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In Loving Memory of My Dad
The past week has been a week of firsts for me. Let me share some with you:
• My father called me on Friday night and I remember how optimistic he was. The conversation started with him asking me a lot of questions about my life and health. He had a great interest in hearing about my doctor’s visit and wanted to understand as much as he could. I talked a lot. Then the conversation turned and he explained to me his situation in the hospital and was released while waiting for further results. But he downplayed his health issues and assured me he was OK. I went to bed exhausted from a very long and hectic week. And, I said to Courtney, “I’m going to turn off my phone because I really need to get a good night’s rest”. This was a first for me.
• I went to bed and fell asleep within 3 minutes versus my usual 5 minutes. You see, I am just like a toy baby doll and when I lie down, my eyes are just closed. Around 1 am our alarm went off in the house. This alarm is for our 50 pound dog who sleeps 20-23 hours a day, but is always on guard. We got up and I went under the bed to hide. I asked Courtney to see what was going on. (By the way, just for those who don’t know me, I really didn’t go under the bed…I went in the closet). We quickly learned that it was my sister. What a vision that was, at that late hour. Honestly, her hair looked like she stuck her finger in the light socket and was half asleep. John said, “Wayne – Dad just called and said to get you.” I immediately called my father and received a brief update from my mother who quickly gave him the phone. Then he continued to tell me the situation and told me 4 words that I will never forget or think that I would ever hear from him, “I need your help.” I immediately went into crisis mode and arranged the next flight in the morning, getting there around 2 pm Saturday. I rushed to the hospital and when I got there, he seemed stable. He even told me some funny stories and assured me that everything was OK and it was going to be fine. If you would make a bet with me, I would never think that my father would ever say, “I need your help.” He was like me, or maybe, I’m like him. We are givers. He was a giver and always “Mr. Fix it.” His words of help were an absolute first for me.
• We dug in these few days with a test battery, etc., and soon it was ready to be released. During this time, we talked a lot about these things and at one point in our conversation, I asked him if he knew where his new house was. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “My home is in heaven, but I have a temporary stop in Orlando, Florida.” That’s where Courtney and I live. I was relieved because I wanted him and my mom to come to Orlando and live with us – BUT I wanted them on board, and he was on board! I was on cloud 9 as they prepared to move south. In the meantime, Courtney was on her way up north to help me with all of this. I was thinking: good things, life is good. My parents are actually going to enjoy Florida with us – let’s rock!
• My dad was released from the hospital and we went to a nearby hotel because I wanted them to spend the night just to make sure everything was OK before we brought them home ready to move into their “temporary home” Orlando. I took them to the hotel that was literally across the street from the hospital and my mother told me to slow down, turn here, etc. I’m kidding, of course, but she doesn’t like driving me at all, even though I have a very clean driving record – except when I got a speeding ticket when Melissa was 3 years old. Just a reminder, don’t tell a 3 year old to keep a secret – it will always backfire on you. We got to the hotel and in the elevator my dad stopped and said, “Wayne I’m going down.” I did my best to help him to his knees while my mother looked for more help for me and called the ambulance. We put him on the stretcher, they left and I told him, I’ll be right there. For the first time in my life, I said to myself: I don’t know what to do. But I pulled myself together and went into “Matt Elsey tough guy, man fix it” and went back to the hospital.
• We were all together in the Emergency Room, laughing and trying to strategize our next moves, etc. Everything was good. Mom was tired, but optimistic. We really thought everything was going to be fine. Dad was always a fighter and he was the rock. However, in a few minutes things changed. And soon I found myself at his bedside and he died. And, with his last breath – Mr Fix it, Matt – told me “Wayne, take good care of your mother.” I was amazed. We left the room while the medical team tried to revive him. But in a few minutes – which seemed like an eternity, the doctor came out with the words, “I’m sorry, there was nothing more we could do.” It was shocking. It was devastating. He was discouraged. My father, my mother’s husband, the biggest cheerleader you could ever hope to meet, died.
• Mother and I stood there for a while in stunned silence at what had just happened. But then, I knew, we had to continue. So I made my mother altar and dinner. Honestly, we had a few words for each other as we were both, and still are, in disbelief. I had some relief because I still remembered that my mother ate like a bird, had a salad and ate every piece of her 12 inch pizza!
So here we are, a few days later – which seems like months – and I have the following to share with you:
I woke up at 4 am on Thursday crying and it was very clear to me that we all need to think about our lives. You see, this “box” in front of us – let’s refer to it as a box for the sake of this context. We all live our lives full of joy, regret, worry, junk, fear etc. But make no mistake, every day we play the game of life. And what I now clearly see is that when this game is over, we each go back to the box. But what remains is what we bring to the game. That never disappears in time.
I ask you to think about what my father meant to you and what you mean to others – what legacy will you leave? What I have from my father is not material things, but memories. The memories of who he was and what he stood for will live on in me, my daughter and then my daughter’s. Memory of him, they were Martha. Memories of the enormous love he had and still has for my mother, his wife of 53 years. The memories he worked so hard to give to my mom, Cindy, John, Timmy and me. Memories of how her eyes lit up for Christmas when Courtney and I showed up with a real Christmas surprise for her and my mom, who saw Melissa, Josh and her new grand daughter – Aubree. Memories of seeing them for the first time and what we know today, was the last time. You see most everything goes back in the box—the cash at the top of the corporate ladder, the vacation home on the lake, and the status car, the jewelry, the clothes and everything in between. All the tokens, the game pieces we collect and the prizes are left behind when it’s time to walk away from the table. The only real “gain” you claim and keep is your own soul, the memories that remain of those who knew you and your love for Christ and each other.
To finish, “Dad – I have this. I will take care of your beautiful bride and my mother. done,’ but rest in peace friend. Dad – you made it very clear to me – I know what to do.”
© 2015 Not Your Father’s Charity. All rights reserved.
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