The wisest man I ever knew His wisdom shone through in the words that he said and often in the words that he chose to leave unsaid
He and mom taught us by example; they allowed us to make some mistakes in order to learn how to handle diversity Yet, they were never too far away to step in when the circumstances dictated The values of family, faith, honesty, integrity and hard work were the core of our lives They knew instinctively how each of us needed to be handled differently yet they did so without showing favoritism
Love surrounded our household and those who crossed its threshold - even when we were (and are) miles apart) They kept us close while still giving us room to grow and make our own choices It wasn't important whether we chose to go on to higher education or straight into the workforce What was important to them was that whatever road we chose to pursue we do so wholeheartedly
We gave them grief and heartaches over the years and in return they gave us love and support Together they created a loving family passing their values down to yet another generation 49 years of marriage has its ups and downs and they showed us that marraige takes hard work but that with it and with love it is worth every ounce of effort put forth
Life threw us a curve worse than any we ever had to face Easter was a day of joy and celebration; laughter and happiness surrounded by family and friends Just several days later undeniable pain entered our lives - physically for dad and emotionally for all
How do you handle the news when the doctor says out of the blue "I'm sorry, it's cancer and it's very aggresive?". Many would choose denial or scream and shout "Why me? Mom and Dad chose to pull together and face it head on as one - united in love - supporting one another day by day and still holding the family together as they always have
We were given 7 weeks to spend with one another - deep in conversations, enjoying laughter, hugs and kisses, sharing tears and learning the hard way how to say goodbye. The stength of their love for one another and dad's faith in his final destination shone through daily despite the pain and the sorrow of the moment
Dad knew exactly what each of us needed to hear from him and because we always knew how much we were loved, he left us with an even greater gift when he left us each with the words: "Not only do I love you but I am proud of who you are and what you have done with your life." What wonderous words to hear from a parent - never having to wonder but knowing with all certainty of their pride in you
His favorite words those last 7 weeks were "Life is a journey not a final destination. I'm just getting ready to begin my final and most important journey. I am at peace with my death and I want you to be too" Each time he said those words I thought "why is it that he is comforting us instead of us comforting him?" A parent till the end - always thinking of his family.
He promised he would not leave us for his final journey until he had spoken to each and every one of us indivudually and have time to hold us in his arms and as usual he was true to his promise.
My last hug and kiss will forever remain vivid in my mind as I said to him through the tears streaking down my cheeks "I'll never see you here on earth again will I daddy?" and true to his typical sense of humor he tried to lighten the moment. "No, next time we see each other it will be in heaven and I will be waiting for you with my arms open wide - BUT, don't you dare think about coming to join me for a very long time"
The day he died he was surrounded by his family and friends and told everyone he loved them; clenching tightly to his beloved wife's hand as everyone else lightly touched him; he took a deep breath; gazed into mom's eyes, smiled and went to be with Jesus - wearing that smile all the way to heaven. Such a peaceful smile that had I not seen it with my own eyes I would never have believed someone could die smiling.
Even in death, he was an exemplary man showing others that death is not the end many believe it to be but rather it is the beginning of what was meant to be. I have never met anyone with such a sense of peace in life as well as in death; leaving us with one final piece of advice: "Life and death are inevitable and are going to happen to all of us one day so be at peace with yourself, your God, your family and friends - let everyone know how much you love them and when you do leave for your final destination you can go home with no regrets, peacefully and surrounded by love".
He died as he lived- loved by all and loving all! What a legacy to leave behind. May just a portion of his wisdom live through me that I can instill in others the peace that he instilled in me.
Now that a little time has passed I know there will be more difficult times ahead as we encounter all the firsts - family functions where his absence will be felt; holidays and birthdays; births and so many other occasions. That's when we all need to rely on our strong upbringing and on one another as mom and dad taught us so often.
Judging from the past few weeks I can see the amazing strength of my mom holding us up as one (even amidst her own suffering and sorrow) - just as she has always done. May her courage and her strength pass on to each of us as well that we can return to her even a portion of what she has given us over the years.
Daddy may no longer be with us physically but he will always live forever in the hearts and minds of each of us, in our children and in the lives of the many people he has so positively impacted over the years.
So, daddy, it's not good bye. It's until we meet again. And until that time may all our actions make you proud. We love you dearly and thank you for all that you have taught us in life and in death. May God hold you tightly in His arms and keep you watching over us until we are once again united. With all of our love!
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