by Aria and Bella Bendix, Rising Leaders Council, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. In memory of Ken Bendix, their father.
Father’s Day is a complicated day for the two of us. Every year as the third week in June approaches and the TV floods with Father’s Day commercials, or “Gifts for Dad” begin to appear in the aisles of department stores, we are reminded that our dad is no longer around. Many times, it can feel like a day of loss rather than celebration.
This year will mark our sixth Father’s Day since our dad’s passing. He was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in November of 2006 and, after a long and courageous fight, he passed away in September 2009. If it is said that our father lost his battle with cancer, he most certainly won the war that is life. When faced with improbable odds and at times unbearable pain, he still remained the kind, calm, selfless person we always knew him to be.
Father’s Day is a time to remember the person he once was—a silent warrior, doting dad, loving husband, and our family’s moral compass for nearly two decades. As fathers around the world unwrap fishing gear and golf clubs, t-shirts and photo frames, we unwrap the gift that is his memory, and celebrate the fact that it is still there to comfort us after all these years.
Even so, at times these memories are tinged with the pain of loss, and each year we are tempted to ignore Father’s Day altogether in order to circumvent this pain. To all those who have encountered loss in their lives, we speak from experience when we say that it is important to resist this temptation. In the midst of busy lives, it can be easy to neglect the memory of a loved one who is no longer around, to store it in that dangerous cubby of our minds that we promise ourselves we’ll access some day but rarely do. Father’s Day serves as a vital reminder of the life that we once knew, and the life that guides our thoughts and actions even when we’re not aware of it.
This Father’s Day, like many before it, our family will take a trip to Inspiration Point. A quiet little spot in Newport Beach that overlooks the ocean, it was my father’s favorite place to reflect while he was alive. Six years after his passing, we reflect in much the same way on all that he has given us, and all he continues to give us even after he is gone. These are gifts that can never be taken away, and it is important to unwrap them not only on Father’s Day, but whenever we may be feeling discouraged or sad.
It is our hope that, by recalling these memories, we can transform the loss we might feel at seeing a picture of a friend and her father on social media or a Father’s Day advertisement on TV into a moment of gratitude for the father we were fortunate enough to have. We anticipate it to be a lifelong objective, and we have no doubt that we will fall short many times. If our father has taught us anything, after all, it is that we are only human, and sometimes even the strongest of soldiers lose the battle. What matters, however, is that we continue to fight to honor our father’s memory, even when it might be painful to do so. After all that he has given us, this is our gift to him.