Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Two Weeks Bring

It's been two weeks since my beloved Daddy passed on. The past two weeks have been filled with tears, pain, laughter, joy, and heartbreak. My 6 siblings and I have bonded to try to fill the void left in our lives. The most important thing in my mind is to make sure my Mom has company and is not feeling the pain of loneliness. I cannot stand the thought that she would have to be all alone after 47 years of marriage to my Dad. They forged a life together that few succeed in building. My own view of my marriage is based on theirs. If I can be half as successful, I know that I have a strong and committed marriage. My son and I have spent time with Mom to make sure she knows that she is not alone in all this. He has brought her joy and he has helped her to laugh.

My siblings and I have also forged a new bond. We are really doing all we can to keep together as my father would want. He was always about family and always about his kids. That is what was magical about our family and how we grew up. To honor our father, we are sharing 72 memories of my father - one per day, for each year of his life. It is such a blessing to be able to read what my siblings have been sharing. It is also giving us a way to share and remember Dad as he wanted to be remembered; Full of life, never compromising, loving and bigger than life.

To further share, I wanted to post about things I learned from my Daddy:

1. Respect all living things. My father loved animals, babies, and people. He would not stand for us having any intolerance or being cruel in any way.

2. Obey the Rules. Growing up, we had plenty of rules, but the ones Dad most wanted us to follow were those set forth by the law and society. One time I picked a crab apple from someone's tree and Dad made me walk back and apologize for stealing. It was a lesson for sure.

3. Love is endless. Despite the fact that loved ones have passed on, Dad always made sure we knew that it was possible to love them. He also made sure we always knew of his love even if we didn't see eye to eye.

4. Family means everything. No matter what happened in our lives, Dad was always there. Shows, games, whenever and whatever we needed he tried to give us. Even when we were dirt poor, we would take family trips and spend that time together. Because of that, I cherish family trips today.

5. Only God knows the outcome. When Dad first got sick, I was devastated. I sat and held his hand in the hospital and told him I would use all my strength to help him fight it. He gently reminded me that I cannot control it any more than he could. Only God knew what was going to happen so it was important to live each day to the fullest. His calmness helped calm me down as he faced his own mortality.

6. Do not fret over what you cannot control. Goes with #5. Since we cannot control the outcome, there is no need to lose sleep or waste energy on it. Dad took what came his way and just dealt with it the way he knew how. His strength of character is what I loved the most during this time.

7. Be slow to anger, but get angry when you need to. Dad would get angry. Boy would he get angry! But he never got angry for no reason. He always had a reason, and it was usually justified. I didn't always think so, but looking back I realize that he had to be pushed and when he was, he pushed back. My Dad also would get angry about things that he didn't like that local government would do. After his retirement, he was a constant fixture at the township and school board meetings, making sure his voice was heard. I admire him so for this.

8. Honesty and integrity are more important than money. Dad had an awesome work ethic. He would go to work early, never be in a rush to leave, and would pay special care to what he produced. He told us it didn't matter how much money we made in life, just that we made a difference in what we did, no matter what it was.

9. Be the first to arrive and the last to leave at work. Again, Dad's work ethic was second to none. He would sometime complain about the "younger" people not being as diligent. When he became shop steward, he tried to show the team that he was as good as his word. Dad also was on time, arriving 30 mintues before work so he could spend time drinking his coffee and reading his paper. He would leave after everyone else, making sure everything was done correctly.

10. Success is a happy family. Dad's greatest joy and pride was his family. Even if we didn't have the best job or make the most money, he made sure we understood that it was family that would give us our greatest source of love and support. Towards the end, he wanted nothing but time together as a family. He wanted to be together, laughing and loving, and we did that for him.

We were also all there at the end. Huddled around his hospital bed, 14 people crammed into an ICU room, telling him that we loved him and that we would continue his legacy of love. We each took turns saying goodbye, holding his hand, telling him it was ok to go. My own words seemed hollow in my ears, but I could not let him leave this earth without telling him how much he meant to me. And I sang to him. One of the things Dad was proud of in me was my singing. I haven't really allowed myself to sing for many years, but I felt compelled to sing one last song to him as he struggled to let go:

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dew fall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day.


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