Tag Archives: life

30 breaths at 30 years.

There’s a common thread that courses through everyone’s lives: cliché’s.  We believe our lives are distinctly unique.  And they are, if in no other way than the order in which events unfold in them and the way we react to them.  But the grand themes are typically the same: love, loss, finances, career, and the social experience.

My 20’s were a cliche, albeit a fringe one at times.  I’ve slept in my car, gone hungry, lived in six states, was fortunate enough to see 30, and spent a decade searching for who I was and what I had within myself that I felt since I was a kid would attract to me a life of significance.  Is it not cliche that I spent my 20’s peeling back layer after layer of myself in an almost desperate search for that?  I am 30 years old today.  I don’t care much about this day, however I care a great deal not only about my future, but learning how to wield each moment intentionally because in reality, every moment can bring me closer to my goals and my dreams if I handle it correctly.

The last year can be seen as one of my worst, but the way I see it now is that it was the last care package life sent me as a 20-something year old.  Because of this last year I have grown personally in ways I never imagined and I will use it to make a better life.  I changed paths, now walking the road of adulthood.  This is exactly what is meant by “life is what you make it.”  I feel more like an adult, psychologically if nothing else.  Physically, I’ve retained a stick figure physique (big head included) but will be addressing that.

My father died.  I say that to myself a lot.  It’s very difficult to wrap my mind around and sometimes I feel like he never existed – it’s a painful double edged sword.  My daughter was born.  I went through hell and back with her mother.  I broke my hand while working like someone who makes six figures as my paychecks flat-lined.  I went through more personal growth in the last year than I have in the previous 27.  The landscape of my life is newer but the rumble of thunder and the pricks of lightning are still heard and seen because this isn’t over yet but I will take this day to look back and acknowledge what I have thus far done.  Good for me.  Good for my daughter.  Good for my family.  And good for my company.

I am becoming a master trainer.  I am becoming my family’s economic powerhouse.  I am becoming a great communicator.  I am becoming an inspiration to everyone around me.  I am continuing to thrive through every single challenge lying in wait because that’s who I am.  I’m made of fire and iron and I’ve made it this far through the most traumatic year of my life with a bigger heart still beating and tenacity that deserves a goddamn trophy.  And because of it, I am finding myself.  I’m a fortunate man.  I’m a happier man at 30.

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Disconnect to survive.

I recall that in the presence of death I have never felt so much love, seen such devotion given, such support lavished on my father and us, his family.  A man dies as he lived.  How do we live on after losing someone so integral to our life?  He wasn’t just my father, he was my mentor and role model.  He was the quiet strength that I never took full advantage of but craved and benefitted from whenever I called.

October in New Jersey.  Dad’s memorial service.  Out from the blue my body began to tremor.  My ma spoke into the microphone about my father and tremors turned to shaking.  I inhaled slowly, demanding of myself the impossible, that I had better keep my shit together.  No sooner had I finished telling myself that did I lose it.  My head dropped and my hands covered my mouth and then my face.  My stomach twisted and my heart wrenched.  I was sitting on a bench with a eulogy for my father in hand.  How?  Why?  My sister put her hand on my back – I was losing my mind, I wanted to scream.  I wanted to stop the service, as if shutting it down would deny the fact that my hero was dead.  Dead.  The word sounds so absolute.  And it is.  Life would always be the same but I would not.

I delivered his eulogy with a croak in my voice – I didn’t sound like myself to myself.  I looked into the crowd and saw two of my best friends, two people who have always opened their hearts and home to me over the years.  I knew him since first grade and his girlfriend for years.  It took everything I had not to break down and sob.  I needed, I wanted someone to hug me and not say a word.  I felt my strength waning as I spoke, panic setting in as I neared the end of the eulogy.  I flashed back to pulling up to the service in the car.  The honor guard waiting.  The Patriot Riders waiting.  Lawrence and Tonya watching their friend approach his father’s memorial service.  My mom barely holding it together, being reminded with each passing second why she was there, the hot pricks of the bitterness of loss nudging her forward through the service with me at her side and her other children in tow.  The sound of rifles unleashing in a 21 gun salute, causing me to shake violently, my mom squeezing her eyes shut with every round that went off. I was told it was a beautiful eulogy and I know everyone meant it.  I’m glad they thought it was beautiful; it was the most horrific experience of my life.

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My brother played the guitar and my mom sang to it to honor my dad.  My sister put on a hoop performance for him – I listen to that song she hooped to on loop sometimes for hours if I’m alone, as if it will somehow help me out of this shock.  “The Mountain” by Trevor Hall.  Way up on the mountain.  Mountains.  The mountains of Palm Springs, California that towered over Eisenhower Medical Center in California.

The evening of my arrival I walked my Dad through the halls of the hospital.  He gripped my forearm and walked with a cane in his other hand.  The last time I had seen him he was dressed and could walk on his own.  Now he was in a hospital gown and straining to breath as we walked, grimacing from the pain.  It wasn’t right.  It wasn’t right!!  My own father was dying right in front of me, it’s so fucked up.  I wanted to take the cancer from him, my daughter was due in June – just over two months away and I knew he wouldn’t be alive to be present at her birth, to be able to enjoy unrestricted access to his new granddaughter.  I begged and begged for my father not to be taken from us even though I knew it was just life unfolding.

At the end of our life we have lost so many people we care about and love – how do we survive to that point?  We will never be whole again, we live on as mosaics of shattered pieces – and I a new man, a new form that I did not ask for but must live on with.  Live on?  Food doesn’t have the same taste.  Music isn’t what I remember it to be.  I pause to take in the world around me and intellectually it all registers but emotionally there is nothing there and it lacks meaning.  Familiar places feel foreign.  Sometimes I don’t even recognize where I am yet at the same time can move about and get to where I need to be.  I am numb.

The only other time I feel like a participant in my life is when I am with my daughter.  Her smile, that beautiful smile and her laugh cause a warm rush within my heart.  Watching her open and close her hands as she looks right at me and raises her arms – such love!  I have no desire other than to lift her into my arms, look into her big beautiful blue eyes and tell her that I love her, that I would move the mountains for her.  She wears a lot of bows and headbands with flowers on them.  She should.  Her middle name is Rose and she’s more beautiful than the finest.  I am finally able to provide for her.  It took just under a year of unbroken determination, 13+ hour work days, broken bones and sweat to achieve liftoff but god dammit I did it and will continue to.  I have almost fully managed to put aside the numbness, the grief while at work.  I have to.  My Dad worked his ass off and had an unmatched work ethic to provide for us, to support our family and I will make sure I continue to do so for my mija.  I am a good father and little M deserves that.

Rarely am I afforded glimpses into my grief.  I don’t know whether to fear that or be grateful.  I still cannot fully accept that he is gone.  It can’t possibly be true.  I have too many amazing memories of him for his presence to be replaced with a vacuum, a void.  Grief seems so much bigger than mankind, transcendent of it.  Grief is a Gemini, it’s twin is love.  Love, a quality whose fullness does not depend on us for existence, but whose beautifully speechless nature illuminates our hearts, enriches life and compounds it’s purpose.

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Cyclical fire.

Without warning, the fire of grief burns through my very soul, destroying me and renewing me, it’s cyclical. I’m made of iron and fire. I’m changing. I’m better, I’m stronger. Some days I’m absent-minded and quiet. Other days I don’t recognize myself. And yet on other days I am exactly who my father saw in me the last time he said he loved me and we said goodbye. Grief is no wound that time heals – that is the most well-intentioned and foolish thing I have ever heard. Grief is a force that crushes you under it’s weight and pulls the life from you or it brings forth new life, a new world in which you find an identity more aligned with your highest ideals, one whose foundation is pain and loss but whose towering minarets glimmer with love like a dream without prejudice and preference.

Cyclical rebirth

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Under the phalanx.

Hand

Left side below the pinky. Spiral fracture.

The following took place between 12pm and 1 pm on Tuesday, the day before Friday and any other day of the week if you’re looking forward on a calendar.

“Thane, no.”

*crack*

“I need an adult!”

*rolls onto back and kicks the air like a drunken beetle*

I am a wee bit fuzzy from Percocet as of this chronicling.  Is that a real word?  Anyway, I was prescribed Vicodin by a mysterious hooded man at the hospital.  He certainly gained my trust when he got my attention by whispering, ” PST!  Hey kid, take this.” and tossed me a hand-sized burlap sack filled with something safe to take.  Initially I was offended that he called me a kid.  I’ve been without a wet bed for over two weeks now and I doubt he can boast the same.  The Vicodin didn’t work, no matter how many I took (between 6 and 60), my pain remained the same and I only felt slightly drowsy even though my pupils had all but disappeared into my stunning blue eyes.  I now have a friends-with-benefits relationship with Percocet and am not really enjoying it.  This loopiness is wack — nay!  It’s wiggity wack.  I feel more drunk than high from this maverick medication and I demand a report on how to proceed with it.

My hand is in a splint.  There will be a next paragraph.

Welcome to the foretold paragraph.  Jealous of my premonitions?  I am too.  On an unrelated note, last night I was woken by massive thunder claps, studio audience claps, and lightning.  Monsoon season is approaching.  Initially, I thought a ghost had turned on my computer last night, opened iTunes and started playing my thunderstorm tracks to wake me up and then relax me with said tracks to help me back to sleep but it wasn’t so.  I got up off the floor and peered outside and witnessed the bland drama of a mediocre T-storm!  “Egads!” I whispered and went back to sleep.

#worstblogever  #hashtag  ##

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4 centimeters dilated and thinking.

We have been at the hospital for over 10 hours now.  From here on out, the ‘B.C.’ for my life will be pre-fatherhood and fatherhood.  It’s a contrast that I could think about for hours, maybe days at a time.  Who I was before my mija, who I have become during her mother’s pregnancy and who I will grow to be as she grows up.  I have flashbacks of my early 20’s and my persistent attempts to move out west and stay out west.  The experiences I’ve had, the maturing I needed to do — the maturity that comes with age.  The mistakes, the adventures, the everything.  I don’t miss it.  I’m excited as hell to hold my girl!  I’m so proud of her mom.  And soon, life will never again be the same.

The last time I was in a hospital, it was for the exact opposite reason I am here now and I was losing my dad.  Here I sit, now ready to receive my daughter.  Within two months there has been death and life, the death of and the birth of two people so incredibly dear to me and close to my heart.  How has life come to such a state?  If there is anything that inspires one to contemplate life, it’s frailty, beauty, finiteness, and meaning, then the last 2 months have done exactly that.  I have gone into the intellectual and spiritual deep end and am content to not say a word about it to anybody.  I don’t need to.  It’s why I write and am content to think about it endlessly.  How a zygote — something invisible to the naked eye, and it’s genetic blueprint form a human is…..mind blowing.

What will she sound like?  What will the difference in her voice be as she grows?  What color and shape will her eyes be?  Her hair?  Her intellect?  Will she be mathematically oriented?  Artistically oriented?  Both?  Neither?  How amazing it must be to watch as she marvels at the fact that she has hands and feet!  I look at my hands and feet everyday, occasionally thinking about the nature of their shape and their existence but usually underwhelmed by them because I am so used to having them accompany me on my body on a regular basis.  But to her, she is going to look at them and have this look in her eyes that says, “Holy phalanges, Batman, what the shit are these??”  She won’t even get her own Batman reference!  She will learn of Batman, rest assured.  And Iron Man.

I love this wee-lass more than I can convey and she isn’t even here yet.

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Eat your saw dust & paint chips and shut up.

This morning’s breakfast was trippy.  Literally.  They aren’t joking when they label this cereal “shredded wheat”.  It’s so shredded that it’s no longer wheat-like.  In fact, I doubt it’s even shredded wheat.  I love recycling just as much as the next person but rebranding saw dust as cereal is a little extreme for my taste.  Ha.  Taste.  Puns and such.  Observe the picture.  I was lucky enough to score a few white paint chips in my bowl of industry this morning like they were extra marshmallows.  They were potent and within two spoonfuls I began hallucinating and fell halfway into outer space and out of my chair.  Vitamins and minerals go hand in hand with the final frontier, fuck yea!  Way better than my bath salt smoothies.

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Of shock and awe.

“He’s gone…”  “He’s gone…”  “He’s gone…”  It repeats every day in my head.  Every night in my dreams.  Every morning it wakes me up.  How can this be?  It’s been almost three weeks since my father died but some days feel so normal, like he will show up in June, ready to accompany the rest of my family to the hospital when Makayla is born.  Other days I feel like I am suspended within a multifaceted tornado made of broken glass where I am not harmed but surrounded by fragmented reflections of myself.  I look closer and ask the shards of reflections, “Who are you?”  “Who were you?”  “Where’s your dad?”  “How could you not have known this would happen?”  Irrational, understandable, panic, and peace throw themselves on top of me like wet blankets and I want nothing to do with any of them.  What do I want?  I want emptiness, a place where I can meet my father, a place that transcends the finite halls that are plagued by mortality and it’s shortcomings so I can say one last goodbye.  I want to feel or see where he is, I want him to tell me that he will watch over us, that he has met his granddaughter.  I want to know what he thinks about her.

My muscles are quivering, these are the aftershocks of shock…..of awe, the remnants of my last desperate reaches and attempts to follow my dad when he took his last breath, foolishly and selfishly demanding that he not leave his family, taxing my intellect and imagination to it’s maximum capacity to create a memory of where he is right now, trying to trick my senses into convincing me that I have touched it and in turn, followed him into the beyond if only for a moment so that I can feel reassured that he still IS.  God, I miss him so much.  Just months before he died, he and I hiked Camelback mountain with my mom.  It’s not an easy hike and he apparently had a tumor in his lung when he did it.  That’s a fucking Iron Man.

Why did he have to die?

It’s fucked up, but I miss and ruminate on the days of Eisenhower Hospital; he was in his last month of life but he and I shared some of the most powerful moments of my life during that period.  I can remember in exquisite detail when I groomed him.  Right before I started, we each made a lame-ass joke to one another and then….we were completely silent from that point forward.  The energy in the room changed as if it snapped to attention.  Time did not stop, but it felt like it slowed down significantly.  The clippers hummed but I was hardly aware of the sound, I heard something else that I cannot explain, I felt something I cannot explain — nor do I have any intention of trying.  It still makes me cry because it was so sublime and…real.  It was cerimonious.

His hair was short and snow white with strands of dark grey.  He was “sweating” his cancer.  He allowed himself to be vulnerable with me and relaxed his head into my palm, allowing me to care for him.  We breathed slowly…synchronously.

I find myself at a loss now, so few words left to type.  Perhaps it is best.  All I will say is that’s the most significant thing I’ve experienced with my dad.  As verbose and exaggerated as this all might sound, I learned more about manhood in that moment than any other in my life, as if it was transferred to me intuitively.

You were a fucking rockstar, pop.

You were a fucking rockstar, pop.

 

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Iron Man. I am not an i-ron.

At some point during my early 20’s I got the nickname Iron Man.  I didn’t mind it because everyone needs iron to fortify their cereal.  Back in iron’s heyday it was the tits.  Yea, I just said tits.  This means that I share a connection with the tits of times past and cereal.  Fuck yea.  After interrogating nobody, I found out I had that name given to me for three reasons:

One, I went to the gym before work every morning and showed up in swimming trunks, sandals, and a tank top.  Why would I show up in such a relaxed and daring attire?  Because I would go swimming or hit the hot tub after alpha male-ing those 5 lb iron weights.  5 lbs in each hand, might I add (you may swoon now).  I wasn’t about to show up for work in my work clothes, that’s an idea that has no place at the workplace!  I forced everyone to acknowledge that I was entering my mediocre job feeling relaxed, feeling like a million bucks.  Nay!  A million relaxed bucks.

Two, it was a metaphor for how I would act when stuck in a glass box of emotions like Ron Burgundy.  I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve.  I wear it in my chesticle, where it belongs and where the Lord of Hosts intended it to be when he drew out the blueprints for my body.

There is not a third reason, I lied about that.

As I got older I contemplated on what was initially a joke and simple observation but it has taken on a meaning of it’s own.  Or not.  I have probably given it meaning and to me it has become a symbol that I take seriously now.  It’s a symbol of strength and reliability.  Now that my father has died, it’s meaning has matured and amplified.  I’m the head of my family now and I am starting a family with Sonia.  Iron Man is not invincible, but strong.  Iron.  Followed by man.  To me this means acknowledge the feeling and human part of my personality, avoiding the pompous idea that I’m an invincible superhero or a martyr, neglecting myself while being everything for everyone else. There is a man behind the iron and that should always be remembered.

It’s his heart that powers the suit.  It’s his mind that powers the idea.

Random thought complete.

Mark IV

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A foreign but promising land.

When I was younger, I often felt frustrated toward others when they did not share my passion for things, dismissing them as apathetic or shallow.  One of my best friends, Brandon, should have little trouble recalling those days, regularly hanging out with a Jesus Freak and pseudo-philosopher that studied anything and everything aside from the ordinary things that most 16-23 year olds enjoy.  I now understand how wrong that was to be so judgmental and dismissive.  A week into grief, into this foreign landscape, finding myself struck with such vivid and lucid visuals that it almost distorts my awareness of the real world, causing me to blankly stare and zone out, I understand that people cannot go where I go.  It is not their journey, the footprints that carve out this path are mine and that is how it should be.

No doubt others have experienced this walk before but I don’t expect others to come with me.  They simply can’t if they haven’t experienced it.  And that’s ok.  I don’t need to hear “I’m sorry”, “Sorry for your loss” or other well intentioned but well-worn phrases, ones that used to anger me because I thought they were a lazy ‘quick fix’ people used to escape the awkwardness or discomfort of a situation — in this case, grief.  I know people mean well and thank you for the support but I know I will be ok, that I will learn from this and change irrevocably because of this.  Grief does not need a cure, indeed there isn’t one.  I don’t need to hear about closure; one of the first things I have noticed a great many people talk about is healing and closure in the aftermath of a tragedy.  Healing and closure will come in due time and I have no interest in rushing either of those.  What is healthy is to fully feel and work through my grief.  Nor is time a cure.  Time can, however, bring perspective, wisdom….growth….laying on a mantle of inner strength and peace, helping me to continue to be open to life.

Sometimes I feel nothing.  Sometimes I cry with intensity that surprises even me.  Other times I feel incredibly optimistic or angry.  Sometimes I feel so sad that I almost cannot breathe.  It’s cyclical and somewhat unpredictable but it’s movement and I’m moving in a generally forward direction.  It’s a kaleidoscope of beauty and ugliness, filled with tests of character vs. habit and learning how to apply what you’ve learned and the impressions left on you by that person in your daily life.  I referenced a light my father kindled in my heart in earlier posts and it was no exaggeration nor was it an attempt to be poetic.  It’s a very literal description, the best I can do to explain his impact on me.  It’s a light that was never fully realized until he was gone, and I think that is the nature of it, it’s the nature of a great mentor’s influence (and blessed am I that I can call him my father).  He was cremated today.

I talk to him everyday.  Perhaps I am talking to nothing.  Perhaps not.  It’s irrelevant to me because in doing so, my memories of my father remain fresh and I feel connected to him.  I only knew him as my dad and I am ok with that.  Others knew him in a different light but I know that all of us may joyfully cite, reminisce, and reflect on common threads that were characteristically consistent in his many relationships with others.  His selflessness.  His compassion.  His optimism.  His discipline and inner strength.  His inner peace.  His humor.  His thirst for adventure.  His honor.  I think it’s uncommon in today’s world that a man possesses honor.  My father did.  Christ, am I so proud of him.  He was not perfect by any means but his spirit shone through regardless of the lens held up to him.  That’s beautiful to me.  That’s something to aspire to, something to achieve in my own way so that at the moment of my own death when asked, “Did you love and were you loved?”  I can answer with a contented and resounding “Yes.”

Dad-entry

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Empty shoes, a beautiful legacy.

He’s gone.  As much as I felt I was prepared for this…..I wasn’t.  Nobody ever is.  There are so many questions flying through my mind at this moment.  The sadness, the anger, the peace, the nostalgia, the feeling of having no control….the fear of having no control.  All of these things vie for supremacy within myself.  This is grief and it is completely natural but it doesn’t make it any easier.  I often intellectualize my emotions.  Is it a coping mechanism?  A world without my dad.  My sister calls this the “new normal”, and sadly….it is.  And it feels anything but normal.

I try to imagine every detail, down to the smallest one of my father’s last days on Earth.  What did he sound like?  Look like?  How would I have reacted to seeing him in such a condition?  My mom is a widow now, and my brother and two sisters no longer have a dad.  He’s dead.  I don’t even know what I believe concerning life after death.  There is no scientific evidence to directly prove it but there are mountains of subjective material shared by those who have been close to death and by people who have been by those close to death.  A few days ago, my dad told my mom that he saw a small child standing in his room with him.  My mom shared it with the hospice staff and they told her that not too long ago, a little boy had died in the same room.

923059_10152251712535400_836129692_nWhat was it like for my dad to have one leg in another world and his other in this one as his body and mind prepared to………stop and release him?  What did he see?  Where is he now?  And why can I not follow him to maintain some semblance of contact that doesn’t rely solely on my memories of him?  I don’t want him to be gone!  Almost everybody I know still have both parents alive…why my dad?  He was (still is) an inspiration to everybody that knew him — I am not saying that politely or generically, he truly was a mentor to too many people to count.  He was strong, calm, a philosopher, a superior fighter when it was required, he was an immovable rock, someone that was not subject to the emotional whims or tantrums over life’s unpredictability.  It was his support and active participation in helping my mother that she built her non-profit, “Tapestries of Hope” into an effective and successful grief support group for daughters whose mothers have died.

God damnit, he was a real man, a superior man.  He filled my heart abundantly when he was alive, from my childhood to adulthood and now into fatherhood for the first time and I know it is that very abundance that will do it’s best to fill the void left in me now that he is gone.  I wish he could be here as I raise my little girl with Sonia, it hurts so much that he won’t be.

Not even thirty days.  From the first call I got from my mom telling me that dad has checked into the hospital and it might be the cancer that we thought he beat last year to 11:21 p.m. last night when he took his last breath…some would say that’s a long time.  I don’t feel it was but I think I feel that way because I  want him back.  I had a week with him and I know there are plenty of people that don’t get that kind of time so for that I am deeply grateful.  I miss him so terribly much.  He was only 60!  Out of the blue cancer showed up in his blood.  Christ almighty.  I just spoke with him no more than a couple weeks ago, we looked each other in the eyes, we talked about a great many things at length, things I will always keep in my heart, so precious are those memories.  We made promises to one another.

Sobs rack my body.  Tears stream freely and had these words found their way on paper, the ink forming them would run…forever, trying to find my father.  I wish I could have held him, seen him one last time.  I received pictures from my mom and two sisters of them preparing my dad for cremation, wrapped up snugly in beautiful blankets and twine.  It’s beautiful indeed.  It’s sad as well, though that isn’t my dad wrapped up in those blankets.  My dad was too strong of a soul to be so contained, his enthusiasm for life, his compassion for others, his honor as a man and his terrible jokes that made you laugh at their…terribleness pushed into eternity last night, 39 minutes before Monday.

To anybody reading this, there is so much to live for in life and I truly hope you do just that.  Appreciate everybody and everything you have.  Never stop striving to improve your life and the lives of those around you.  Love.  Laugh.  Leave your mark on this world, make memories with the people you care about and even with strangers — you may have improved their day just by smiling at them.  Do not hold onto anger, hold no grudges, hold each other.  Look beyond the darkness, the negativity, the violence and selfishness we are all bombarded by on a daily basis.  Life is waiting to unfold from within you, seize every moment  you can and make it worthwhile!

Dad, wherever you are, I hope you’re peaceful and happy.  I hope you will still be able to see me as I live on and become a father.  Everyday I will look fondly on the memories we’ve made and the incredible influence you’ve had on me — an influence that is still at work in transforming me into an amazing person, a caring and strong person.  An influence whose echo will guide me into achieving my potential in life, becoming an absolute and sturdy force for good in this world.  You’re a beautiful man and I love you with all of my heart.  Goodbye, pop, journey well.

A man larger than life.  A man who WAS life.

A man larger than life. A man who WAS life.

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