As children, we get mad at our parents over silly things like not getting an ice cream from the truck in the neighborhood. We are disappointed when we can't get the name brand item, just this once. We say stupid things like " I hate you!" when we have no idea what the word hate even means. They send us to our rooms when they've had all they can take from us or they might even take away our favorite toy. As we grow older, we think to ourselves, that was one messed up childhood, my parents were so mean sometimes. Perhaps if you have children yourself, you might start to realize they were doing the best they could, trying to teach you the ways of the world. But it's not until after they are gone that you really start to realize everything that they did for you.
|Taken July 4th in my garden|
Over the last two years since Mom died, we've grown quite close. I would visit with him almost daily. Sometimes going for a drive in my little car or maybe wash the hearse together. He was so proud of my new hearse. Other times we might go to the park where he'd always want to walk just a little further than he probably should have. He loved nature. And still other times, we'd sit quietly watching Reba on television, not saying a word. He loved the red-heads and that girl can sing too!
As I stated last week, my father was a pioneer in Chiropractic care. He cared deeply and honestly for all people without prejudice. (Something that was rare for men of his age) He was soft spoken but usually had something to say when he spoke. Even if it was only for us to "Go tell your mother she wants you!" He loved his Dr.Pepper and A&W Rootbeer. He believed that Vicks Vapo Rub was a cure for almost anything that a good adjustment wouldn't fix. He lived a clean life and knew that good livin' was long livin'.
He was over 9 years older than my mother and for that reason alone, we all believed that he would be the first to go. Although we foolishly couldn't imagine a life without either of them. As it turned out, his oldest son died before him, followed shortly by my mother. And to be honest, if she had not gone first, I doubt that I would have gotten to know this wonderful man like I have. He was always in her shadow letting her have the spotlight. Then when she left this world, she left him a lost, lonely man searching for a reason to keep going. I walked into their apartment a few months after and found him in his pajamas staring out across the lake from the chair that had been my mothers. He had not been down to eat for a day and the caregivers were worried about him. In that moment, I knew I had to move him out of there and surround him with family and people that love him and would ensure he got what he needed every day. I was fortunate to eventually find a great caregiver named Dawn that would come every morning. ("Dawn comes in the morning", we would tell him as we put him to bed) He and her hit it off right from the start. She proved to be invaluable to his care over the next 10 months. My sister, a certified chef made sure we had nutritious meals everyday and between her and I we made sure his evenings were filled with activities and kept to a schedule. A schedule that always included ice cream and Reba.
I learned so much about this quiet man over the past two years. And while going through pictures, I started to notice him in photos I had seen hundreds of times. I noticed his facial expressions, his posture, his impeccable sense of dress. I noticed how happy he was in every picture. He was happy because we were happy. His true pride was his family.
As things took a turn for the worst a week ago Sunday, I remember him saying to me, "I don't know what's happening. I don't feel right." On Saturday before that, he was a little off, but nothing to really take note of. Nothing too out of the ordinary. But by Monday, it was clear that this was the point of no return. We took our turns sitting by his side. He was never left alone. This man who gave us so much in his life, was not going through this alone. At times, we had several of my siblings gathered in his room recalling some of the good memories that we had, hoping that he could hear what we were saying. His caregiver, Dawn spent countless hours with us that whole week. Then, on that quiet Tuesday night, he and I were together listening to the quiet (like he liked to do so often), he took one last short breath and was gone.
I'm now left wondering if he really knew, just how much I appreciate everything he did for not only me and my siblings, but for all the people of the world. He set a fine example of what a man should be. I can only hope that I can measure up to his legacy.
In memory of my father, I will be advancing my career in the funeral business to a higher level where I can help others going through a loss of a loved one on a more personal level. But I'll write more about that later.
For now, I will grieve my own loss and learn from a great man how to give more and take less.
A Video Tribute to my Dad - click to watch