My Dad passed away on Saturday, August 24th. While he had been sick for some time, and battling a degenerative disease for years, we all still thought we had a little more time with him. Not a lot more, but a little more. I’m so happy that he is free of the limitations and pain he had been living with for so long, but of course, I also miss him terribly. We all do.
He was smart, interesting, kind, level-headed, and generous to a fault. He loved to fish, he loved to travel, and he loved to make things. Unfortunately, in the last few years of his life he was unable to do most things because he had a progressive, degenerative disease that had taken his muscles away from him. At the last, he couldn’t lift his own arms, or even cough. But he was still the same, bright, shining, loving man that I have always known.
He loved, loved, loved his grand kids. He would do anything for them, and he loved to talk with them and spend time with them. A few years ago, when he still had mobility of his arms and legs, he would let my son pretend he was running the computer while they worked together.
My Dad was pretty well known for some of the things he said, most of which were pointed at being realistic, pragmatic and prepared. But the one saying that tops the list is, “Keep smiling.” He said it often, and with conviction.
When he was first diagnosed 16 years ago, he and my mother had a talk and he told her, “The way I see it, you get news like this, you have two choices. You can stand in front of a Mack truck or you can live your life. I’m going to live my life.” He was always practical and accepting of whatever fate delivered to him.
When his brother came to visit a couple of years ago, when it was obvious that the disease was making its steady progress, his brother asked him how he was going to handle it. My Dad said, “There’s one muscle that’s most important. When that muscle goes, then I’ll go. That’s my smile.”
The last time I saw my Dad, that last night in the hospital, my Mom told that story to the doctor and I started to cry. My Dad said, “Angie, you have to just keep smiling. When you smile, you not only make yourself feel better, you make everyone else feel better, too.”
Aside from our goodbyes and I love you’s for the evening, that was the last thing he said to me.
You are loved, Pop-pop. We’ll keep smiling, we promise.
* * *
If you want to share your experiences with loss in the comments, or anything that helped you get through it, please do. I know it seems odd to people who don’t blog or participate on blogs, but I feel like I know each of you and I really do value and appreciate your thoughts and support.