To The First Man I'll Ever Love

To The First Man I'll Ever Love

This one's for you, dad.
"You want to be an Oncologist don't you Mikaela?" he asked. "Yes dad, I do." "Well, when you go back to school use me as your guide to get there. Use this experience, my illness, and make it happen Dr. York."
-Dave York, June 2, 2016

Dear Dad,

I wish more than anything that you were here right now. I wish I could update you on life and hear your voice in reply. I'd give anything to hear you chastise me for not bringing a water bottle on road trips or asking me for the thousandth time if I used the bathroom before we left.

"Yes dad, I did... No dad, I don't need a water bottle to go to Food Lion..."

And while there are a million more things I could wish for right now, I'm not writing this letter to remind you of how sad I am that you're not here with me. Nor am I so selfish to forget that you're likely frustrated too.

For seven months, I've struggled to come up with the right words to say to you. In all honesty, I've struggled even more with allowing myself to even think about what I would say to you, fighting back tears each and every time I tried to start. I recently realized though, that what I have wanted to say was much simpler than I originally thought.

Thank you.

Thank you for teaching me how to forgive regardless of how bad a situation was. For calling me incessantly any time a hurricane threatened my path. For giving me boxes of Rice-a-Roni when you knew I was hungry. For sharing a love of mozzarella sticks with me.

For teaching me how to love food as you did and attempting to teach me how to cook even if I am my mother's child. For loving me even when I was angry with you. Even when I didn't return your texts or calls. For believing in me even when I stopped believing in myself.

You see dad, every time you looked at me and apologized for how weak you were or for changing hospitals again, I wished nothing more than for you to be a mind reader. I wish you could have seen how proud I was to be your daughter. To know that I wanted nothing more than to be just like you.

To brave the scariest "C" word and fight harder than any warrior I'd ever read about in books. To be as strong as you, the man who denied hospice care until TWO HOURS before you drew your last breath. The man who still sought out treatment options even when the number one cancer center in the country had nothing left to offer.

You taught me how precious and short life is

How we should cherish it and run with our arms spread wide, screaming with laughter and hanging on to every crashing current.

You taught me how to HOPE

To have faith no matter what the outcome might be. That we can live well beyond any prognosis we ever receive and to cherish every extra day we get because it was borrowed time after all.

You taught me the power of positivity

For I will never know a stronger or more dedicated man to walk this Earth than you.

Thank you for teaching me to never give up regardless of what life may throw my way. To walk even when doctors say it's no longer possible. To believe in myself regardless of how small I may feel some days.

Dad, you are the very reason I keep moving forward today. Why I began writing again, why I did so well last semester and why I have gained the most incredible surge of optimism that I will one day carry the title of M.D. after my name.

But it has nothing to do with your illness. You see, I don't need your cancer or suffering to get into medical school, nor do I need the pain of losing you.

Because I have the greatest tool of all, and that's knowing that even though you aren't here with me in person to watch me cross the stage for graduation, to walk me down the aisle if I someday get married or to cheer me on as I treat my very first patient, you will be in spirit.

I hope you know how much I miss you. How much I wish I could've bought those endless mozzarella sticks for you from Applebee's when you became cancer free, but instead I get to celebrate that you are no longer in pain. And I think in the end that is a much better outcome.

Thank you for loving me, for believing in me and most importantly, for becoming one of the greatest role models I never knew I needed. You are my hero.

I hope heaven is even more beautiful than I could ever imagine.

I love you forever and always,

Your Daughter

Cover Image Credit: Mikaela York

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You Will Always Need Your Grandma

They Are Some Of The Greatest Human Beings You Will Ever Know

Always is no exaggeration, you'll always need your grandma.

"A grandmother is a remarkable woman. She's a wonderful combination of warmth and kindness, laughter and love. She overlooks our faults, encourages our dreams, and praises our every success."- Author Unknown

They Are Your Biggest Fans:

Maybe even beating out your parents for that title...grandmas are truly your number one fans. From tennis matches, to softball and volleyball games, to the countless dance recitals and competitions, it always made my heart smile to look out from the stage or the court and see my grandma sitting there. She didn't have to be there sitting on uncomfortable bleachers, she wanted to be, and it always meant the world to me; even if I didn't express it at the time.

They Are The Greatest Porch Swing Companions:

One of my favorite and greatest memories of growing up is sitting on the front porch swing with my grandma. From the time when my feet didn't quite touch the ground sitting in the swing and hers did, to my feet touching the ground and her legs getting just a little bit shorter. All of the years in between provided some of the best advice, and were some of the many moments I wish that I could have recorded. There were less hours on the swing as I got older and busier, but I always know exactly where to go if I ever need to. Moving away for college, I realize just how much I miss being eight or nine sitting on the front porch swinging and talking for hours.

The Wisdom:

Only one of the many many things they have to offer you. They are full of so many stories, life lessons, and possible answers to your problems. You learn to appreciate the wisdom more and more as you get older. You realize that just as you are getting older, they are too. I recently bought a journal called My Grandma In Her Own Words. Inside the pages are questions to ask your grandma such as, "What is your earliest childhood memory?" I can't wait to spend the whole summer filling it.

Are They Not The Cutest:

I say this at least twice a week...she is the cutest human being alive. Their style, to the fabulous music they listen to, to everything in between. My grandma walked at least 16 miles in Washington D.C. in loafers and the cutest vest/scarf combo I've ever seen... that woman, let me tell ya. On a serious note, whenever I'm told I look a little bit like my grandma, I LOVE it. I take pride in the fact that someone sees a little bit of her in me, because she is gorgeous.

You Have No Idea How To Live Without Them:

Quite simply, they are one of the most influential women in your life. From being little, to being a newly minted adult, I still call my grandma almost everyday; sometimes just to hear her voice. They are some of the greatest human beings you will ever know. They make you a better person, all while showing you an unconditional love that only they can.

All the love in the world for you, sweet woman.

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An Open Letter To My "Team"

A week I'll never forget.

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity of going on a Service and Justice Experience spring break trip to Marion County, South Carolina. Since returning, I've been trying to pinpoint what I've learned, trying to find a particular moment or teaching that resonated with me, but I've found that I can't. There are no words to describe all that happened last week, so instead I've chosen to write this article as an ode to all that I encountered and felt in my seven days in Marion County.

It's been less than a week since we journeyed back to campus and I'm missing Marion already.

Whenever I see one of the people I traveled with around campus, I can't help but light up and smile, and I think it's because something magical happened last week. It had to be the combination of the beautiful community we were exposed to in Marion, the service with Habitat for Humanity, we were able to do, and of course, the people we served alongside with.

When people ask me how my trip was, the first word that comes to mind is "fun", but I don't think that word really does the trip, or everyone there, any justice.

Yes, the trip was fun, but it was also thought provoking, full of fits of laughter and moments of determination and hard work, and so much more.

Team, thank you to every single one of you for making the trip what it was. In one of the notecards that someone wrote for me, they commented on how the trip would not have been the same without me being there. As cliché as it sounds, I believe this to be true- we all come from different backgrounds with our own idiosyncrasies and character traits.

I truly feel that if even one person had been missing, the group dynamic, and thus experience as a whole, would have shifted.

I think what really stood out to me was the amount of love that surrounded all of us in everything we did. When Morgan asked us during reflection one night, Where did you see love today? I found myself with countless examples, from the patience of master nailers with us newbies, to the countless times a friend braided my hair for me, to a simple check in of "how are you doing" at any given moment.

Love and the sense of community were at the forefront of everything we did last week, especially when working on the house or connecting with the people in Marion.

Thank you all for helping solidify my belief that every action in life can be traced back to love.

I felt the love everywhere we went and through everything we did. However, what I found even more beautiful was how, when taking a step back, I was able to observe the love around me. As I spoke about during reflection one night, there was a moment where I was lying on the grass, separate from everyone else, watching you all play Frisbee.

While this situation may sounds trivial and mundane, I think the impact this moment had on me speaks to the gratitude this trip formed in me for the little moments.

It was the way that you all were interacting with each other. Closing my eyes, I heard nothing but laughter and cheering and words of encouragement. All you were doing was throwing around a Frisbee, yet I could find so much of God's love in that moment.

You all have a special place in my heart, and I only hope we continue to grow as a team.

Here's to morning devotionals, Max's daily lessons and coordinated Coke commercials. Here's to 6:15 wake up songs (Final Countdown anyone?), 12 am What Do You Meme? games (because pizza, of course) and the sardine round that took half a century. Here's to surprise birthday cake(s), handprints on walls, walls being painted and walls being raised. Most of all, here's to ridiculous stories, laughter, moments of reflection, vulnerability, and tears, and everything in between.

Thank you all for bringing your whole self to this trip, for sharing, and as a result, for teaching me a great deal about what it means to live in community and to build not only a home, but a second family.

Here's to you, here's to us, team.

Good deal,


Cover Image Credit: Samantha DeCarlo

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