Michelle Burkes

My dad has end-stage Mesothelioma. I moved to Jacksonville about a year ago to take care of my mother-in-law who was on hospice care for End-stage endometrial cancer. At that time, we did not know of my dad’s condition. My stepmother has been trying to care for my dad on home hospice since July of this year. Today, the hospice nurse called me, as she promised she would, to tell me that he is declining quickly and that I need to get there ASAP. He is going into the hospital for respite care for five days starting tomorrow, but I do not think he will make it back home. I need to be there BEFORE he is released to help my stepmother make room for a hospital bed so if he can return home, he can be safe.  

As a single mother, especially with the rising costs of everyday necessities, and with the need to travel quickly without the ability to budget for/purchase tickets far enough in advance to be affordable, I do not have the funds necessary to travel. By the time I can save the money for the flight, I am sure my dad will be gone. 

My dad and I have always had a roller-coaster of a relationship. He was not around much when I was a child, and it was all I wanted. My mother was killed on 9/11 at the Pentagon, and at that time, my dad and I tried to work on our relationship. Over the past 20 years, we have been very close and grown apart many times, but we have always loved each other. We are both very stubborn. So much so that he did not tell me about his illness for several months. When I found out, they thought he was not going to make it through the week, but he rallied, and we have been able to make some amends over the past six months or so. There is still a lot that needs to be said, and I believe he is hanging on for me to get there before he lets go. He is miserable and I just want to be able to tell him in person that it’s ok, and I forgive him. I know he was the best father he knew how to be. Because of his condition now, I can’t even really have a phone conversation with him. It would mean the world if I could tell him in person how much I love him and that it’s OK to let go and give him one last hug and kiss; perhaps even be by his side when he passes, if that is what he wishes. 

Departing: Jacksonville, FL

Arriving: Washington

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