Most of us have lost someone, and if we haven’t…logic tells us someday we will. And I know that many of you already have, and that some of those losses are still very present and painful. Recently, my dad passed away. We were very lucky in how he went, and I wrote about that earlier. But today I want to share with you what my brother Jeffrey read at our dad’s funeral. I think he does an amazing job of summing up all the conflicting feelings that go along with saying goodbye to someone. I think you will agree.
I thought I’d share with the folks here some of what was said in our last conversation together. Although some of its contents will remain just between us, I thought it’d be nice to let them in on some of our final words, which in this case were only mine, as you couldn’t speak because of your declining health. I feel this might give them insight into what you meant to me, and give me a chance to reiterate what you meant to me once more…
First off, I was very scared to speak to you. You are my father, and obviously we’ve had many conversations before this one, but this one was slightly different, as I knew it was our last. How do you approach something like this? How do you say all that you need to say? How do you know if you’ve said it right? How do you encapsulate a lifetime into a handful of sentences and convey to someone what it is that they meant to you? How do you say ‘I love you’ knowing that it’s the last time those words will ever be heard? After that it’s just spirit, which isn’t bad per se, but a spirit – although a return to one’s highest self – can’t hold your hand, can’t hug you, and can’t smile back. How do you thank someone for life? How do you show your gratitude for their care and love?
One of the initial things I said to you in our last conversation was ‘I just want you to know that I love you.’ A simple statement, but one filled with the yearning for your complete understanding. Of course I love you, as I say it all the time, but do you really know that ‘I love you?’ That I love you for everything that you are and in spite of everything that you aren’t. That your life to me was perfect, especially because of its inherent imperfection. That you have nothing to prove to me and nothing to apologize for. That your successes and failures are equally essential to everything that’s made me ‘me’, and that I wouldn’t change that for the world. You are my father, the only one I’ll ever have, and exactly the one I needed.
Something that followed was ‘I’m so thankful for you.’ Again, not something that hasn’t been said before but something that still needed to be said. Thank you for caring for me so much. Thank you for always making me a priority in your life. Thank you for always making time, the ‘time’, the one thing we never seem to have enough of in our busy lives and yet you always made sure you had plenty of it for me, I can’t thank you enough. And let me just relay that I’ve babysat and been around quite a few young ones at this point and all I can say is that stuff right there is hard. Kids are hard. And especially when life is hard, as it inevitably ends up being at some point, then they’re even harder. But you always had the energy and intent to look me in the eyes and be as present as you could, and for that I am so thankful.
Last in our conversation I said ‘goodbye, for now.’ Now I didn’t say the ‘for now’ part because we’ll meet again in the afterlife, which I’m sure we will and I look forward to a nice tennis match in heaven, but I say ‘for now,’ because I can’t really say goodbye to you in the strictest and most permanent sense of the word because in truth you’ll never really be gone. You’ll always be alive in my heart and in my thoughts. You’ll always be alive in my life, for when I treat a stranger with respect and integrity no matter who they are or where they came from you’re there because you taught me that. When I have fun on the slopes or glide on the ice you’ll be there because you lovingly taught me how to ski and skate. You’re there whenever I smile, for my dimples are just the latest version of yours. And you’re there whenever I pick myself back up after I’ve fallen because you taught me that my dreams and my life are always worth the time and effort. So, you can die all you want, but you can’t stop living within me.
Again, I just want you to know that I love you, that I’m so thankful for you, and goodbye, for now.
Love, your son.