My Dad knew how to live. He grew up, ran around the White Mountains of New Hampshire, joined the Navy and saw the world during the final 2 years of WWII, took advantage of the G.I. bill, earned a higher education and a few degrees with all sorts of important letters after them, such as B.A. and M.D., belonged to more than a handful of organizations, helped get even more started, got married, had a family, worked until retirement, traveled the world in the capacity of tourist, slowed down in his later years, and just about a week ago, was finally able to let go of life, and died. His body was more than worn out. He had outlived his “sell by” date several times. (He passed on 2/12/12).
As a child, I was always “Daddy’s little girl.” I was his only daughter, flanked by an older and a younger brother. When I was young, his approval meant everything, and I thought he knew everything. He helped me with homework, and especially with writing. He made sure we had opportunities to participate in a variety of activities while we grew up, so we would become well-rounded citizens. Among the activities were boating, skiing, shooting skeet, swimming, golf, tennis, attending summer camps and more.
The week before Dad’s funeral, our family gathered and reminisced, looking through old family photos and letters. I learned a thing or two about Dad that I hadn’t known. I learned that his mother had taken him hiking in the White Mountains as a young boy, fostering what became his lifelong love of the mountains.
As a boy, he grew up on campus of a New England prep school, where his father taught. We found a small newspaper clipping recounting an incident of a fairly young Dad standing on the balcony of one of the dormitory houses, shouting, “Down with school!” His freshman year of attending the prep school, he was kicked out for bringing alcohol into his dorm. (I had known that he was kicked out of school, but didn’t know why.) After spending the next 2 years at another school, he returned to his original school for his senior year and graduation.
The two years after high school graduation were spent in the Navy, where Dad was an electronics technician, repairing aircraft radars on Guam and Saipan. He was there at the end of WWII. Taking advantage of the GI bill, he went through college and medical school, where, according to a few family members, he was quite a joiner. As an undergrad student, he joined several social clubs, had a full social life, and rowed crew.
He worked a long and prosperous career as a doctor, taking care of his patients, finally retiring at 70. Through the years, he was active golfing and boating in summer and skiing and shooting skeet in winter. During retirement, Dad (and Mom) discovered cruises! He also took classes learning how to use a computer, wood working, and more. And he took up ham radio.
As well as having a large circle of friends and co-workers, one of the most memorable things about Dad was that he spent his last 24 years, living with cancer. He underwent a variety of treatments, and even spent a year on hospice… about 4 years ago. They kicked him off it when he wasn’t dying fast enough (was how he put it). He survived so many health crises that could have taken him, that I referred to him as a cat with more than 9 lives; more like 25 lives. Unfortunately, his time on hospice this winter, was his last.
Dad was a man who lived life. He stayed active with sports as long as his body let him. And when he could no longer ski, golf, shoot, or go boating, he kept active with his friends, visiting and chatting on the ham radio. He took his vow to take care of his wife and family so seriously, that even when he could no longer take care of those around him, he wouldn’t let go. He still thought he had to take care of Mom. He knew we kids could take care of ourselves; but he still had the need to take care of Mom.
This past fall, I tried to have the difficult conversation with Dad a number of times; to let him know that we could carry on and watch after our mother. But every time I tried to broach the subject, he would become angry and tell me that he was not dying. He could not and would not face death. I finally had to write him a letter, telling him what I wanted to say to his face. Near the end I called the house to see if he had gotten my letter. The caregiver said that he’d gotten the letter, but hadn’t read it yet. Several days later, he finally let go. When I flew to mom’s house, I asked the caregiver if Dad had gotten a chance to read my letter before he died. He had.
Dad, now that you’re on the other side, on the wrong side of the grass, in heaven, having fully transitioned into spirit, you are reunited with your brothers, their wives, your parents, and your buddies. I hope you now understand where I was coming from in our talks this past year (think you do). And as I am learning to communicate with spirit, I hope to continue our conversations until it is my time to cross over. As I said at your funeral service, “Fair winds and following seas. I’ll see you when I get there.”