If you had to describe the year 2020 in three words, what would they be? My three words would be: heartbreaking, solitude, and joy. I had it made. I was the daughter of two loving parents (married for 47 years!), the wife of a loving husband, and living the California dream. Then in February I received the call I had been dreading my whole life.
My parents are the most remarkable individuals I have ever known. We’ve always been very close. They have always been my biggest fans and supported my dreams and aspirations at every cost. Growing up I was one of those kids who’d rather attend one of my parent’s dinner parties than a “kegger” one of the high school cliques was throwing down the street. When it came time to apply for college, and all of the universities on my wish list were out-of-state, my parents never made me feel guilty about leaving home. Instead, they were excited with me. From 2006 onward, I lived across the country from my family.
My dad and mom were older than my friends’ parents…the adoption process was painfully slow in Colombia in the 80’s. Their age did not make a difference growing up, but for the past decade I lived with a perpetual fear of something happening and being too far to swoop in and help. We operate on a three hour time difference….I’d get an adrenaline rush whenever my phone would ring or ding at an “off hour.” Regrettably, February 20, 2020 my fear became a reality. Doctors discovered a lesion in my dad’s left lung after he began experiencing sudden weight loss.
The Longest Fight of My Life
On March 6th I booked a one-way ticket to Connecticut. I knew this visit was not going to be fun, but I did not know that I was about to embark on a real-life NIGHTMARE. My dad was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer right as the COVID-19 pandemic exploded. The Tri-state Region was the epicenter and he was in and out of the hospital throughout it all. I could not believe this was my life. Every television in the medical center was covering the pandemic. We went from staying the night in his hospital room, to being limited to one family member at a time, to being abruptly kicked out because of the virus. As the CDC released COVID-19 safety guidelines we were right there to experience them. We went to hell and back, and the virus affected our situation in ways I did not even consider possible.
Would my dad undergo chemotherapy, or was it too risky to compromise his immune system with aggressive treatment – knowing there was a virus spreading like wildfire that directly effects the LUNGS?! As the world went into mass hysteria, medical supplies became scarce, and my dad was suffering from pressure ulcers. Trips to the wound care clinic were out of the question out of fear of exposure. We needed to change bandages and rubber gloves were unavailable. WHAT WOULD WE HAVE DONE IF I WAS NOT MARRIED TO A PLASTIC SURGEON WITH TRAINING IN WOUND CARE, AND A MEDICAL SUPPLY CLOSET STOCKED WITH GLOVES?! All I wanted to do was give my dad a huge hug…but I was too scared. What if I was an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19?
How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
What I just described was sadly only a small sliver of the anguish we were faced with. March, April, and May were the most emotionally and physically EXHAUSTING months of my life. Despite the devastation, it was MY DUTY to ensure my dad’s comfort and care during the remainder of his life, as he has done all 32 years of mine. On the night of May 12th I lost one of the most admirable people in my life, my beloved Daddy. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – Winnie the Pooh
The Circle of Life
The grieving process has reminded me just how much I value family. Your family members are like a built-in army. They are there to defend, protect, and offer support through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Today marks our NINE year wedding anniversary – it’s been over 11 years since we first met! Every day we spend together I am grateful our lives crossed paths. We see the world through the same lens and make a dynamic duo! In fact, one of the reasons we are so compatible is because Jonathan values family as much as I do. He comes from a big one (speaking of armies!), he is the youngest of seven siblings. We always agreed that if we were to raise a child one day, it would be a mini version of me. We’d own every matching “mommy and me” set available, and be the best of friends just like me and my mom. She’d learn field hockey at a young age, and enjoy dressing up and getting manicures. She’d instantly steal her daddy’s heart.
Through all the heartache, this year has been a learning experience to say the least. But the biggest lesson is yet to come...I found out I was pregnant exactly one month after my dad left us. In my heart I knew a mini-Kelsey was not growing inside of me. I consider it an absolute honor to have the privilege of raising an exemplary little man, like both his maternal grandfather (the “Zaydee” he will never meet), and his compassionate father. I cannot wait to give him that hug I was SO yearning for before my dad passed. BABY BOY KAPLAN is due the end of February. I had no idea I needed this. We needed this. My family needed something joyous to look forward to and we got it alright. We are SO excited to take you all along on our journey into parenthood. Thank you for your endless love and support.
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Photography by Alexis Estrom