Here are the words that I never wanted to write:
My dad passed away this past Friday night at 9:40 p.m.
He fought valiantly and with dignity.
The single hardest decision of my life was when we switched to comfort care and hospice. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted him to get better. I didn’t want to give up on him. But there came a time when it was clear that he wasn’t going to get better, and he deserved more than the absolute agony he was in.
My sister, Suzette, and I were with him around the clock, and I was lucky enough to be with him and hold his hand and tell him that I loved him as he left this earth.
Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I am a daddy’s girl. I was named after him. I took a lot of pride in that, and I also felt a responsibility to measure up to him.
As a child, I went fishing with him most Saturday mornings, not because I loved fishing but because I loved him and wanted to spend time with him.
Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about what I learned from him — either from his words of advice or by watching his deeds and actions. As a tribute to the man that I respected and loved so much, here are some of the gems.
- Life is short. Don’t waste it by worrying about stuff you can’t control.
- Be present in ALL the moments of your life; not just the “special” ones. No one knew how to find more joy and contentment in the small, quiet moments of life than my dad did. I think this was one of the reasons that he was happy anywhere.
- Be gracious and kind. He never ever said these words to me, but in his last days in the hospital when he was in absolute agony, the nurses would come in to tend to him and change the bed covers or help him sit up and he would grimace from the pain and often moan, but he thanked each and every person the same way: “thank you for everything that you are doing for me.”
- When something is bothering you, either do something about it or accept it. He first told me that when I was 20 years old and complaining about something that had happened at work. I had complained about it for three days and he finally said, “Either do something about it or quit complaining. You are making yourself – and everyone around you – miserable.” (I might not have really appreciated that then as much as I do now.)
- If you value something, stand for it. If you don’t stand for it, you don’t value it.
- Trust yourself. When I was in my early 30s, I was going through a hard time and he said, “When are you going to learn to trust yourself? You are smart. You are capable. Stop trusting in others more than you trust yourself.”
- “Be excellent at what you do and work to make yourself indispensable.” Those were the words he said to me when I started my very first job at a local Wendy’s when I was still in high school. It was a brand-new store and the practice was to hire more employees than they would need so we all knew that several people would be let go soon after opening. Not only was I kept on as an employee, but I got as many hours as I wanted every week, which was 40.
- Cooking is not about putting food on the table; cooking is a way to show that you love. He was a cook in the Navy, and he taught us all how to cook. What I learned from watching him though is that the most important ingredient in any recipe is the love and care that you put into it.
- Find ways to have fun. He was a prankster and he loved to laugh. Even up to his final days, he would try to joke with the nurses and the doctors.
- Be genuine.
I’m sure that over the next few months, I’ll think of dozens more. But for now, my brain and my heart are tired. I keep re-living the moment when he went into A-fib and he squeezed my hand and said, “Please don’t leave me.” I squeezed his hand back and said, “I’ll never leave you.” And, I didn’t. I hope and pray that that gave him some comfort and peace. Maybe at some point, it will bring the same to me.
I love and miss you, Dad.
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