Five years ago this weekend, in the early morning hours of Sunday, my father passed from his life of pain into Heaven. It was expected. He’d been under Hospice care for a week, at a nursing home. He couldn’t communicate very well, if at all. Struggling to be comfortable. Struggling to breath. Struggling to live. The call came in around 2 in the morning. “Your Dad is dying”. I didn’t make it there in time to say good-bye. At peace…finally.
By the time I came along in 1966 (I was an “oops baby”) he and Mom had two sons ahead of me. The closest in age is Brian, seven years my senior while Dan’s at the top of the batting order being eleven years older than me. By the summer of 1977 I was pretty much an only child. Just me, Dad and Mom. I got spoiled. (if you couldn’t tell that already…) I didn’t wear my brothers hand-me-downs like my next closest brother did. It was Dad who told me repeatedly “You should be a comedian!!” He was always telling us boys how proud he was of us, our wives, our children and how much he loved us and Mom.
Dad was ahead of his time. He communicated really well. Part Archie Bunker, part Mister Rogers, Dad could let you know exactly how he felt. Sometimes bluntly (that guy is as worthless as tits on a boar) or softly when I was old enough to drive myself to parties where prior to leaving for the night he’d square up with me, look me in the eyes and tell me “If you need a ride home tonight…call us. WE LOVE YOU.” I took that seriously. I had a reputation as being a “mama’s boy” in high school. When you’ve got parents as cool as mine…YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT.
Sometime in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s all of us were at Mom and Dad’s for Christmas. All three sons and their families at the same time. Dad and Mom were loving this day. In the tree there were three envelopes. One for each son, a letter in each. I started to read mine, but really didn’t READ it until a day or two later. It was nice. I filed it away in my dresser drawer. I might want it someday.
As we approached the day leading up to Dad’s visitation and funeral I had a strong feeling that I should share the letter that he had given me many Christmas’ ago. I put a copy of it in my pocket and went off to his visitation. I ran into his Pastor, a lady who farmed with her husband in a nearby community. “They’re good people” Dad used to say of them. I gave her the letter and said something along the lines of “if you think this will apply to tomorrows sermon…feel free to use it.” She took it without looking at it, or commenting.
At Dad’s funeral the next day things were progressing along as well as could be expected when the Pastor pulled out Dad’s letter and read it aloud. While I’m glad that I shared it, it was extremely hard to hear it being read and not become emotional. Here it is:
THOUGHTS AND MEMORYS OF THE THREE
GUYS THAT MEAN THE MOST TO ME
Dear Daniel…I’ve loved you the most because you were our first born. You were the beginning of a marriage, a fulfillment of our Love for each other. You held us together through our first years, the first apartment in Furth Germany, our first mode of transportation, FEET. You were new, BOY, we were too. You were the prototype model. You are one of a kind, and you are OURS.
Dear Brian…I’ve loved you the most because you were the center of our family, a tough position. I believe you’re stronger because of it. Your clothes were someone else’s, as were most things. You were the one we started to realize that you were not made of eggs and had a personality of your own. You came at a time of life style change and marriage routine. You were the love of our ambitious years. Our Love for you is SPECIAL.
Dear Richard…I’ve loved you the most because while your Mother and I have grown more experienced we’ve found that things in the beginning thought to be important aren’t necessarily so. Generally endings are sad, but we are not sad, you give us much happiness. You are our link with the past; dates, girls, ballgames, cars, beer, and troubles, and our hope of the future. You’ve quickened our step, lightened our heart and straightened our shoulders and given us a humor that maturity doesn’t provide. You are our Love of Life.
We miss Dad dearly. If there’s a lesson, a take-a-way, from his letter its that you should let your loved ones know how you feel about them. Whether in spoken word, a letter that gets stashed away in a dresser drawer or some other means. Say it. Write it down. Whatever. Do it. They’ll want to hear it. If not today…eventually.