March 17, 2019
One Year Ago
One year ago I saw my dad for the last time.
(Technically I saw him for the last time in an unresponsive state in May of last year after he fell and sustained a very serious brain injury. He was on life support by the time I got to the hospital and there was nothing that could be done.)
So it was really one year ago, in March, when I last spent time with my father. He visited me in Charlotte on a beautiful Saturday and we had an amazing weekend just the two of us. He got up and left to come here so early he had to take a nap as soon as he got here, and he forgot to bring some clothes so he ended up borrowing some of mine. We played cards with my friends. We went to one of the nicest parks for a walk. I made him dinner one night, and we went out for breakfast twice. The last meal we had together was at a diner I took him to years ago that he always wanted to go back to. He had biscuits and gravy. We watched some TV and just enjoyed spending time together. If I knew it would be the last time I’d spend with my father I could not have planned it better.
When it came time for him to leave, I said I hoped he knew just how much I loved him. I hoped he knew how much of amazing dad he was for me, how much of an amazing friend. He did know all of this of course, just as I know how much he loved me.
Anyone who knows me well knows how much my dad meant to me. And they know we had more than a typical father and son relationship – he was my best friend. My dad did so much for me growing up. He was usually the one making dinner for the two of us after he got home from work. He took me to movies, to baseball practice, to the arcade when I was a kid. He took me to Bush Garden’s theme park (and rode some of the rides with me that were safe for him after his heart surgery – usually the ones that involved getting wet, or the bumper cars). He loved going to the beach with our family, and the two of us talked about it all year long. We joked that we liked talking about and planning for the beach even more than actually going.
He taught me so many things. He had a lot of sayings, like “Any job that’s worth doing is worth doing right.”, and “Don’t put off to tomorrow what can be done today.” He taught me to mow the grass, how to drive and take care of my car. He taught me how to make things in his workshop (We re-drywalled the downstairs ceiling together, and I helped him fix the bench he loved to sit on in the front yard, and he helped me make various shelves for the different places I’ve lived). He taught me so much but the most important thing he taught me was how special life is, and how important love is.
We went on lots of walks together over the years. At first he was the one encouraging me to get walking to lose weight, and in later years it was me encouraging him to walk with me to keep his heart strong. We had a bench in Purcell Park where we often took a break on our walks. It was a beautiful place to take a moment and survey the beauty surrounding us. He went on some hikes with me, even once up to the top of Hump Back Rocks on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which I know was a challenge for him. The view from the top is really amazing. He always thanked me for encouraging him to go, every time we walked.
We also went on a lot of road trips over the years. The summer before he passed my my mom, dad and I went on a trip together across the West sightseeing in our amazing National Parks. Later that Fall the three of us also went for a drive up on the Skyline Drive.
My dad was such a kind man. That is what I would describe as his defining characteristic. He had a lot of really tough points along the way in his life, especially growing up very poor. But all of that helped to make him become the incredibly loving and kind man he was. He always used to say he was the richest man in the world because of all the love in our family.
Losing my dad, my best friend, has been the most difficult thing I’ve experienced. His loss to me is overwhelming. I know it will take time, probably the rest of my life, to deal with this loss. I realize that Love is a gift that comes with an enormously heavy price tag. And it seems like I have two choices. I could just accept that I’ll never be able to overcome the sadness of losing my best friend – which is true – and just give up. Or I could use what time I have to show appreciation for that love, to give as much kindness to this world as I can. I’m pretty sure I know what choice my dad would want me to make.