To The First Man I'll Ever Love

To The First Man I'll Ever Love

This one's for you, dad.
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"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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10 Reasons Why My Mom Is My Hero

She's also my best friend.
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My mom is pretty darn special. And I'd be kidding myself to say that I tell her enough how much I appreciate her. There aren't enough breaths in the day to thank her for all that she has done for me, and all that she will do for me. So this is for my momma, these are just a few of the reasons why I think she's pretty great.

1. I can talk to her about anything.

I know for a fact that no matter the issue and no matter the story, my mom will listen to the entire thing with nothing but compassion in her heart. I don't ever need to wonder if she will judge me because I know for a fact that she never will.

2. She gives the best hugs.

I don't care if I saw her yesterday or if I've been away for three months; my mom will always hug me like she hasn't seen me in years, and there isn't a better feeling in the world.

3. I have never met a more selfless person.

She has such a heart for others and I am constantly blown away by her devotion and passion for serving those around her. If I (or anyone else) needs anything, my mom is the first one to jump up, drop everything, and run to help. If I have half as much generosity as my mom someday, I know that I would be making a huge difference.

4. I am inspired by her.

Always.

5. She cares so much for me.

I know that no matter how old I grow to be, and how mature I may become, my mom will always be there for me. She will always be waiting with open arms to either congratulate me or console me. I have never felt more loved by any other human than I do by my mom.

6. She loves me unconditionally.

I will never ever need to worry that she will stop loving me. No matter the circumstances, no matter the phase of life that I'm in, my mom will always be there for me, loving me every step of the way.

7. She is my number one cheerleader.

I don't think I will every meet another person more dedicated to my success and ready to celebrate my accomplishments than my mom. She is hands-down my biggest supporter and will always be standing at the finish line of whatever race I may be running. I could be crawling across that finish line and she'd still be cheering for me the whole way.

8. I can always count on her to point me in the right direction.

My mom will pray for me. She'll encourage me. She will lead by example and through the counseling that she is always ready to provide. I know that I can always count on her to push me in the direction of my dreams.

9. She has the best laugh.

I could pick my mom's laugh out of a crowd of hundreds. Her ability to laugh at herself (and at her own cheesy jokes) are part of what makes her so amazing. But the sound of my mom's laugh has the capability to make anyone's day, including mine.

10. I never stop learning from her.

See points 1-9.


Mom, you are such an amazing woman, and there is simply no way that I could put it into words. So I'll simply say thank you. Thank you for all that you do for me, day-in and day out. Thank you for loving me, and showing me what it means to live like Jesus and everything else that you do. I hope that one day my daughter might love me as much as I love you.

Love,

Me

Cover Image Credit: Ashley Burton

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Being Nice Is Nice And All, But Being Kind Makes A Bigger Impact

Nice is holding the door open for the elderly woman behind you. Kind is asking if she needs help with her groceries.

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There's a difference between being kind and being nice.

One takes empathy and mindfulness, while the other is a behavioral expectation intended to keep up appearances.

Remember that classic episode of "SpongeBob," the one where he meets Sandy for the first time? When he is invited to her house, Patrick prepares him for it by explaining that air actually means "putting on airs," and that if he holds his pinky up, he'll be OK.

That's an exaggerated version of what being nice means to me.

For those of you unfamiliar with who lives in a pineapple under the sea, being nice is defined differently by different people and different cultures. Being nice is being polite. It's the decent way to act in most circles, but being kind is universal.

Pleasing, agreeable, appropriate and well-bred are all terms used to define nice, according to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary. Whereas to be kind is to be compassionate, helpful, warm and understanding.

Kind has substance and meaning.

Kind requires no translation.

Kind takes time, effort and forethought.

Nice is palatable.

Nice is having good manners.

Nice is expected and fleeting.

Nice is holding the door open for the elderly woman behind you. Kind is asking if she needs help with her groceries.

Now, if you've read to this point, you may be wondering what the significance of this distinction is. Well, here goes: I'm not always a nice person. And anyone who knows me isn't shocked by this.

I'm sarcastic and a little judgmental.

I'm a work in progress and the first to admit that about myself. But I remember people's birthdays, and I'm a pretty great gift giver. I volunteer and make sure I return people's messages when I can.

But I don't always greet people when I walk into a room, and Irish goodbyes are sometimes my go-to.

I'm honest to a fault because I know that, in the long run, the truth yields more positive results than a lie does.

I'm not always great at asking how someone's day was, but I probably know how they feel about immigration and how many kids they have.

Wow, OK, that doesn't make me sound too good. But I'm kind, or I try to be.

And maybe all this piece accomplishes is in an attempt to convince myself as I convince others, but I'll take it.

Bottom line: I'd rather be kind than nice any day.

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