It was two weeks ago yesterday we shared a toast with my in-laws. "Cheers! To a happy life - and growing families!"; my brother-in-law and his wife had recently welcomed a new baby into their lives, and we had adopted a lab pup. My in-laws had driven over an hour to our new home for the express purpose of helping us to complete the installation of a fence surrounding our property for our new doggy. Dad helped Jim outside while I went for a jog with Kyla, and Mom took little Jimmy to hunt for some garage sales (per little Jimmy's request). Mom and Jimmy arrived back with a few garage sale finds and a bag of various ice cream treats which we all promptly savored. Although it was just a little family work day, it was beautiful - truly a happy time in life.
No one had any inkling that only two days later, while playing basketball on his lunch break, Dad would die of a heart attack. The news was hard to even fathom at first as Dad had always been extremely active and busy - never one to enjoy sitting around for long. Despite our shock, while hugging and weeping with family in the ER, the reality of it all began to set in.
The next week or more was a whirlwind of activity. Making funeral arrangements, trying to remember everyone who should be notified and receiving guests. To say that it was overwhelming would be an understatement. Most of the time we were all so busy fielding phone calls or making them, we didn't have a whole lot of time to connect with the sad reality facing us.
Still there were some quiet moments shared together where we, our closest family and friends, shared warm memories and tears.
Dad was a fun person to be around. There always seemed to be this energy about him - definitely a magnetic personality. He always had something fun to say: most frequently something to encourage, something to bring a smile to your face, or some useful bit of information to help out. There were a few rather humorous occasions wherein his useful tidbits of info, to the untrained ear, could seem rather abrupt; but to those of us who knew him best, it was a great point of humor to tease that Nanny was speaking through him (Nanny was his mom, frequently blunt and notably rough around the edges). Dad was one of those people determined to see the best in every situation - an eternal optimist. He pulled himself from a cruel and violent childhood, to the life he chose - a life filled with compassion and understanding. I've oftentimes marveled at how he had become such a kind individual, having been raised under such trying circumstances.
We grieve not only for our own loss, but for the loss others feel. We grieve for mom, widowed at only 56, having lost her life partner and best friend. We grieve for all the grandkids from the oldest ones who will have the most memories of their Grandpa and be forced to accept his departure, to the youngest, little Miss Payton Grace, who arrived early enough for Grandpa to see her, but who will never experience his hugs and kisses. We grieve for our own children who have seemingly been shortchanged on a wonderful Grandpa. We grieve that Dad's influence in our lives will now be limited only to experiences we've had in the past with him - memories we hope will be recalled when we most need them. We grieve the loss of a wonderful man. Husband. Father. Grandfather. Brother. Friend.
Although this tragic loss weighs heavily upon our hearts, we know this was not a chance happening. While we can feel confident and sure of our lives and the choices we make, the reality is no one knows what lies beyond the present moment. Dad oftentimes would comment "Lord willing, I'll. . ." do such and such; he always seemed very aware of his own mortality. Though we cannot see "the big picture," our Father does, and he knew before Dad's conception exactly how many days and breaths he would have. It's encouraging to me to know that life is not just a collection of random events, it's a plan; we are not left alone, but rather we are led in this journey of life.
Dear Dad, We miss you, but we are so glad for the time we could share with you. What a wonderful influence you've had on our lives. Thank you for all the love and patience you showed to us. You were a wonderful father. We'll love you as long as we live, and there will always be a special place in our hearts for you.