First holiday since dad’s passing

We just celebrated our first holiday since dad’s passing and it was beautiful, fun, and bittersweet. Although I am a Jew, I still celebrate Easter with my mother, not necessarily for the religious aspects, but for the familial bonds and so she can see her grandkids. My uncles Bill and Bob were there, tons of food, tons of candy, and because we never celebrated Christmas because my dad was in the hospital and later passed away, we exchanged gifts. It’s a Chreaster! 

It was the first holiday since dad’s passing and his absence was felt by us all, even while having a good time being together. My mom also gave me dad’s Beatles records and they are the same exact albums that I grew up listening to with him, so when I got them home and listened, so much emotion, both joy and sadness, flooded my heart. So, I have been trying to process everything, how it was such a great time, tons of love, laughs, and the like, but someone was missing, someone who was a big part of all of our lives. Each holiday we celebrate, I know dad will be there in spirit, but his physical presence is greatly missed, his humor, his laugh, his ability to make everything hilarious. 

Holidays are for the family to come together, this is the first year ours was noticeably missing a member and I’m not entirely sure how to deal with that. Dad would want us to come together and celebrate, he’d want us to have a good time, so that is what we’ll continue to do, in his honor and name. 

After the funeral

My dad

This past Saturday was my dad’s funeral, just two days ago and I’ve been processing everything since. The funeral was very nice and the Pastor did a far better job than I expected, but he’d met my dad a few times in the past. The anecdotes about my dad were spot on and helped make a tearful day into a celebration of his life. After the funeral, we all went back to my mom’s house, ate, and talked the night away.

When I say I’m still processing things, I mean that I am still trying to find a way to express what I’m feeling, thinking, and how deeply my dad’s passing has affected me. That’s why I have been writing here in my blog about everything, I cannot just let it all out, but I can type it out a bit better. I suppose due to the act of typing itself, it is a step removed from just speaking about it, which I still cannot do.

I delivered a eulogy at the funeral and it was painful, I fought against a deluge of tears, but my sons lost that battle. My eldest Adrian was curled up away from everyone crying uncontrollably and Gabe sat curled in his chair in the middle of everyone. My wife fought back tears and my Uncle Bill couldn’t even speak during the funeral, which was understandable as he lived with my mom and dad.

I feel numb still, in shock, almost lost. While at mom’s house I kept waiting for my dad to just walk into the house like he did when we’d all visit him and he had dialysis. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, and I’d experienced a lot of death in my time on this planet. So many people were there because everyone loved my dad, he was the type of person that if you knew him, you loved him… period. 

Everyone was telling stories and memories of him at my mom’s house, people smiled, laughed, and cried. My kids played games and talked with my two uncles who helped raise me, which dad would have loved and gotten in on. I honestly think if dad saw his funeral, he would have been happy at how it was all handled. That unto itself gives me some solace.

Closer to the end of the night, my uncle Bill and mom gave me dad’s cross he loved and wore and it’s something I will forever cherish. I cried once I was home because it was so beautiful of them to give me it and to have something to keep dad close to me. 

After the funeral, I’ve been thinking of ways to continue to honor my dad’s memory, to keep him alive within all of us and I know he was proud of the changes I’d made and who I’ve become, so I want to continue onward and forward with that. He was kind and gentle and thus I will strive to be kinder and gentler myself, but he was also very funny and well I already have that down 🙂

This all has been overwhelming to me and I couldn’t begin to fathom what my mom is going through. I don’t know what to feel honestly like I said I’m numb still, but I know it’s better out than in and so I will release my grief as I can and as I continue to honor his memory and legacy of love, kindness, gentleness, and laughter. 

Grieving when one cannot

My dad died one week ago, through it I have had to find the strength to stay calm and hold myself together for the sake of my family. My wife, my four kids, my mother, my uncles, I am holding strong for them and while it is a tremendous weight to bear, I gladly will shoulder it. I have not grieved and I feel horrible, I am depressed, saddened to the very core of my being, but not yet…

My father’s ashes will soon be in my mom’s possession and with it, a funeral will be planned. I will be talking during it, reading a eulogy and a poem shared beside this post. I will hold back the deluge of my heart a bit longer, then I will release an ocean of tears after.

I cannot begin to tell you how difficult this has been and will be a while still, but I can tell you that the hell of today, tomorrow, and for time to come, cannot last forever. My dad wouldn’t want this, I knew him, he was a happy, jovial, kind, and loving soul. This too shall pass, yet his memory will continue on forever. 

Once I have been freed to grieve, to release this pain and sorrow, I will dedicate myself, my life, and my works to his memory, to the kind of man he was. Yes, I am my own individual, but he raised me, as I am me, I am also part of him. The person I am today is greatly influenced and due to the person my father was, and I will seek to honor that every day I breathe. 

There’s a Jewish poem often recited during Shiva that has helped me immensely during this time called, “We remember them.” The poem reads;

At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart; We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make; We remember them.
When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs; We remember them.
For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as, We remember them.
By Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer

My fallen hero

Yesterday I received the most difficult news of my life, at 1:30 am EST my father passed away. A few days ago I made a post about him and his struggle to survive over the last several months in the hospital, but he has lost the battle. He raised me to be kind, caring, to sacrifice myself for others in need, but over the last few months, he also taught me bravery, strength and that love transcends distance.

I thought about whether or not I wanted to write this, but writing is helping me to contain my grief and remain composed for the sake of my mother, my wife, and my four kids, each of whom needs me at this point. My dad was someone who if you knew him, he instantly touched your life with his kindness and gentleness and that’s something I aspire to in myself. He loved just about everyone and was everyone’s friend almost immediately.

He would give someone the shirt off of his own back if they needed it and was the kind of person who if you talked about music, history, politics, or the mafia, he could talk for hours on end. He changed my life, helped make me the man I am today by his example, and talked to me often about how no matter what someone was in the past, it’s never too late to change. He struggled physically, yet was the strongest man I’ve ever known, he faced a lot of challenges and adversity but was still the kindest man I’ve ever known.

My dad was maybe 5’7″ tall, but was the biggest man I’ve ever known, his heart unmatched, his knowledge of music vast, and his love for people unwavering. He was quick to forgive others, he had a fuse a hundred feet long and a sense of humor that I hope to match in my own life. We had hundreds of stories, he loved telling about our exploits, like when people in the neighborhood messed with him and he’d tell them, “You know who my son is, I don’t think you wanna do that,” and they’d apologize (I’m smiling as I write this).

He told that story to my wife about six times… 

My dad was my hero, a giant among men I’d known and all of my friends loved him and thought he was just too damn cool. When friends would have problems at home or were in a bad situation, he’d let them sleepover for the weekend and we’d stay up late watching horror movies and listening to music after he ordered us pizza or something. When I was a teen I remember I snuck downstairs late one night and drank one of his beers and he said, “Don’t tell your mother, but don’t drink either you’re too young,” rather than scold me or get me in trouble with mom. 

We would sit in the basement of his house and he’d play the drums, any genre of music, he’d hear a song once and boom, he’d play along to it. It’s because of his inspiration that I took up music myself, even today as I continue to learn percussion, it was from his playing drums for me as a kid. We’d sit and listen to records on his stereo component unit, which I honestly believe inspired my love of vinyl today.

He did so much for me in my life that I could never repay him for, but he told me many times over how proud of me he was. That’s why I had to write this, as difficult as it is for me to articulate everything right now, I have to get it out in some constructive way and share it to some degree. Though he’s my fallen hero, he will never be forgotten, he will on through me, through my kids, and the stories they tell to their kids in the future. 

That’s how powerful the love my dad was over the lives of everyone who knew him, that’s why I had to write this…

I love you dadu… 

Death and dying

The situation

I grew up without a father, but my mom married a man who was a family friend when I was 11 years old and he immediately set about to teach me and help raise me. This man was a father to me, regardless of blood ties and he showed me how to be a man and the meaning of sacrifice and love. In November he was hospitalized with a host of maladies and a few days ago, the hospital said they did everything they could for him and it’s only a matter of time before the inevitable.

His liver is failing, his white and red blood cells are plummeting and his platelets are dropping. He has fluid on his heart and lungs and he cannot get kidney dialysis in full, as his blood pressure keeps dropping to dangerous levels. He is dying…

They are releasing him to my mom to take care of him in his final days and my uncle and aunt are going to be helping her through it all. I have four kids, a wife, and live all the way across the city, literally over an hour away, or I’d be there myself to help. He is not yet dead, so we’re planning on copious visits to have him see his grandkids and son a bunch.

So I’ve been dealing with a lot… I haven’t been on social media much, I haven’t updated my websites much, and I’ve been spending a ton of time with my family. I’ve submerged myself in working out, health, and fitness, music, and meditation to help take my mind off of everything. Honestly, my mind is a mess at the moment, but I’m trying to keep it together for everyone else… my own version of “smile now, cry later.” 

My dad’s mind is also going south a bit, he doesn’t always recognize where he is, on the phone, he calls his wife (my mom) mother when his mother and father died over 30 years ago. The doctors said it’s due to an excess of calcium that’s holding sway over his mind and keeping him in a dazed and confused state. It’s tough on everyone, but we see glimmers of him through all of that, we know the real man behind the mental fog.

Memories

I have thousands of memories of him and I’d like to share some of them here with you.

That’s him to the far left at my wedding reception, which I am so glad to have memories of him being there. At the wedding ceremony, he was so happy and proud, at the reception he was in awe at how nice it was (thanks to some truly special friends of ours). We had a ton of food and the hall was behind a church from the 1700s attached to a cemetery that was even older and grand. 

In the 90’s he won a contest with Blockbuster video to fly to North Carolina and see Paul McCartney live in concert, all-expense-paid… he took me. He knew I love music and he chose to take me and have some bonding time and it was something I will never in my life forget. It was also my first time on an airplane and that was so much fun, especially that we flew on a jet, a crop duster (not kidding), and a couple of large 747’s. 

Once when he worked security, I showed up to visit him and drop something off and all of the guards were terrified (I’m a rather large bloke). They told him that I looked like a wrestler or Mafia enforcer there to hurt someone and he said, “That’s my son!” They apologized to me and let me in to see him, but it’s a story he and I are both fond of telling. 

There are so many memories we’ve had, but now it’s time to make some more last and special memories.