On Wednesday Dax Shepard posted an essay on his Tumblr about his father, who recently passed away from cancer. At the end of the post, he shares a photo of his father with his hand on the belly of Shepard’s pregnant wife, Kirsten Bell.
“She lifted her shirt up and he put his hand on her swollen stomach. He left it there for the better part of an hour. He was smiling from ear to ear, sitting contently, unable to put together a sentence, but still capable of connecting to the new family member we were creating.”
Sadly, Shepard’s father didn’t get to see the birth—he passed away on December 31. “But that didn’t get in the way of him meeting the new baby,” Shepard writes. “It was an emotional and triumphant moment. One I will never forget. If I live to be a thousand, I will still be in debt to my wife for giving him that one last thrill.”
And I'm in debt to Dax Shepard for sharing such an unusually honest and moving portrait of a real, complex relationship. Seriously, someone pass the tissues.
Shepard’s father was a recovering alcoholic and spent 25 years in Alcoholics Anonymous. As a result he “accumulated the most colorful, caring group of friends you’d ever want to see,” and when Shepard struggled to travel between his work commitments in L.A. and his father in Detroit, his dad “was never alone. Not for one second.”
The two men weren’t always close, but his diagnosis had brought them together. “We had taken on this cancer project together. He chose me to deal with all the doctors and creditors and landlords. It was the only project we ever teamed up on. We never built a tree house or a soapbox derby car together, but you would have never known it by watching us tear through chemo decisions and radiation plans. We were two great minds with one single thought: get into the end zone gracefully.”
As his health deteriorates, Shepard writes that his father never lost his spirit, chowing down on his favorite foods, “he was like a perpetually stoned, pregnant woman,” and when he did lose his appetite, he flirted with the nurse when she inserted his catheter. “Here was a man, a bona-fide food addict, who had lost his will to eat. He couldn’t walk, and up until then, had stopped talking. But here he was . . . ready to party. It was his only vital sign still thriving. It was indomitable; impervious to the suite of diseases ravaging his body.”
In the end, Shepard's father passed away without pain. “Our first project together was a total success. My only regret is that we didn’t take on more together.”
In a time of severe celebrity baby mania, (What will Kim and Kanye name their baby? Will Jessica Simpson ever lose the baby weight? What stroller will the Duchess of Cambridge choose?) Dax Shepard's heart-wrenching story about losing his father and the two of them coming together over Bell's pregnancy really puts things in perspective.
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Kristen Bell's "Awkward" First Date with Dax Shepard