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CRISIS CRYSTALIZES DEEP LOVE A REMARKABLE DAD DESERVES

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Dear Dad:

In the four months since you were diagnosed with cancer, I've written you thousands of times in my mind.During meals, meetings, commutes, sleepless nights and any moment the mind can wander, I've rewritten and refined a mental letter.

Some thoughts I've conveyed during phone calls and visits with you and Mom in Colorado. But much has yet to be put to paper - it's a letter that lasts a lifetime.

I've got the chance today to review some of your recent challenges and achievements. When I asked if I could compose something for Father's Day, Deseret News assignments editor Chuck Gates said I'm one of the few on the city-desk staff who speaks often of his dad.

That's a compliment, as long as my talking isn't perceived as excessive or boastful. I'm proud of your example and our relationship, especially over the past four months.

My friends know your background: the only child of a self-made rancher and rural schoolteacher and one whose roots remain implanted in southern Idaho, since that's where Grandpa, Grandma and the ranch are; the father of four sons and a daughter; an LDS Church leader in Colorado and Iowa; and an animal-science professor specializing in beef production and management.

I often mention you when talking about hunting arrowheads, fishing small creeks, raising 4-H steers, playing H-O-R-S-E in the driveway and participating in many other father-son and family events.

However, recent conversations have centered on the tumor in your right thigh. A soft-tissue sarcoma, I told fellow employees, is a rare cancer, usually fatal if it spreads into the lungs or other internal organs. Agreeing with them that you're still young enough at age 60 to put up a good fight, I'm still worried about the cancer surgery and its accompanying six months of radiation and chemotherapy.

I agonized, Dad, over your physical struggles with treatments to combat the cancer. I sensed that you mustered all of your ravaged strength to talk for 90 seconds. I heard that Mom had to call the paramedics when you passed out - head-first - in a muddy vegetable garden. I saw your 5-foot-9 frame 25 pounds lighter and your chemo-cleansed scalp covered only by a cap. I faced the fact of your mortality.

And yet, you and Mom compensated with increased emotional fortitude, being the source of comfort and consolation to each other as well as to friends and family members.

I'll always treasure our first visit after your diagnosis, when we gathered to discuss futures, finances, family and faith. The memories of tender feelings shared, scriptures read and prayers expressed - too intimate to share here - will always warm my soul.

During one visit, I escaped to the solitude of your den and leafed through a 1990 book titled "Courageous Cattlemen," which included a six-page profile on you and your accomplishments.

In the book, you spoke of role models, "one whom I saw die of cancer at an early age. Instead of taking on a defeatist attitude, he did much to teach and help and bless the lives of others. Those who came to comfort him commented that it was they who were comforted and helped."

And the paragraph that immediately followed summed up a common theme of yours:

"The greatest thing I've learned and have tried to foster is the importance of family. Among any contributions I have made, I cherish none even close to the relationship within our family. We are not perfect, but we have a great deal of joy in our family. . . . I just want some of those human qualities that will stand the test of time."

Time. That's what you've been asking for, praying for since February. You were willing to live with cancer, even live without a limb - as long as you were given as much time possible to serve family and God.

Dad, I still talk about you to friends and acquaintances - about what our family considers to be our own miracle and the several ironies.

Your surgeon said, "Yes, the tumor was the size of a football," but it was not spreading and, in fact, was 90 percent dead. And while he had to remove three of your four quadricep muscles, he called the May 25 operation "perfect" and added that he was expecting to take more tissue than that.

I'm surprised you've already shelved first the crutches and then the cane, and Mom says you offered to vacuum the house a couple of days ago. And as we visited you last week, I was impressed that a fabric-and-Velcro leg brace, fuzzy hair and a noticeable limp were the only visual reminders of your ordeal as you presided over a misty-eyed church congregation.

We realize it's not over yet. Three more months of treatments await, and there's been no official "cancer-free" proclamation. But the prognosis so far is as heaven-sent as we could ask for.

So, think of this as your Father's Day card - and since you're in town this weekend, I can give it to you personally. It's not crafted with the crayons and construction paper of youth but with newsprint, ink and years of gratitude and love. I hope you don't mind that it's been shared with tens of thousands of others.

And, Dad, while I wouldn't wish the past four-month crisis on anyone, I wouldn't trade for anything the lessons and living legacy that you've given to us this year.

- Your admiring son, Scott