Praying for Dad

father daughter
Father-Daughter Dance from my wedding. *Photo by ES Photography

For many, father’s day is a time to acknowledge and honor our fathers, and this year, it is particularly meaningful to my family. After my dad, Alan Skobin, survived an emotional battle with a rare form of pancreatic cancer, I am happy and relieved that we get yet another opportunity to celebrate such an extraordinary man.

When life gives my dad lemons, he isn’t the type that is satisfied with making the same old lemonade you can get at any neighborhood stand. He is the one who turns them into world-class lemon meringue pie. He lives by the motto of, “Above and beyond,” and always elevates every moment to the next level. For example, he began his involvement with law enforcement as a teenager in the police explorers program, and many would have stopped there. My dad, however, showed his commitment and loyalty to protecting and serving our community, and through the years, finished as police commissioner. My dad takes this philosophy when it comes to parenting, too. When I attended Northwestern University, he wasn’t content just wearing a purple “Northwestern Dad” t-shirt. Instead, he nearly bought out every Northwestern retailer, so that he could sport purple pride from every inch of his body, every corner of his office, and every crevice of our home. That’s how proud he was.

This mentality and outlook on life is also the reason why my dad has so many friends. In fact, my dad is a professional friend collector. Everywhere we go, he’s either making new friends or running into old ones. Years ago, while walking down the streets of Amsterdam on a father-daughter adventure, my dad heard someone in the distance shouting, “Hey, Alan!” Yes, even clear across the world, people look for opportunities to call him out as a friend. His old friends, like my father-in-law, Larry, know that he does anything to bring them joy. Since Larry loves all things Chicago Cubs, my dad once arranged for Larry’s favorite ballplayer, Ernie Banks, to join us for dinner. My dad’s reward was the grin from ear to ear plastered on Larry’s face.

*First published on the “Jewish &” blog at

The truth is that I am never more thankful for my dad’s army of friends than when he is sick, because as history has shown, they play a significant role in his recovery. A bit of a medical mystery, my dad has beaten the odds countless times due to a combination of outstanding doctors, swift and good decisions, and the thoughts and prayers from his friends and family. I remember one of the earlier times we dealt with one of dad’s medical obstacles. He had recently been diagnosed with an unusual and dangerous brain tumor that needed to be removed, but the surgery presented more risks than we could count. Every step of the way, we were told that he might not survive, and if he did, we should expect a completely different man than we knew and loved. Leading up to the surgery, the phone rang off the hook and the doorbell chimed endlessly, as all of his friends shared their well wishes and prayers for a speedy recovery. Regardless of differing religious beliefs, “We’re praying for you, Alan” replaced good-bye as the normal send off. I don’t know for sure if G-d heard all these prayers and wishes, but my dad sure did, and at recovery’s toughest moments, they reminded him that he was important to many. Miraculously, he recovered from this medical challenge with only minor side effects.

This year, as my dad took on the beast of pancreatic cancer, my brother and I used the powers of social media to alert my dad’s army of supporters about his diagnosis and progress. Ordinarily, we don’t fancy ourselves social media over-sharers, but because prayers and general good thoughts had such significance for my dad with past health issues, we knew it was time to round the masses once again and take the call for prayer and healing to a global scale. With every hospital bed photo or surgical room update we posted, the show of support was astounding. In fact, as my dad awakened from surgery, amazed that he had survived, he groggily exclaimed to my mom, “Can you imagine the power of prayer?” Afterwards, while my dad rested in bed, we read him the online responses, and his spirits lifted as he drifted to sleep.

Pre-surgery photo my brother posted on social media.
Pre-surgery photo my brother posted on social media.

It takes a village to battle serious health issues, and sometimes those of us who are acutely supporting the sick need lifting, as well. Many friends commented about the way my mother’s devotion to my dad never once waned, and how she stayed with him in the hospital even when it was unclear how long his stay would be. She made the stiff couch in his room her bed, and literally did not leave him unless my brother or I forced her to go outside for some fresh air and a bite to eat. She wanted to make sure he was never alone, and that she could advocate for him when he wasn’t able to do so on his own. This type of support takes both physical and emotional strength, and just as my dad found his through the prayers and well wishes from his friends and family, so did my mom.

Mom and dad, reaching a recovery milestone by walking around the hospital floor.
Mom and dad, reaching a recovery milestone by walking around the hospital floor.

My role in all of this was also one of strength, as I shouldered the private emotional venting from my parents and family. While they remained optimistic publicly, privately, they feared the worst. Pancreatic cancer isn’t a walk in the park, and they knew that the road ahead would be bumpy. Like the brain tumor, the odds were always against us. I did my best to hold it together for my family, providing a positive voice of reason and assuring them that we were in the care of some of the best specialists and doctors around, including a Northwestern University alumnus. And when recovery was out of my control, I used food to get the job done. I learned quickly that the way to excellent post-operative care was through the stomachs of the nursing staff, and the day after surgery, I stopped at our favorite Cuban bakery to pick up some of the best pastries this side of Havana.

I also prayed. In the thick of this journey, I found myself seeking comfort in the prayers and traditions of Judaism, and never missed a Shabbat service. One of the most poignant moments of Shabbat for me is when the rabbi goes around the room during the mi shebeirach, or prayer for healing, and the congregants voice the names of those who are ill. At one particular service, I was ready to say my dad’s name, but before the rabbi reached me, I heard his name called by someone across the room. It was at that moment that I felt the power of the prayers reaching me, and for the first time, I had myself a good, ugly cry.

Because of my dad’s army, I understand that his significance goes above and beyond his role as father to my brother and me. He is also a loving and faithful husband to my mom, a wise and caring grandfather to his grandbaby, a giving and honest mentor to those who look up to him, and most of all, a good friend to many. This father’s day, as I reflect on the many lives my dad has touched, I will also remember to include the other men who have played a significant role in my life, and grace them with a good thought or a meaningful prayer. After all, you never know who’s listening.

12 Replies to “Praying for Dad”

  1. To my dear Jennifer,
    This is such a tribute to such an incredible father and friend. Your family is like our family and there is nothing we would not do for all of you.
    Our love and blessings go to all of you and we pray and know all will be beautiful for the entire family in the years to come!
    With love,
    Andi & Marc Brauer

  2. Que hermoso sentir reflejas hacia tu padre Jenny, él es un gran ser humano y un guerrero incansable, admiro mucho su tenacidad y su temple de acero, Dios lo conserve muchos años más con ustedes, Dios lo siga bendiciendo, un abrazo muy fuerte para el en este día del padre y para tu hermano Jeff, saludos a todos, son una familia excelente!!!!

    Adriana Valdez

  3. Oh Lord Jenny, I am in tears. Wonderful, wonderful tribute towards your dad and this fathers day. Stay strong daughter,

  4. Dear Jenny, what a beautiful tribute to your Dad on Father’s Day! He must be so proud of you…
    As you know your Mom and I grew up together in Cuba and ever since my husband RIP, and I met your Dad when you and your brother were little. we knew what a great person he was. I was very happy that my dearest childhood friend had found such a great man.
    I must also tell you that he found a great woman. Romi is and has always been a great daughter, granddaughter, sister, and the greatest friend anybody can have. I can attest to that because we went through a lot together when we were teenagers in Santiago during the Castro’s dictatorship.
    Alan and Romi deserve each other: that’s why God put them together in the same path, and I’m so happy that He has blessed them with such wonderful children.
    Your Dad and Mom are always in my prayers. Love you all with all my heart, Tia Vivian

    1. Querida Vivian,
      Thank you very much for the kind words and the prayers. I know my mom values your friendship a great deal.

  5. My dearest Jenny,
    You are the most thoughtful, caring, loving daughter I’ve ever seen. You are the daughter every parent wishes for. Your Dad and I are so proud of you. The support and love you gave both of us during those difficult times were so greatly appreciated. I don’t know if I would have been able to go through it all without you and your brother by my side. I know this has touched Dad deep in his heart, and I know he will always treasure this article. This tribute to Dad is not only beautiful, but heart warming. You and your brother have always been the sunshine of our lives. My wonderful daughter I love you forever and always.

  6. Jenny,
    How beautiful. You brought tears to our eyes. We feel privileged to be some of the special friends of your family and are so proud to have you as a family member. We love you all and hope this Father’s Day and weekend brings you all the special joy and happy remembrances for all of you. Grandpa also shares all this love from his special place. Our hearts are full of pride for all the good naches that have come your way.
    All our love

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