Tag Archives: son

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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Reincarnation.

I’m in Cleveland attending a leadership conference for my job. The amount of knowledge and inspiration I’ve received in the last day alone makes me want to fly back home and get back to work. I can only imagine what the rest of the week holds.

I was in this same house when my Ma called me to tell me my Dad checked into the hospital with what turned out to be a devastating case of sarcoma cancer. It’s forcing grief. I’m attending my father’s memorial service a week after leaving this leadership conference. I feel very conflicted and don’t want to confront the grief that I know will be drawn to my surface. I haven’t done much working through it since cancer killed him, instead just working nonstop and trying to be a good father. I’m delivering the eulogy for mine.

Consolation doesn’t exist. Grief is not a wound to be patched up. It just exists and I will always miss him with a pain that sears through…all of me. Flashbacks of his first night in hospice as my brother and I held his hand continue to surface – and the emotions along with it. I kept staring at him. The whole time I was in California with him I stared. He was real back then and now only slightly less so in my memories and yet I must daily reckon with reality because he isn’t here anymore. He isn’t real. My heart feels completely covered in bruises and every time it beats it might be better for it to collapse than tolerate the wrenching scream that it releases each time, reminding me that I’m alive without my Dad. That probably sounded pretty dramatic.

Back to work.

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The end of March.

Memories drift by in my mind of times when you weren’t sick. I look at myself then and want to grab me by the shoulders and yell what the future holds. To warn myself. Not that it’d do any good. Regardless, you’re gone now and I can’t talk to you anymore, I can’t hug you anymore. It causes me ceaseless pain and great sadness. What am I supposed to do with these feelings?

You took in a boy and made him your own and I didn’t make it easy on you at all. I regret that even though I know you hold no grudge against me for it.

I wake up most mornings and feel so empty. I don’t like it, I detest it. Where are you now? What do you see? Do you have a routine? What’s it like when you look in on us and see that we are still so deeply grieving you? How are you more alive than you’ve ever been -what does that mean?

When we spoke, you told me you believed in me and knew I would fly high with my new career, my passion and yet I’m still fumbling to make ends meet. I give 100% every day and success still evades me. Am I being impatient? What would you say? I refuse to quit, I told myself when I flew out for basic training in Cleveland that there’s no turning back, that even if things didn’t go as I imagined I would I find a way to maintain until I hit my flashpoint and catapult forward as a professional dog trainer. I told you that, too. I thought of you when I graduated on March 29th and I truly felt like a superhero when I put on my uniform. I still do. But without you here I feel like I’m flying blind.

I remember when mom called me and told me you checked into Eisenhower. March 27th. We thought it was a fungal infection and pinched nerves due to your previous radiation treatments from your first bout with the tumor in your arm. Mom called me later that evening to update me. It was dark outside and tiny snowflakes flurried through the air. I could see my breath. The lights at the training center across the street were still on. She kept telling me the doctors were almost certain it was cancer but were waiting for test results. That I shouldn’t worry just yet. My heart dropped a thousand miles in the blink of an eye and I knew this was it. I knew you were dying. My mind went blank.

I went inside on auto-pilot. Rick, Bret, and Nick asked if I was ok. I lied and said I was fine. I made dinner and went to my room. Little puddles formed at my feet and grew with every tear that fell onto them. I didn’t make a sound but my body trembled and then it shook. I didn’t sleep that night.

The next day I received a picture of you in your hospital bed, spirits bright as always and your food tray in front of you. I know that smile you had on your face didn’t come easily. I felt stuck. I didn’t want to leave my training and put it on hold. No turning back, remember? But I was overwhelmed with the urge to get to California that second to be by your side. To rally the entire family and call them to your side, a loving display of solidarity for the man that bettered this family by being the foundation on which we built our lives.

I’ve never had such trouble focusing before but I knew I had to if I wanted to graduate and become a part of the team. I wanted to focus. I was acting a little different and some of the trainers noticed. Some didn’t. I didn’t want anybody to notice anything. What was I supposed to say if they asked what was wrong? A part of your lung had collapsed and tumors were growing everywhere.

The color orange, concrete, and then a mix of muddy and frozen grass. I had walked from the training center to the outside near the back of the kennel runs. I paced. I spoke with both of my sisters, my brother and my mom. I let my mentor Lorenzo know what was happening and he called me to talk. He offered to fly me out to you. Dad, I want you to know that someone that had never met you and didn’t even know me entirely showed me such generosity and compassion without reserve. It further deepened my commitment to him and the company. It made my chest tighten – I had never been on the receiving end of something like that. It mattered to me.

I thought of you early in the morning as I ran two miles on the morning of my graduation test. March 29th. I mustered every bit of energy I had left to catch up to my mentor as he jogged past me at the tail end of that run. I wanted to impress him, I wanted to show him that even though I was exhausted I could still move, I could work, I could get it done. I find myself in a similar situation now where business is so slow and I’m struggling to keep up with life but I’m still moving. I won’t stand still. One way or another I’m going to make this happen and with the help of my team, be successful. I saw it in your eyes when I talked about professional dog training that you believed me, that I had found what I was looking for. I just wish you were here now to see me through this challenging time.

I stared at the green curtain that hung at the entrance of your room as I approached it, telling myself that this moment is about to happen and will be gone forever. I told myself that every day I was in California. I just wanted you to be healthy again. I wanted you to at least feel Makayla move. It ripped me through to pieces to watch you place your hand on her mother’s belly.

There were many times where we all gathered in that hospital room and filled the halls with our laughter, an unintentional and outward reminder to all that not even the ominous presence of death could break the love that bound us all together. You were a celebrity there, hospital staff not assigned to you would hear about you from their peers and come to meet you. You and ma, Happily Homeless. The greatest love story ever told.

The OxyContin. Terribly powerful and you were on such a high dose. I was there and you were so under it’s influence that you kept forgetting to breathe. You’d jerk and inhale sharply after a few minutes of not breathing, as if your body’s instinct kicked in. Do you remember that night? I sat next to you and calmly breathed with you:

“Breathe in.”

“Breathe out.”

“Good job, pop, great job.”

Over and over. Mom says that kept you alive that night.

The hospital staff put options on the table. Treatment. Likelyhood of survival. Hospice. Hospice…….hospice. We spoke twice before on the phone and you said you wouldn’t give up, that you’d fight this but I believe you said that because I needed to hear it. You wanted to protect us. Then came the day. Early afternoon and the sun was hitting the walls of your room because the blinds were partially closed. I kept staring at you, trying to figure out what you were thinking and feeling as we all discussed the route of hospice with you. I feel like I could tell you preferred to let nature take it’s course but didn’t want to tell us because you wanted to protect us from the heartbreak. We all knew. We closed in around you. Ma was at your side, Rae and boy by your legs. I took your hand and told you we supported and respected your decision to go into hospice. You clutched my hand and have never squeezed it so firmly. Your eyes clouded up and I know you wanted to cry. Boy took a picture of our hands firmly clasped together.

Sometimes I live these memories again and again. They’re terrible, they’re beautiful, they’re many things at once. What were you thinking? You put on such a brave face throughout this period. The handful of times you and I cried together while you were sick were the only times we ever did. I want you back. It’s a foolish thing because I know it will never be but I feel as if I will always have a hole in me that appeared when you left.

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The hollowing path.

Hindsight is not always kind. As time separates my dad and I, the more I realize just what a source of strength his existence was in my life, just knowing he was there. Reachable.

There’s been a deepening sense of sadness and loneliness I’ve felt more and more as time goes on. So far I haven’t been able to shake it. The world seems bigger and emptier. My house feels bigger and emptier. I feel detached from just about everything other than my daughter. I’m still working my hardest at my career every day so I suppose it’s more accurate to say that outside of my mija and dog training, I don’t feel……anything.

He reached out to my mom the other day which made me feel such relief for my mom. My brother and I have been praying for him to find a way to do that since he died and boy did he ever. It does, however make me miss him all the more and reminds me of that. I feel no anger about it anymore, just a deep sense of sadness and defeat. For now, the world seems grey. I wish I could talk with him again, see where he is. I almost feel like I’m flying blindly through life now. I’m sure many men feel this way when their father dies so believe me I’m not asking for pity.

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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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Destined for silver lakes.

I love you.  I want you to know that we all love you, to know that due to your hand in my life I am a good man, because of your example I will be an amazing father to my daughter and future children the way you were for my brother, sisters and me.  I still fight myself in accepting your fate, I have moments of frantically grabbing at the last straws of “what if”, pleading in my mind for you to be spared.  It’s not to be.  The doctor said from the looks of it, you will be parting with us soon, possibly within days.  This cannot be, you checked into the hospital hardly a week ago!

I remember sitting on your shoulders as a boy while you ran me in circles around the house on Dover Road.  I was so worried about hitting my head on the doorways but you made sure I never did.  You were so strong and I thought you were invincible.  I had no idea this would be how things ended.  I love you so much.

I rebelled against you constantly and many men would have eventually turned their backs or coerced me physically into obedience.  Not you.  You had the firm but gentle hand and an unsurpassed patience in helping me reach my potential.  You were meant to be a father and I am so blessed to have become your son.  I love you so much.

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You’re sleeping peacefully.  Finally.  I am watching you, soaking up every detail and feature of yours because I know that within days or less, I will not have the privilege of doing this again.  How cruel time can be that one moment you are here with me, sick but still here with me and the next moment gone forever.  I’m so happy for you that you are able to rest.  What are you dreaming about?  Are you seeing where you will go once your soul is restrained no more by the weighty pull of this world?  I wish you could describe it to me.  Will you be there when your granddaughter is born?  I love you so much.

I’m afraid to fall asleep, scared of missing your last breaths but I know it’s understandable and things will be the way they will be.  I am happy to have been able say goodbye to you earlier and say the things that were in my heart.  You are Charles Dearing and you are my father.  I will never forget you.  I will always love you with a lion-like ferocity.  You will always be a part of my heart and I will tell my children stories about you, what kind of man you were, and everything you stood for.  Remember this as you journey across silver lakes to a better place.  I love you so much, pop.

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To my father, Chuck Dearing:

When I was younger, you used to cut my hair.  At the time I thought nothing of it.  Now I stand at your side looking nostalgically at those times with intense appreciation.  I expect tears but instead am overcome with love so deep-rooted and pervasive as the hum of hair clippers seems to vocalize the exquisiteness of this intimate moment we share.  Your eyes are closed and you breathe slowly.  I support your head with my free hand and groom you, a simple childhood chore that will become one of my most meaningful memories with you as an adult.

When I was younger, I leaned on you for guidance.  Now you lean on my arm to merely walk the hallways outside of your room.  You shuffle along, periodically asking me to walk you to the banister attached to the wall.  A banister that supports your weight while you grit your teeth and lay your head against the wall, breathing with difficulty.  I’m angry.  I’m angry that a man as decent and selfless as you must undergo this merciless assault on your body and mind, that you must have the tired look of illness thrust upon you by the tumors in your lungs.

When I was younger, I thought you were sometimes long-winded.  At the time, hastiness and the folly of youth sometimes took precedence over the patience and wisdom that accompanies time and experience.  I would finish your sentences and rush to conclusions.  I now find myself hanging onto your every word and speaking few.  You talk of life and death, speaking softly of how proud you are of me, the trials I’ve overcome, and the man I am becoming.  My heart shatters.

When I was younger, I knew nothing of the world.  You’d traveled it extensively.  Now there is a possibility that you may part with mine.  I pray for the best yet my optimism contests with fear and anticipatory grief.  A hollow wide and deep fills my heart.  Only now do I truly understand the depth of sadness.  Sadness is appropriately named and is therefore due no exaggeration, no prose because it is not a word, it is a feeling and I cannot escape it right now because I love you and the thought of you being anywhere but in my life rips me in two.

When I was younger, I needed a father like you.  At the time, I didn’t always realize you were just what I needed but because you were there, I know I will be ok.

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