I have been thinking about this post for weeks.
I would like to say that I have the perfect words to express myself on this bittersweet day, but the reality is that I have started and deleted this post at least 10 times now. Nothing about this blog will be easy.
Today would be my father-in-law’s 48th birthday.
Instead, today is just another challenging day for the Cotten family as we remember a husband, father and papaw who left this Earth far too early.
Tony did everything he could possibly do to win at all things in his life. In fact, I still refuse to play board games with the Cotten men because of their intense, over-the-top game play (read: cheating). There may have also been a Thanksgiving in which we all learned that Trivial Pursuit + whiskey-induced smack talk = not good.
So when Tony was diagnosed with Stage IV Biliary Cancer in June 2012, it was no surprise that he reacted in typical Cotten fashion.
He fought the diagnosis.
He fought the prognosis.
He fought doctors in three states until he found the best-of-the-best for his care.
He fought the disease through chemotherapy treatments, alternative medicines, meditation and prayer.
He was going to beat this.
Courtny and Tony spent many days over the next 11 months determining the best strategy for a victory, but they also made every day together count. They played an ungodly number of hours on the PS3, they saw DEVO in concert from fancy box seats at the Palladium, and they made a point to talk to each other every day – even if it was just bantering about their fantasy football teams.
I think I can speak for the entire family when I say that May 9, 2013 was by far the most difficult day of our entire lives thus far. Tony ultimately lost his fight, but he left us all with a valuable life lesson:
“Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”
Tomorrow is never guaranteed, and it is ever so important to live without regrets. It may be cliché, but I cannot stress this enough. A year ago did I ever think that Tony wouldn’t be around to meet his first Cotten grandchild? Absolutely not.
Now that I’ve fumbled through this post (Tony the newspaper publisher is surely laughing at me right now), I think I will celebrate Tony’s birthday in a way he would appreciate – with pizza and (bad) 80’s music.
Happy birthday, Tony. We miss you.