My birthday and Father's Day fall on the same day this year. I will not let my wife and sons get out of the 'two lots of presents' expected directive.
I write this article on Sunday 23 August 2015.
Sheldon Gakowski celebrates his birthday today.
The doctors say it will be his last.
I have never met Sheldon. His wife is an ex-student I taught in Mackay. I have read about his journey through her Facebook posts and blog.
The Gakowski family's life was turned upside down when a visit to the doctor changed their entire world.
We had been hoping against hope that all the tiredness and the testing would reveal something timid and treatableâstomach ulcers or stress. But that afternoon ... the grainy, black and white images on the large screen that had been turned around so that we could see what the doctor was seeing. She slowly flicked through each image. She stopped and used the pen to pointâ'There ... the tumours are quite sizeable'.
Terminal, inoperable cancer. Sheldon has now been sent home to die.
Make every day count
The Gakowski family (Sheldon, Suzanne and their three boys) refused to let 'the normality-hijacking thief' beat or deter them. They decided to live and make every day count.
Susanne asked the world for cards: a birthday card for every day during the month of August.
Cards have been sent from as diverse people as the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, The Project team (Channel 10) and 100s of cards from primary school children. They are making a birthday cake every day for the month of August and blowing out the candles every nightâfor all the birthdays they will miss together when Sheldon is gone.
Time is precious
Sheldon gave each of his sons a watch today.
And the reminder that time is precious.
For my sons on my 43<sup>rd Birthday.
I want to talk about Time.
They say that men are given the gift of time.
In my case the time I've had with my boys is short. I hope we have treasured it. Be thankful everyday that you have more time to appreciate and love the things that matter to you.
For meâthat has been you boys.
Time has been precious since I became your dad.
Time is one thing that you can never get back.
Once it's gone, it becomes our memories- make sure you build great memories with your time.
When you grow up, make the most of your time.
Love your Dad.
I know Suzanne will forgive me as her former English teacher, but Sheldon left out a comma between the 'Love' and the 'your Dad'.
Or did he?
Perhaps the last line of Sheldon's reflection is for all of us. A challenge for all those who read this reflection of a dying father to his three sons...
LOVE YOUR DAD.
I read this today and it made me realise what a privilege it is to have my Dad enter his 70<sup>th year recently (last week) and still be alive.
He has never stopped loving me and doing things for me since the day I was born. He still gives me advice, even when I don't ask for it or need it! He now has grandsons and granddaughters who are the apple of his eye.
He is fed up with 'stuff' and spends his money, his retirement, on his kids and their families ... and his 2-for-1 coffees down at The Coffee Club.
I love you Dad.
Send your Dad a card. The Gakowski family says #kindnesswins
If this is too hard, impossible or too painful, send Sheldon a card:
PO Box 130
Mackay QLD 4740
Russell Modlin is a teacher on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three sons.
Russell Modlin's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html