Like small children, there’s something within us always longing to go home – to return, even briefly, to our parents. Whether we are 6 or 60, we have that desire. I am very blessed to be able to go home to my mother on any given day. I haven’t, however, been able to go home to my father for quite some time. My life (along with my mother’s and brother’s) changed forever on this April day years ago when, without warning, my beloved father died. Life changed with the news of the moment during that spring break before Easter Sunday. I was a freshman in high school and my brother was a 4th grader. Our dad was away on a business trip in Colorado when we received an unexpected visit from his best friend and colleagues delivering the news no one in the world ever wants to give – our father suffered a major heart attack in the middle of the night and died alone in his hotel room.
His death certainly was not characteristic of his life. He was very much a people person – the devoted husband, the caring father, the gracious host, the silly cousin (as his cousin, Anthony, strongly attests!). When I recall his voice, I hear his laugh. He had a way of making everyone around him feel comfortable, and he was known for his fun demeanor and unique sense of humor. To this day, when I see someone who knew my father well, I consistently hear, “Oh, the stories I have about your father!” He was quite the practical jokester. An example ongoing joke between my mom and dad: they took turns hiding this hideously hairy, riducuously realistic toy mouse from each other and tryed to ‘one-up’ the other into finding the most inconspicuous place that would drive the most reaction. He knew what it meant to hold on to the little moments in life. At the same time, he was a man who took great pride in his work while trying not to take himself too seriously.
I have no regrets for lost joys – I replay the good memories, am very grateful for the precious time, and remember the love wholeheartedly. “The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein illustrates a significant life lesson I learned from my father’s death:
“The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein
It is a fable about a big wheel, a fabulous wheel, the fastest wheel of all. It outraced every other wheel and took a great deal of joy and pleasure out of doing that. One day it was wheeling along having the greatest time when it hit a bump and lost a piece of itself. Now, with a chunk missing, the wheel went clunking along, struggling to keep up with the other wheels.
The wheel felt extremely sad. It started journeying great distances in search of its missing piece. As the wheel traveled it grew tired and lay down on a field of grass. It saw the white clouds against the blue sky and heard the birds sing. It began to see life’s beauty everywhere.
Some years passed, and finally the wheel found its missing piece. Overjoyed, it made itself whole again and reattached the piece. But something went wrong. The wheel realized that it had actually felt more whole when part of it was missing. The experience of loss had guided the wheel into a new state of awareness and fulfillment. The wheel had learned how to turn loss into life.
I look at myself in the mirror and sometimes I see his eyes. I know I have a guardian angel always watching over my family, and he will live on beneath everything we do. He would be extremely proud, for instance, of his first grandchild’s outstanding achievements, and be completely overjoyed over his second granddaughter who was born on his birthday!!!!!!!!
John Mayer wrote in his song, “Daughters:” ‘Fathers, be good to your daughters. They will love like you do.‘ I’ve learned that the most important thing every father teaches his daughter to do is to love completely and truly. My “anything for TC” father certainly taught me that. I’ve asked myself if I am who I am . . . what I am . . . how I am . . . because my father lived or because my father died. The answer, I’ve decided, is both!! My father taught my mother, brother, and me an important lesson right through the end of his life here. His death forced us to learn how to survive under the most difficult of situations, how to approach life’s unexpected turns, and how to turn loss into life.
In memory of Daddy!!
➔ ➔ ➔ The glue of the family, see my post celebrating my mother’s unbelievable strength that guided us through the difficult time of my father’s death: My Mom, Still the Coolest Mom Around