My Dad died recently. And, yes, he died peacefully. And, yes, he was 92. And, yes, he’s in a “better place.” And, yes, he was ready to go. But, how do you fill the void in your life, the hole in your heart, the chair at your table and the pit in your stomach? I’m still struggling to find those answers because no one seems to know. Sadly, so many people think that I should find “closure” in his peaceful death and simply “move on”, as though that were better than grieving for my father. Well, I can’t do that.
Despite what the current, highly secularized, line of thinking is concerning people who “pass away”, Dad was not just another animal to be buried, and forgotten, before the next sunrise. He was profoundly loved because he too loved. As a devout Christian, he loved dozens of people as a father, a husband, a brother, an uncle, a neighbor, a friend, a party giver, a churchgoer, a Navy Vet, a board member, a volunteer, a martini drinker, an employer, an employee, a train buff, a jazz enthusiast and even as a former smoker.
His wasn’t the huggy, kissy kind of love, but it was a sincere love, just the same. It was a committed Christian love for friends and neighbors, but most importantly, for his family. He followed the example given by Christ Himself through His committed, and sacrificial, love for His children on earth. And, despite my belief that Dad has attained everlasting life in Heaven, his love warrants grief, not “joy” in his “happy” death.
Dad had his own trials and tribulations to contend with in life, just as most people do, but his faith guided him through so many of them. And, although I have many memories of his angry response to the societal difficulties of raising teenagers in the 1960s and 1970s, I will always remember his comment to me, just a few years ago, about those interactions, “I tried to do my best.” How can you resent a Christian father who was trying to save his children from a culture suddenly awash with evil behavior? You simply can’t.
So, I prefer to remember the good times. I remember finding him kneeling next to his bed, having fallen asleep while saying his prayers. I remember his returning half of the cash, to the purchaser of our old car, when he discovered the younger man had 6 little kids to support. I remember his generosity, joviality and outdoor grilling skills during dozens and dozens of backyard “barn” parties that my parents gave, over many decades, for the neighbors, or the cousins, or the relatives, or the train club, or the friends, or the newlyweds, or the clients. Dad was a social whirlwind, who loved a good party. Just mixing up one martini, for he and a buddy, was as much a cause for celebration, as a house full of people on New Year’s Eve.
I remember Dad’s generosity with his talent. He was a mechanical, and electrical, engineer and routinely donated his expertise to those who needed his professional advice, including as a life-long member, and one time President, of the New York PE Society. Dad was also the longest standing board member of our local library. He designed its HVAC system and voluntarily cared for it when it needed tweaking. He was a 30 year member of our local cemetery board where five generations of his family were buried and spent nearly that much time on the town planning board as a member and then as Chairman. Dad was still in touch with classmates from his college days at Clarkson University in the 1940s and attended their hockey games for decades. And, up until the last few years of his life, Dad also kept in touch with life long friends developed during WWII in the Navy. This was a committed Christian man who loved deeply and widely.
Dad was a man who believed that responsibility and dedication to those he loved was a life long commitment. His word was his honor. One reflection of this commitment had to do with the generosity with his time. Dad had a wonderful collection of Standard Gauge Lionel trains and was a founding member of the local model railroad club.
Nearly 40 years later, at the age of 90, he was still setting up, and wiring, his layout for the annual Christmas fundraiser for a local Protestant Church, despite the fact that he was a Catholic. He knew nearly all of the returning visitors by name, having watched 8-year-old children grow up to have families of their own. And, if he didn’t know your name when you came to the show, he knew it before you left. His warm smile drew total strangers to him and his Irish “gift of gab” was renowned. He simply loved people and they invariably returned the sentiment.
I remember his encouraging me through teenage crisis’, leaving for college and finally moving away for good. I remember attending church every Sunday with he and my mother. And, he would become one of our parish’s oldest parishioners, attending Mass every Sunday, and supporting St. Margaret’s Church, for nearly 60 years.
Dad loved jazz, especially Count Basie, whom he got to know well too. And, I remember dancing with Dad to Count Basie’s band in NYC as well, because he loved to dance too. I remember clinging to him on our annual vacation at the shore, while he tried to teach me to surf with the waves. I remember the summer he was, “the most intriguing father in the neighborhood”, as he dug around and around a huge boulder in our yard, in order to sink it below the lawn. It took many weekend’s effort but the boulder finally disappeared from sight.
I remember his raking leaves into huge piles so that all of the neighborhood kids could jump into them, only to have to re-rake them again. And, I remember his burning those same leaves each Fall, in a big wire basket, as 30 neighborhood kids ran through the smoke and laughed and screamed.
As a child of ten, I remember asking Dad if I could “help” him paint the garage. I think, by afternoon’s end, we were both covered with more paint than the garage itself, but he didn’t hesitate to say yes. I remember his kisses waking me on Saturday morning asking if I was hungry and then watching with my two brothers as he made plate-sized pancakes for us.
I remember Christmas mornings as a child, excitedly waking my parents before dawn. Then waiting anxiously, at the top of the stairs, as Dad set up the lights for his movie camera, in order to capture his little children’s first reactions to the Christmas gifts he worked so hard all year to provide us with. And, I remember a recent Christmas when Dad gave me a heart-shaped locket, inscribed with the words, “My little girl yesterday, my friend today and my daughter forever.” These are the memories I cherish.
And, I remember his tearing-up, as we looked at each other, just before Dad walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. And I will never forget walking up that same aisle with Dad, for the last time, during his funeral Mass, to find the church packed with people who loved him too. These are the memories I choose to remember about my father.
So no, I’ll NEVER find “closure” and I won’t, and can’t, “move on.” Dad is a part of me, as much as the air I breathe and the food I eat. I don’t believe “closure” is possible for anyone who truly loves. And, I don’t believe that those who grieve should be callously encouraged by word, or action, to simply “move on.” Neither is truly possible because when a parent dies, a part of you dies with them.
Despite what lesbian-led, radical, second-wave feminism has disgracefully promulgated about Christian men, and their motivations, I know better! I am highly offended at the unjustified and highly unwarranted lies these twisted, non-Christian women have spread about Christian men. My father’s life of loving and giving, along with millions of other Christian fathers, proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that these men were truly wonderful care-givers to whom we should all be profoundly grateful.
It’s time to stop the spread of radical feminism’s lies about Christian men and instead, admire and revere them for their life-long dedication to their family’s welfare! I can think of no more honorable way to memorialize my father’s life than to work to eradicate feminism’s irrational view, that his contributions were some how lacking. They were NOT!
And, yes, I will miss Dad for the rest of my life. But for this, I will be eternally grateful, because I was privileged, and blessed, to be the daughter he loved.