An important date on my family’s calendar is Nov. 3, 2002. It’s the day Dad died. He died in his sleep.
After talking to the family, I called my relatives in Atlanta to give them the news. The rest of Sunday was spent tying up loose ends at work, getting my plane ticket and flying to Pittsburgh.
Dad was never afraid of the great beyond. Dad used to say when your number’s up, it’s up.
When the Almighty taps you on the shoulder and says it’s time to go, it’s time to go. He used to tell me that when I was waiting for the plane in Pittsburgh to take me back to Georgia. I wasn’t a white-knuckle flyer, but I didn’t like putting my life in the hands of somebody else.
Dad was part of the Greatest Generation, the guys and women from World War II.
Mom said Dad was never afraid of death. It was tough saying goodbye for many reasons. We did not have a chance to prepare for it. He was gone in the blink of an eye.
Dad never complained about any of his illnesses or injuries. He was very stoic about it.
Mom asked me to deliver the eulogy. It was tough writing it, but even tougher delivering it. I tried to put myself in the third person, so I could hold it together.
A few weeks ago, my friend asked me a question that was really thought-provoking. He wondered what my Dad would say about my current situation, recovering from a stroke.
I could imagine him visiting me every day, keeping my spirits up and challenging me to do better and to hang in there with the therapy and to get better and to improve my physical well-being.
Dad would say things such as when life hands you apples, make applesauce. If I would complain about life not being fair, how I was taking care of myself these past 11 years and yet I had another stroke, Dad would say something like, “Nobody said life was supposed to be fair.”
As much as I hate to admit it, he was right. It’s up to me to solve this problem on my own. I shouldn’t have to depend on other people to solve my predicament. Maybe at this late stage of my life, I should be figuring out these things for myself.
It has been rough sledding the past four months. It’s been a tough time, but I remember a time 17 years ago at the funeral Mass at St. Benedict’s when I gazed upon his flag-draped casket, preparing my eulogy.
In later years, Dad used to refer to himself as a nice fellow. We always laughed at that because even though he was a nice fellow, he did have a temper. I have to say, Dad never got mad at anything he didn’t feel was justified. He came by his red hair honestly. If Dad was mad, there was really a good reason for it.
Dad was a complex man. Every time you thought you had him figured out, he would do something that would change your expectations of him.
Dad loved his family, his faith and his country. Like our president, Dad shot from the hip.
You always knew where you stood with him.
I always wanted Dad to be proud of me. I know that on many occasions, I fell short.
But Dad never let it show. He always said, “It was no sin to make a mistake as long as you learn from it.”
That may have been one of his best sayings. I know I’ll see Dad somewhere at the end of the road. I still have a lot I want to accomplish.