Thursday, February 27, 2014

In Loving Memory of My Dad

What follows may be one of my more emotional posts, so if you see some words that are misspelled (not uncommon for me) or phrases just seem a little off it's like because my fingers have slipped on wet keys or the screen was just unreadable through some tear clouded eyes.

I received a loving text (likely a group text considering the verbiage) this morning from my dear sister-in-law Cheri that my father had peacefully slipped away.

"5:25 am Dad/Grandad has left us... He passed away peacefully.
Have a blessed day!"

At first my heart was nonplused, knowing the day was fast approaching and receiving updates from Mom daily on his prognosis. Dad had battled Parkinson's Disease since I was in high school and while he fought valiantly it is such a debilitating disease, stripping the individual of all dignity, that his release from this life comes as a mercy from heaven. As I informed my family (Liesl still doesn't know as she left early for school), the news was met with varying degrees of emotion. My youngest son, Jaden, was more like me (like me in almost ever way), calm, collected and nearly immovable. My oldest daughter, Savannah, was a wreck, crying almost immediately. Rebecca was misty eyed and comforting, looking to me to see how to best console me. Austin just went back to sleep.

Driving Jaden to school, I called Mom and talked through the details of Dad's passing. I was looking over at Jaden from time to time and noticed he was forcing his stoicism, holding back his emotions. I could see the same conflict that Savannah was openly expressing. They weren't particularly close with their Grandad as distance and opportunity kept a more close relationship from forming, as did the disease itself. But they both felt a loss, family leaving this earth life forever, and know that mourning is a part of a natural response to death.

So where do I stand in my emotional level? Well, I've spent the morning at home after taking our big dog to the vet where he was diagnosed with kennel cough. Sulking? Not really. Hiding out? Not exactly. I've received a few messages of consolation and it truly helps. Knowing there are loved ones that care, pray and think on my loss helps me to properly mourn as I feel lifted rather than being trampled.

A friend offered the suggestion that "a man is strong but a good man is also gentle." Those that know me know that I'm less concerned with the former but the advice is sound. And as such, here I go at opening up a bit.

Dad lived to nearly 80 years and he was preceded in death by both parents. He outlived all of his children and his younger brother which is a blessing.

Dad raised me to be honest, hard working, charitable and giving. He taught me through example and I don't know a harder working individual. While he wasn't a perfect example in all things, I've taken from him key characteristics that have served me well so far in life.

Dad was the earliest coach I can remember. He was my soccer coach, having never played the game himself, for six years and had such a profound impact on more than just me. A friend of mine mentioned to me what a profound impact Dad had on him through his formative years. He felt that Dad was a great mentor to him, teaching him principles beyond just soccer. At that moment, having coached a few years myself, I realized I wanted to be like Dad and be the type of mentor players would feel blessed to have had in their life.

Dad was patient with me. I never really enjoyed working with all of the tools he had. He even threw a "tool time party" for my bachelor party along with my father-in-law as I was tool-less and lacking interest. Growing up he tried teaching me the fundamentals of car repair and I merely sniffed at his offers. He was always involved in my scouting, teaching me how to properly sand the myriad of pinewood derby cars we built together and won together. He set up shop for my Eagle project in his work space in the garage and for weeks helped me see the value of constant sanding and varnishing. I think I still have wood chips permanently stuck in my nose from those days when I was 13. But Dad was there for me.

Dad, at his core, had a relationship with God and showed his love for Jesus through his service. He instilled in me a faith that I still cultivate and have passed on to my children. I wouldn't classify him as a spiritual giant, just a spiritual foundation that was more or less immovable. 

He wasn't perfect in raising me. Not even close. He was just perfect for what I needed him to be. I needed to understand relationships, arguments, remorse from making silly mistakes and forgiveness. He demonstrated all of these and when it was all said and done, he had those that loved him dearly by his side, cheering him on, loving him until his last breath. 

I'm grateful I was able to say goodbye to Dad a few weeks ago. Mom had incredible forethought to bring all of the kids home to say goodbye. She had wanted to do so for a while but I'm glad I went when I did. I think it was good for Dad as well. He perked up a bit before making his final journey home.

I love Dad's big grin - taken before I left on my mission
There are certainly questions that remain. What is he doing now? Who is he with? How happy is he about his progress through life? Here's what I believe. I'm positive Dad is in a spiritual paradise where the pains that wracked his disease ridden body are no more. I believe he is with family, hugging him and congratulating him on his journey through life. I believe he watches over us and is cheering us on, wishing us well, helping us to heal and live a holy life. I believe he is still coaching, mentoring, and probably yelling at a few paths in our opposition. I'm grateful I'm sealed to my parents and that one day I'll be with him again. 
I believe Jesus has likely already taken the time to welcome him home and thank him for being valiant in his mortal, probationary state and encouraging him to be patient for the resurrection. Oh what a glorious day that shall be. Dad will have his body back, full capable, free from pain, no back aches, no rolled ankles, no shakes, no depression.  A perfected body. I'm sure the separation from a body is a little strange for him but what a relief for him as well.

I'm grateful my kids had a few opportunities to interact with Dad. I saw my grandfather (Dad's dad) a few times before his death but didn't really know him. I hope to change that with my kids, at least in memorium. 

Baby Jaden with his Grandad

Grandad playing in the pool with Savannah and Jaden

Grandad taking his from the big guns

Grandad enjoying good conversation with Savannah while Jaden cheeses

Was Dad a perfect man? No. He had his trials, his challenges and slip ups. But he was perfect for me. I love you Dad! Save me a spot in the Kingdom!

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