Life, Death, and the True Meaning of Family

dad on a horse

My dad passed away three and a half weeks ago, on March 17. This affected my entire family, and my daughters’ stepmom actually was amazing. She helped me clean out his apartment, went to a meeting with me, and helped organize his memorial service. As I mentioned in the article linked above, my dad’s extended family is all from Texas and none of them were able to travel. I’m an only child of divorced parents, so I had very little family here to help me. But we don’t believe blood is the only definition of family. Molly has called me daily to check on me. My husband, my mom, my husband’s dad and his family, and my ex-in-laws all pitched in to help. I don’t know what I would have done without them!

One thing Molly said to me after the memorial was, “I won’t forget. I won’t forget that he died tomorrow. when everyone else goes back to their routine, I won’t forget you. I won’t forget next week or the week after that. I won’t forget next month. I will be here for you.”

To me, that is the epitome of the true meaning of family, and what I want our children to grow up learning. My daughters watched their stepmom comfort me during their grandfather’s wake.

Saying Goodbye

By Joshua Cintron

I ask myself what dad meant,

In words,

I cannot accurately describe

His full worth,

Except that his life was a treasure

Hidden from this world

Visible only to me.

Tears want to choke these words I speak,

Recalling sadness over his passing

But I can’t let it stop the goodness

Saying his name brings.

I’m going to miss my dad as surely

As the sun rises each morning.

I find solace knowing bright sunny days

Will wash away the gloomy days to come.

I say goodbye to him in front of you,

But I say hello to him in the quietness of my heart.

 

I want to share what I wrote for my father’s wake:

My father, Jerry, wasn’t a doctor or a lawyer. He wasn’t a great scientist or a poet. To quote a song, my dad was a simple kind of man. All he really wanted in life was to make those who he loved happy, to be around animals as much as possible, and to be in nature as much as possible. My dad made his mark on this world because he touched my life. He taught me to let things go when people hurt me. One of the things I admired the most about my dad was he always asked everyone how their day was going, everywhere we went. It didn’t matter if he had just been dismissed from the hospital and he felt awful or if he was in so much pain he could hardly stand, he always asked everyone how they were—from the cashiers at Wal-Mart to the stranger walking by on the sidewalk, it didn’t matter who they were. To him everyone mattered.

My dad also was wonderful with animals and for most of his life they were his entire world. I’d like to think that now he’s surrounded by them. When I was a little girl, he would go out on horseback, and I begged him to take me with him. I was only four or five-years-old, so he often said no, especially when it was cold outside. But I was a stubborn child, and I ran after him on my stick-horse. He always doubled back, stashed my stick-horse inside his saddlebag, and pulled me onto his horse. I thought it was magical the way he got the animals, sometimes even feral animals to listen to him, and I wanted to be just like him.

 

During one of my dad’s most recent hospital stays, he noticed they played a lullaby every time a baby was being born.

“They should play, ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ every time someone dies.” He said.

I laughed, and said, “Yeah or Another one Bites the Dust.”

The tech in the room looked at us both like we were crazy, but we both laughed. It was what we needed to lighten the moment.

His last wish for his remains was to have his body donated to science, however, we were unaware we had to fill out the paperwork ahead of time. In fact, he would have told me not to have a memorial for him today, if it were up to him. He didn’t like for people to go to a lot of trouble for him. I donated almost all of his things because I knew that was what he wanted.

I wrote him a letter I would like to share.

Me and daddy

Daddy,

You were the first man who ever held me, the first man to tell me I was beautiful. You were the first man to wipe away my tears and tell me that everything would be okay. You were the first man I looked up to for guidance, strength, protection, and love. You were the first man who saw my inner strength. You were the man who told to never settle for less than I deserved, and I promise, Daddy, I won’t ever settle again. I hope you are out there somewhere riding a horse up in the mountains, and that you are finally free of pain that bound you for so long. Please keep looking back behind you, because just like when I was little, someday I’ll be running behind you trying to catch up. You always told me I could do anything I set my mind to, and I owe my relentlessness to you, because you taught me to never give up! I only wish our journey didn’t have to end like this, but I know in my heart that you’re watching over us. I only hope you know how proud I am to call you father, and that you have nothing to regret. You did the very best you could with what you were taught.

I want you to know how very important and irreplaceable you are to me. I love you unconditionally and without expectations. I am grateful to you for all that you have done for me. I am thankful that I got to be your daughter, and I think you were the perfect dad for me in this life. If I could go back and choose a father, I would choose you every time. I don’t want you to think you haven’t done anything important in this life or that you should have done something more. You were a great father, grandfather, and an inspiration to me. I love you so much, Daddy. Forever and always, Tricia

One of my dad’s favorite songs was The Dance, by Garth Brooks. The song fits so well with his life, because everyone who knew him before the stroke knew that it took away almost everything he enjoyed doing, and he hated it for that. He loved hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, driving around in the mountains or even just country roads, and even the simple pleasure of driving was stripped away from him by the stroke. But if he would have died in 2006, he would have missed so much. Cami was only two-years-old then, and Ali was five. He would have missed watching these beautiful young ladies becoming such kind spirited young adults. He never would have met Bob or walked me down the isle again. He never would have watched Jeff and I both become happy in new relationships. I don’t think he wanted to miss any of those precious experiences.

When we had our father/daughter dance at my wedding, we danced to I’ll Stand by You, by The Pretenders. The song has always made me think of him. No matter what life brought our way, we always stood together.  I know that even though I can’t see him anymore, he’s still standing by me. So I would like to close by playing these two songs for him.

The Dance, by Garth Brooks

 

I’ll Stand By You, By the Pretenders

I also wrote about my father this week on Her View From Home.

Trish Eklund is taking a nontraditional approach to parenting children after divorce and remarriage. Raising her two daughters of ten and fourteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife, they consult one another on all parenting decisions. Trish has been featured on www.playground-magazine.com, and www.bigblendedfamily.com. She is a regular writer on www.herviewfromhome.com, writer and co-editor for Her View From Omaha. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, and Pinterest.

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