hospice. I thought I was Superwoman, that I could do it all. Putting my dad in a home was also never an option for me. The day he fell, I went online, called a few places, and said whoever calls me back is who we’ll go with. Alive picked up immediately. We had an Alive nurse in our home the same day. My dad fell that morning and by 5 pm we already had a hospice nurse there.
During the months he was at Alive, from January to June, my dad had the chance to have dog therapy. He went from being anti-dog to loving dogs. It really helped lift his spirits by having the love and comfort of a pet.
My Master’s is in Counseling Psychology for Marriage and Family and, in doing volunteer work with grieving children years before my father became sick, my eyes were opened to the symbolism of butterflies for remembrance. Before he passed, I attended Alive’s Memorial Butterfly Release in June. After he died, I released butterflies in his memory on a boat in Miami which was part of my father’s last wishes.
Miracles in Remembrance
I believe in God, and I believe in miracles. The boat that we boarded to release butterflies in memory of my dad was my mom’s first and middle name, who had passed as well. I knew that was a sign that I was honoring him in the way he wanted. Then, as we reached the coordinates for releasing my dad’s butterflies and the ceremony of placing his ashes, two dolphins appeared. I knew that it was my mom and dad showing me that they were still with me. Then, one of the songs my dad liked by Bob Marley started to play as I released the butterflies stating, “don’t worry about a thing, every little thing is going to be all right.” I felt my dad was there.
A Father’s Legacy
While he was sick, we watched a lot of movies, and one of them was Bucket List. One of the things he really wanted to do was visit with family. Each time he’d visit with family he would share family stories and leave them with something.
I wrote the book Papa’s Scooter, a Legacy of Love to honor my father’s story and highlight some of the lessons he shared with his grandson before he died. The entire book is about him meeting one of his great-grandsons for the first time and the lessons he shared with him. I made it rhyme, but those are all the stories and actual things that happened in our family. I once heard a quote that “grief is love with nowhere to go.” This is the love I have for my dad. This is my way of keeping his legacy alive.
The journey has been hard because even though I feel like I’ve honored him, I miss him every day. He was my best friend. He was a great man. Another way I’m getting to honor him today is by getting certified in Dance Away Sadness to continue helping others with their grief journey through the expression of dance.
It’s not that we ever stop grieving, we just learn to live on without the person but with the hope that we gave them the quality of life and care that they deserved and that we’re going to honor them by remembering the best of them.
Here is a clip from Jose thanking Alive which he asked his daughter to share: