My dad passed away last week.
He was 59 years old.
Dad and I a few years ago.
Dad and Daphne at Christmas.
Monday morning, Daphne had been a pill. She didn’t sleep well and wouldn’t nurse. I remember sitting up in bed while she cried in her bassinet and I just stared at the wall. Sam came in the bedroom and asked ‘You okay?’ I replied “No. This is an indication of how my day will go,” as Daphs screamed bloody murder beside me. I picked her up after a 15 second time out for myself and comforted her back to sleep.
A few hours, screaming matches, and headache medicines later, Daphs finally calmed down enough for me to check my e-mail and start Gilmore Girls. My phone rang. I looked down and saw that it was my mom calling. Ready to start ranting about how rough of a morning, I answered the phone. My mom said “Jenna,” and I knew something was wrong. My heart felt like lead in my chest. It was the same tone of voice she used when she had called to tell me that my grandpa died. She continued “Jenna, your dad has died.”
I broke down into tears. I was sobbing and shaking uncontrollably. Mom mustered up enough strength to tell me they don’t know how he died or any circumstances at that time, but that she’d call me later. We hung up and I just bawled. I tried to call Sam, but couldn’t reach him. I tried a few more times, barely able to see the phone screen and trying hard to control my fingers enough to dial. I called my sister in law and then my father in law. I tried calling Sam again and again, but finally tried calling a friend of mine who works in the same office as him. She told me he was in a weapons training class and she walked over to the classroom to hand him her phone. I told Sam and we talked for a few minutes, and we hung up. My mom called back and said that we needed to get home, get a flight, and that she’d help pay if she could. I started searching flights.
Daphne was quiet during all of this and I praise the Lord for it. I think my sobbing and crying would have drowned hers out and my tears would have bathed her.
I walked over to the side door and just stared out of it for 10 minutes. I had no more tears left. My eyes were swollen and I was just so broken-hearted. I was filled with comfort knowing that we came back for Christmas and he got to meet Daphne.
Sam was able to book a flight back to Kansas for later that same day. Sam came home a few hours later. He walked in the door and came right to me and embraced me. I hugged him tight and was surprised to find tears still available to cry. I thought I had cried them all. We immediately packed.
We received many offers for help from Sam’s squadron, from people watching the house and dogs, to people offering condolences and offering any help we needed. I am very thankful for such a supportive group of people.
We flew home that evening.
Due to the circumstances, we weren’t able to see my dad. He had been gone for a few days before someone found him. I imagine he died of causes related to his deep cough and pneumonia—he had troubles breathing for the past 2 years and coughed so much. Doctors couldn’t seem to figure it out.
We buried him yesterday morning in Bennington in the cold and snow. We placed red roses on his casket and released balloons in his memory afterwards.
We returned to the funeral home and had a memorial service. I wanted to speak, as did my Aunt Shirley (his only sibling) and my brother Stephen. I spoke last. Here is what I said about my dad:
“I love my dad so very much.
Looking back, I feel like I grew up so fast. While I was doing all that growing up, it sure felt like I’d never become an adult. Isn’t that how it goes? You can’t wait to become an adult, only to find that when you finally do become an adult, you wish so dearly you were back to your childhood days where life was simple and the world was yours to take between your hands.
Oh the memories I have of my dad. That man could make me laugh. My dad was never very vocal about his feelings or emotions, but I always knew he loved me in his own way. There are many things I’ll always remember about my dad.
The earliest memory I have of dad is that of his return home from his daily commute from work. I’d see his truck rolling down our long gravel driveway and I’d run outside to meet him at the truck, swinging the driver’s side door open to wrap my arms around him in a “Welcome home” hug. He was always happy to see me, just as I was happy to see him.
Dad would sometimes buy my sister Laura and I small gifts. On one occasion, he came in the back door from work and had his arms behind his back. Laura and I eagerly ran up to him and pestered him to show us his hands. He beamed and pulled out two VHS tapes of Felix the Cat cartoons. Oh boy, we were in hog heaven. We ran to the TV to play our new cartoons. Dad also would buy us girls those little metal adjustable rings with a glass stone on the top when we went to Gibson’s with him to see what new goodies might have arrived. Laura and I would also go to flea markets with him and sort through the junk—err, I mean treasures we’d find there.
I love my dad so very much.
My fondest memories of my dad are the simple ones.
During the summer and into autumn, when the sun would start to set and after dinner was put away, I remember watching my dad very closely. I was watching to see if he was headed to his bureau cabinet to retrieve his pipe and cherry tobacco. On the occasions he did, I would eagerly follow him, like a shadow, to the front porch swing. I’d sit next to him and watch him as he assembled his pipe and loaded it with that delicious smelling cherry tobacco. I remember the smell so vividly, mixed with the clean warm evening air. I’d watch him smoke his pipe – he never inhaled, mind you, and watch that red glow of the burning tobacco, mimicking the faint glow of the fireflies playing tag in the yard. Oh, I have to tell you, friends, spending those evenings with dad on the porch are my dearest memories.
I will always treasure how passionately supportive my dad was of my talents, especially my musical endeavors. I would often shut myself in our computer room and practice my cello or the piano for hours in the evenings and dad would often come in to listen. He’d wrap his arm around me and watch as my fingers would fly all around the piano keys. Between songs, he’d say “You know, I love hearing you play. Keep playing.” And so I would. He was always telling me how much he loved hearing me play.
He attended all of my orchestra concerts and was there supporting me when I would go to contests for my cello and piano. He always wanted me to make a CD of my music and someday I will. We shared a love for music, for Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and especially a love for the cello. We both agreed that the violin was just too high pitched to be a decent instrument and that the cello was the finest one of all.
I remember when I was in junior high, we won some tickets to go to see wrestling at the Bi-center. No, not traditional wrestling…I’m talking about the kind where chairs fly across the stage, men take on strange superhero-like personas, and the whole thing is a theatrical endeavor. We had the worst seats in the building…all the way up in the nosebleed section where we could barely see the stage. Since we couldn’t really see what was going on down there, we made our own commentary. We laughed the whole time about the sweaty men in spandex, who insisted on throwing themselves at each other and faking injuries. It was a joke that followed us for years to come.
Growing up, my dad made sure us kids were well behaved and that we helped mom with house chores. After dinner, he told us to “Red up the table. We don’t want the flies to carry the food off.” When we were finished with folding the laundry on the couch on weekends, if we weren’t swift to put it all away, he’d tell us “Put away the clothes. This isn’t a Chinese laundry!”
Oh, I love my dad so very much.
My dad was an excellent teacher.
He taught me how to paint. One time, Dad let me tag along to Bennington to help him paint grandpa’s shed. He handed me a brush and aluminum grey colored paint and had me get to work. I had spilled a bit of paint on my shoe, and of course, I didn’t want it to look out of place, so I dropped a little more paint on my leg. Next thing you know, I had painted entirely both of my legs aluminum grey. After that incident, I remember him teaching me how to paint his way—the right way. He could paint a whole room without spilling a drop and make the sharpest lines when he cut in around the ceiling. His meticulous nature was one I adopted for myself. My dad was a professional and I loved watching him work. He was so confident of his abilities.
My dad was a great teacher.
Dad taught me to do a job right the first time and to pay attention to detail.
Dad taught me how to drive.
He taught me to love learning new things but to respect history as well.
He also taught me the power of keeping my mouth shut– that a person doesn’t always have to be loud with his or her opinions and knowledge.
He taught me that people pay awfully close attention to a man who has wisdom and vast knowledge behind a quiet demeanor.
My dad was a wonderful person to with whom to share a conversation. It could have been about music, history, or even about sweaty men in spandex chasing each other around a wrestling ring. No matter what you chose to talk about with dad, you could guarantee he was listening and had an opinion about it.
I love my dad so much.
I cannot change the fact that my dad is gone. I cannot change that I didn’t call dad every week or write him letters often. I cannot change the past—what I did or what I didn’t do, time I spent with him or time I didn’t. I can, however, live through the cherished memories I have of him and I can change the future.
We often take for granted the loved ones we have surrounding us—assuming they’ll always be there, that there will be time later to mend a broken or suffering relationship, or even that tomorrow will indeed come for you or them. In reality, we aren’t guaranteed the future, so we must live in each and every moment we are given. We cannot let our lives idly pass us by. Making time for those we love is the greatest investment we could possibly make.
Every day that passes is one more day to forge ahead, to change the world with our own two hands, or to sit back and observe as others change it for us. Each day we are given is one more day to be a friend and extend love to those around us.
I’ll miss my dad. He loved the world around him and sought to learn all about it and experience it. When I think of dad, I’ll remember the scent of cherry tobacco and Stetson cologne, hearing his hearty laugh or him calling me his ‘honey bunny,’ and I’ll think of all the ways he showed me he loved me and wanted me to have the best future possible.
I love my dad so very much.”
The memorial service was nice. So many people came to offer condolences and to share memories of my dad. I was genuinely happy to see every person who came. I loved being so close to friends and family. I always enjoy it.
I’ll miss my dad so much. I am thankful for the people I have around me and the time to share with them.