Cathy Cassata, IL

Senior Writer

With more than 15 years of professional writing experience and an Editing Certificate from the University of Chicago, Cathy has a knack for listening to others and asking thought-provoking questions in a way that makes them comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings. Having interviewed hundreds of people about topics related to the human experience, including illness, trauma, and triumph, Cathy crafts stories that ignite emotion. Several of her stories have been picked up by the Huffington Post. When she’s not writing or spending time with her children, you might find Cathy coaching youth sports, dancing with her friends, or laughing at a comedy club with her husband.

As a Story Terrace writer, Cathy interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.

The Best Thing My Dad Taught Me Was How to Live Without Him

A few days before my dad passed away, his doctors advised that stopping dialysis was the “humane thing to do.” Even though doing so would mean the end of his life, we agreed. So did my dad. Knowing he was nearing death, my siblings and I tried hard to say the right things and make sure the medical staff did all they could to keep him comfortable.

“Can we shift him in the bed again? Can you bring him more water? Can we give him more pain medication?” we’d ask. I remember a nurse’s assistant stopping me in the hallway outside my dad’s room to say, “I can tell you love him very much.”

“Yes. He’s my dad.”

But his response has stayed with me since. “I know he’s your dad. But I can tell he’s a very special person to you.” I started bawling.

I really didn’t know how I would go on without my dad. In some ways, his dying brought back the pain of losing my mom, and forced me to face the realization that they were both gone, that neither of them had made it beyond their 60s. Neither of them would be able to guide me through parenthood. Neither of them ever really knew my children.

But my dad, true to his nature, delivered some perspective.

A few days before he died, I was constantly asking him if he needed anything and if he was OK. He interrupted me, and said, “Listen. You, your sister, and your brother will be OK, right?”

He repeated the question a few times with a look of desperation on his face. In that moment, I realized that being uncomfortable and facing death weren’t his concerns. What was most terrifying to him was leaving behind his children — even though we were adults — without any parents to watch over them.

Suddenly, I understood that what he needed most wasn’t for me to make sure he was comfortable, but for me to reassure him that we would live on as usual after he was gone. That we wouldn’t allow his death to keep us from living our lives to the fullest. That, despite life’s challenges, whether war or disease or loss, we would follow his and our mom’s lead and continue to care for our children the best we knew how. That we’d be grateful for life and love. That we’d find humor in all situations, even the darkest ones. That we’d fight through all of life’s B.S. together.

That’s when I decided to drop the “Are you OK?” talk, and summoned the courage to say, “Yes, Dad. We’ll all be fine.”

As a peaceful look took over his face, I continued, “You taught us how to be. It’s OK to let go now.”

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