Fifteen days ago, I hugged my dad good-bye, told him I loved him, and told him to "fight the good fight."
Fourteen days ago, he entered the ICU due to high blood sugar and vomiting.
Eleven days ago, he passed away peacefully at the age of 60.
Seven days ago, my mom, sister and I attended my dad's wake and met with all of the people who's lives had been touched by my dad. It was beyond humbling, to say the least. I don't know when a child gets a chance to see their parent in a different light, except in this type of situation, and it was so wonderful to meet the people he worked with, hear stories about my dad as a supervisor, or a friend, or a cousin. The man I called "Dad" wore many hats and he wore them all well.
And six days ago, I eulogized my dad at his funeral. Below is the transcript of what I wrote. I'm publishing it for two reasons: 1.) My heart is not in writing right now, and I think this sums up what I feel right now, and 2.) because of the ending. If you'd like to do what I suggest, please let me know. I know my family would appreciate it.
On behalf of my family, I’d like to thank all of you for being here today.
Last week, I started to get really sad. Knowing how sick my dad was, I realized it was unlikely he was ever going to see the Cubs win a World’s Series in his lifetime.
And then, I realized that is probably true for all of us.
(note: okay, so this was supposed to be a joke. However, essentially no one laughed. I personally still think this is funny - mainly since the Cubs are going to be terrible for a long, long time - but according to Brian, my official eulogy commentator, he felt no one really laughed because they weren't expecting something humorous. So either, in my first attempt at stand-up, I bombed. In a Catholic Church. Good times.)
My dad was many things – an avid Cubs fan. Mostly a Bears fan. An occasional Colts fan. Before he retired he was a supervisor, a co-worker, a mentor, and an occasional pain in the butt. After he retired, he was a golfer, a napper, a world traveler, and still, the occasional pain in the butt. He was a husband, a father, and most recently, a grandfather. He was a perfectionist, a fair man, a humble man, a proud man and loyal to the core. You always knew where you stood with my dad.
My dad was a proud, quiet man. He was a perfectionist to the end, and if you had the honor of calling him a co-worker, you know what I mean. He knew how to get things done, and they had to be right. He instilled this belief in my sister and I at a young age, and to do this day, I can still his hear voice in my head: “Measure twice, cut once.” But what he was really saying was, “Use caution. Be thoughtful. Do it right.”
My dad didn’t like to make a big deal out of his accomplishments. He was probably the handiest guy I’ve ever known. He literally hand-crafted softball trophies from the machine shop he worked at, with precision and skill. He built desks for my sister and myself growing up to make sure we had the necessary tools to succeed in school. He whittled pens for us and even built our kitchen table. Most recently, he took great pride in building beautiful wooden toys for his grandsons. He was amazing, gifted, and incredibly talented. We used to joke with him that his mustache always had a constant dusting of sawdust in it. But I can tell you, I can’t smell sawdust without thinking of my father.
One of my favorite stories about my dad’s abilities came when my parents were building their current home. He had grown accustomed to going to the lot after work to check out that day’s work. One night, as he was repairing some dry wall in a closet, another workman stumbled upon him. He looked at my dad and smiled and said, “You still here? Yeah, I know – from what I hear, the owner is a real task master. You better do that right.” My dad just smiled and nodded. His expectations of others were well known.
My dad was the hardest working man I know, and he provided for his family. He often worked double shifts, and yet remained one of the most generous people I know. I remember when I was in 6th grade and still riding on my pink Huffy bike. I had just been to the park and was mercilessly teased by the other kids for my bike, just as kids are prone to do. When I came home crying, my mom shrugged and said to let it roll off my back. Not my dad, though. He didn’t want me to feel badly, and so on his suggestion, we went out that night and bought a sleek black ten-speed. Those kids in the park never said a word to me again, and I know my dad was pleased. While he was gruff on the outside, it pained him to know one of his girls was hurting. He wanted the best for us and was so proud to be able to provide.
But probably most of all, my dad was a loyal man. He was loyal to those he loved. I don’t know many things for sure, but I know this: he loved my mom. A lot. And without fail. Their 37-plus year marriage is a testament to loyalty. It’s a marriage many aspire to but few meet. Christmases at our house always ended the same way: a special gift for my mom, usually hidden, and often times, jewelry. I’m not sure who was happier – my mom receiving the beautiful gifts, or my dad, for having selected something he knew she would love. It was sweet and touching.
Over the last few days, many people have asked me what they can do to help. I thought about this and came up with an answer. So listen closely. First, I’d like you to go home today and turn on the Cubs game. Open a beverage of your choice, preferably an MGD, because it’s cold-filtered and everything else would give him a head-ache. And then I want you think about the man that was my dad. Think really hard. And come up with a favorite or memorable story about him. And when you’re ready – whether it be in a few hours or a few months, I’d like you to share that memory with my mom, and perhaps my sister and I. Because if you believe like I do, that the best way to honor a person is to remember them, than share that memory. And that way, my dad lives forever, both in our minds and in our hearts.
It's been eleven days since my dad passed, and I still can't believe it.
I don't get it. I can't get it. My mind will not process this. It just won't. I feel like I've unwillingly and unhappily joined a club I don't want to be a member of - the "I've Lost a Parent" Club.
I want to resign my membership.