Wednesday, May 2, 2012

In Loving Memory of John Wayne McDannel

     I've always said that half the reason Jeremy and I got hitched was so I could marry into his family. No, he doesn't come from money.  However, he comes with something much more valuable. His kin. We had only been dating a month when Jeremy brought me home to meet his parents, Jackie and John. It was an instant connection. The following years we grew closer. I looked forward to going to their house to watch (insert Longhorn, Cowboy, Ranger, Maverick) games and toss a ball in the back yard, eating out at many of Dallas' fine restaurants and having long conversational wine filled dinners, and laid back get-togethers with all the family in Waco or at Jackie and John's house in Dallas.  There was an unspoken sense of fellowship.  And behind all of these lovely memories is Jeremy's father, John.

     John had a re-occurrence of lung cancer that first showed up in his right upper lobe almost five years ago. Two months before Jeremy and I got married, John underwent surgery and had the lobe removed. If you were at the wedding you probably didn't noticed how the countless tests and chemo had drained him that day.  He rallied for the festivities even though he was wiped out (John's amazingly selfless and stoic through his own suffering). This year was to mark his five year "cancer free" anniversary.

     A couple weeks before Christmas John developed laryngitis that persisted into the new year. After several trips to the doctor and being told, "we don't know what's wrong," he was finally sent to a specialist. Tests were conducted and he was diagnosed with non-small squamous cell carcinoma of his entire left lung. After more testing it was discovered that the cancer had metastasized to his lymph nodes, abdomen, and spine. It was inoperable and he was given 3-9 months to live.

      When Jackie and John called us to break the news (we were living in NYC at the time) we were in shock. Jeremy and I wanted to be there with them so badly. Certainly a mere show of force from John's family would intimidate the cancer that was consuming him from the inside. It was all we could do in the fight.  We wished so hard it would just go away. We got pissed and hated the cancer (still do) for preying on our family, for attacking the father of my husband and his sister, the soul mate of my mother-in-law, the brother and uncle loved so much by his family. Alas, all we could do was tell both John and Jackie how much we love them and promise to come home as soon as we could.

     I could only imagine what he was thinking and feeling as he prepared to battle the beast that is cancer for a second time. Days went by and he completed his three weeks of daily radiation. Sweet Jackie (as John called her) was by his side the entire time, advocating for and supporting him. She drove him to Houston several times for testing to see if he qualified for any studies at MD Anderson. The cancer battled back by increasing an enzyme in his blood, disqualifying him from the only research study available to him. This was a big blow. After being told there wasn't much they could do for him here in Dallas, we were pinning all of our hopes on that study. Spirits were dampened but John persevered and started chemo in Dallas on Wednesday, March 28th.

     We moved home to Dallas that Saturday, March 31. By Wednesday, April 4 (the day after his 65th birthday), John was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas with pneumonia. Jackie spent every night and day with him. We were waiting for the antibiotics to kick some pneumonia ass so we could get him back home. He was a fighter and this was suppose to be a mere battle in the war.

     By Tuesday morning, April 10, it had become clear that it was a losing battle and John asked us to keep him comfortable and let him go with dignity. Just the night before I told him I think the world of him and couldn't ask for a better father-in-law and friend. I told him how much I appreciate his sense of humor, wit, courage and stoicism. I hated the idea of him being sick and the thought of losing him. He prepared Jeremy and me for the worst and we promised to look out for the family and honor his wishes.  We told him that we love him. The very next day John took his last breath, with Jackie right by his side.

     The following days were a whirlwind as our family prepared to bury our patriarch. I am amazed at the fortitude and unity we showed in completing the daunting tasks. He was proud of us and we would show the world how proud we are of him.  Jeremy was spot on when he spoke at his father's funeral, saying if there is one thing that would define John it is family.  Paul, John's brother-in-law, reminded us as he conducted the funeral that although John's life ended to soon for any of us, he indeed had a full life.  A life full of what was most important to him.

     John faced his cancer full on, fought when he needed to fight, accepted what he had to accept, and left his family on this earth knowing we have his love. We love him, because he was an amazing father, husband, grandfather, son, and uncle, and every second with him was always worth it's weight in gold. Always has been, always will. As much as it hurts to say goodbye, we all know how lucky we are to have had him in our lives. It might not have been much time, but it was enough time.

In Loving Memory of John Wayne McDannel
April 3, 1947 - April 10, 2012

     John (65) died on Tuesday, April 10th, 2012, in Dallas, Texas, after his second battle with lung cancer. He was the son of Dick and Jane McDannel, both deceased. He is survived by his loving wife, Jackie; daughter Jennifer Walker (Wade); grandchildren Mark and Mason; son Jeremy McDannel (Tamara); granddog General Patton; sisters Jimye Sadler (Paul); JoBetsy Tyler (Mike); nieces and nephews Matt Sadler (Kalley and children Grayson, Matalley, and Lola), Amy Sadler, Paige, Zack, and Blake Tyler; cousin Paula Hahn; brother-in-law John Allen Ross. He was born in Waco, Texas on April 3, 1947. He was a graduate of Richfield High School (Class of 1965) and University of North Texas. As a faithful member of Park Cities Baptist Church he attended Sunday school class. He was a lover of nature and travel, Longhorn fan, avid Ticket P1, and Town North YMCA active member. He was joyful and giving in life, courageous in illness, and dignified in death. He is remembered for his generous heart, wicked sense of humor, love of family, and faith in God. Rest in peace.


Amy Jane said...

Beautiful, just beautiful. Love you!

Allison said...

Aw Tamara, your wonderful testament brought tears to my eyes. Sending my condolences to your family.

jeremy m said...

That was wonderful. Thank you sweetheart. Love you.

Kalley said...

The videos make me smile. Love the tribute!