Superman’s Heroes

Superman’s Heroes

Recently a childhood friend told me that his father used to see my dad out running and say, “That John, he’s like Superman.” And if you ask any of our family, we continued to think so long after his (shirtless) jogging days were over. Because instead of racking up miles or tennis sets (and a mean tan), he was fighting the battle for his life. Even doctors trying to match his optimism said he’d be extremely lucky to survive 18 months after surgery. But we knew the odds and the reality of the type of brain tumor he had. That amount of time wasn’t likely. Unless you were Superman. And then you might just make it 77-1/2 months—baffling doctors and touching lives all along the way.

And while most superheroes are quiet types who work alone, that certainly wasn’t my dad. Sure, he fought a remarkable battle, but even he knew he couldn’t do it without help. Though I’m certainly not worthy of speaking for him, I do know there are people he’d thank if he could. But he can’t, so I will.

This Superman definitely landed a Wonder Woman. My dad adored his California girl with blue eyes and a gorgeous smile from the moment he met her in college. When I was growing up, he’d come home from work every day with a kiss and a sweet hello using his nickname for her. And in the end, they’d sit on the couch together, holding hands and singing. But, in all honesty, this battle wasn’t easy for her either. The sacrifices my mom made to take care of my dad these past 6-1/2 years were truly immeasurable. And he was forever grateful to her for it. Perhaps because she did it all with more grace, love and patience than you could ever imagine. She was true to him and to herself—giving him everything she had in her (which was a lot!)—and now she’s living with gratitude for her time with him, no regrets.

Superman Jr., well thinking about his strength—strength of mind, body and character—brings me to tears. I honestly don’t know if my admiration for my brother and his dedication to my parents can be expressed in words. But I’ll try. From moving back to California, to changing careers, to bringing breakfast and mowing the lawn every Saturday, to making playlists, to getting our dad safely from point A to point B, to fixing just about everything in the house/garage/yard, to making videos of his life in the outside world to show our dad whose world got so very small, to buying all the flowers/cards/gifts our dad couldn’t remember to…he did it all. With a quiet grace, never expecting to be repaid or thanked. Just because that’s the truly remarkable person he is. As you can imagine, my dad couldn’t have been more proud of him (and the fact that he works for an award-winning brewery, well, that’s just about as good as it gets).

This man’s best friend, Smokey, was the definition of loyal and loving. A superdog, if you will.

When times get hard, true friends stand out from the crowd. From the friends turned family who have been there literally every single day, to the friends who took my dad out or visited regularly, to the friends who dropped by with cookies and smiles every few months, to the friends and family who came from far and wide to talk about the good ol’ days, my Dad was showered with love. And all of you (you know who you are!) were—and are—loved in return.

As I said earlier this week, if laughter is the best medicine, kids are the extra strength version. Big, Little and Pink gave my dad three huge reasons to live, and millions of little reasons to laugh.

On a stressful day in advertising, it’s not uncommon to hear things like, “It’s not brain surgery.” “We’re not saving lives.” “We’re not curing cancer.” Well, through this experience, my family has gotten to know some pretty talented folks who can’t use any of those excuses to blow off a bad day at work. Because each and every day they perform miraculous brain surgeries, save seemingly unsaveable lives and cure the most aggressive cancers known to man. How lucky my dad was to have some of the world’s best doctors (who quickly became friends as well) in this field at UCSF.

The Johns (Lennon and Denver), Paul, Ringo, George, the Kennys (Chesney and Rogers)—these guys were always there to keep my dad company. And in listening to them now, they keep me company too, and make me feel like my dad isn’t so far away.

In the end, my dad’s blessings were many, and he knew it. My hope is that those of you who were among them know it too.


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  1. OpinionsToGo says

    Another beautiful post! A tribute to your Dad and, to all the people who loved him and, he loved right back.

  2. Melinda says

    My world stops when I see you’ve posted a new blog. Everything else can wait. I have to know what you have to say. Today you touched me beyond belief. Thank goodness we have a huge supply of tissues!

  3. Rachel Dorfman says

    You definitely can’t leave yourself off of this list. You were an amazing daughter and I’m sure that you brought joy to your dad each day.

  4. Simona Jackson says

    Amy, this is just beautiful. You have such an amazing family, and I know that your Dad must have been as proud of YOU as he could possibly be.

  5. Cristie says

    There is nothing to say. Just wanted you to know I”m here and even more impressed than I was yesterday. You are incredible and I thank your dad for giving us you.

  6. Linda says

    Amy, you have such a beautiful way with words. What a wonderful way of capturing all the brightness in life and in people. I’m sending you as much strength as I can to help you get through tomorrow…..

  7. Dana says

    Amy, our shining star, you have chronicled our journey so beautifully. I think I may read this every day for the rest of my life. None of us could have done this alone and the glue that kept us going was the faith in one another, the hope for another day and the love we all shared with your amazing dad. Through the most difficult days we couldn’t help but feel gratitide and relief that we had lived, yet one more day together. We were all truly blessed. Thank you for telling our story. Love, Mom

  8. Brittany Smith says

    I have tears in my eyes from reading your blog. This is an exact replica of my mothers life. We lost her to cancer 4 years ago. I am going to forward this to my family, Thank you for touching our lives today.
    Brittany Smith (Zachary Smith’s wife)

    • says

      Brittany, you and the entire Smith family have been so sweet during this hard time. Thank you for all your words of kindness and support. I don’t know if you know this, but Zach is the one who told me the Superman story awhile back when I told him my dad was sick. It was one that my family all loved and we really held on to it in my dad’s final days. Such a gift. Thinking of you and your mom too.


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