Saturday, October 26, 2019

A Life Well Lived

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019 was like any other day in our family.  Mom and Dad both went to work, the adults went to their jobs, and the kids to school.  I was sitting on my couch grading papers watching the World Series when my mom called at 6:58 pm.  I missed her first call because my ringer was off  and the phone was on the counter.  I was not used to getting a call from my mom during the week so I followed up a missed call with a return call a few minutes.  It went straight to voicemail.

She called me about 20 minutes later and said through tears, "Jennie, your dad is dead.  He's here in the house.  Can you come over?"  I was in shock, went to my room, and asked to her to repeat what she said.  She said it again with panic rising up in her voice.  I remember sobbing in my room while I waited for Patrick to come home.  My brother in law was here visiting for my mother in laws birthday and he came to the room to console me.  I remember sitting on the floor in the bathroom crying loudly with my arms around my knees and my legs scrunched up to my body.  I was rocking back and forth in a state of total confusion.  My husband was at the gym, the girls were at Joel's house.  

As soon as Patrick got home we rushed over.  I had so many thoughts swirling around in my head ... how can this be, he's only 67, we just saw him three days ago at the pumpkin patch.  It's just not possible.  I immediately wanted to go to him.  I knew he was at the house in the living room.  The police would not let us enter through the front door because they have to treat the area like a crime scene, taking pictures, examining the body etc ...

All I could think about is how my mother must have felt looking around the house for him, calling his name, then stumbling upon his lifeless body.  You see October 22nd was a normal day for my dad.  He went to work, came home, pulled in the trash, even changed out a part on the pool leaving a box in the recycle bin as evidence.  He had stopped to get himself dinner knowing my mom would be at church teaching.  He turned on the TV to Fox News and had it going in the front room while he went out to the living room where their computer sat.

We now know that heart disease caused him to have a cerebral stroke.  He died instantly and fell out of his computer chair.  I take comfort knowing that he was not in pain.  We bear the burden of the pain now when we think about just how fast it happened.  You wish that you had held on longer on that last hug.  We took the girls to the Pumpkin Patch just three days before dad died.  We went to lunch after and had to leave abruptly because Emma got sick.  I didn't get to say goodbye.  I do remember sitting across from him watching him eat chicken nuggets and drinking his favorite drink, lemonade.  He called me about an hour after we got home asking how Emma was feeling.  That's just the kind of dad/grandpa he was.  He always looked out for us and wanted to be sure his "girls" were ok.  I'll never forget the trip we were able to take to Disneyland with my parents this summer.  You debate sometimes, can we afford this?  Let me tell you, it was a stretch for me to get the girls there but I'm so glad we did.  These trips and moments with family are priceless.  I'd much rather save for travel with my family then spend money on things that fade with time.

Dad was a man of a strong faith.  It was a quiet faith, but you knew it was there when you got into his car and saw all of the prayer cards he had around his dash.  We found a miraculous medal on his nightstand as well as rosaries and prayer books.  I know it hurt my dad to see how far I fell away from the church in my 20's and 30's.  Both he and my mom are a huge reason for my reversion.  I'm certain of it.  If you knew my dad, you knew he was funny always had a joke to tell or a smile on his face.  He knew how to make us all laugh.  I'm going to miss that so much.  I was looking back on photos the other day and the ones from Father's Day came up.  I didn't know that would be my last Father's Day with my dad.

One thing I remember about October 22nd was taking my students to adoration.  We have a family whose father is struggling through a cancer diagnosis.  I knew it was the feast day of St. John Paul II and I prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament for a miracle for the Hammond family.  Little did I know, my dad needed a miracle of his own.  His heart was in bad shape and none of us knew just how precarious his condition was.   I know how proud my dad was that his daughter came home to the church.  He loved telling people I was a Catholic school teacher.  To go from leaving the faith, to teaching the faith, is quite a turn around.   I am forever grateful for the prayers this man offered (likely in front of the Blessed Sacrament)  that brought me back to the Lord.  My dad loved going to adoration.

A photo I took of the blessed sacrament just hours before he died.

My dad watched me go through some very hard times when my first marriage ended.  One thing I'm forever grateful for is that he was there to see me marry Patrick.  He walked me down the aisle, with my mom, beaming with pride and love.  He knew his daughter would loved and honored by the man who was waiting for me at the altar.   Dad loved Patrick.  You could just tell how proud he was to tell people his son in law worked for the FBI.  He loved discussing politics with Patrick.  If you know my dad, you know he was opinionated about politics.  Patrick would just listen to him and let him spout off all of his Fox News wisdom with a smile and a chuckle.  I love this photo of the two of them together at the St. Joseph's festival a few years ago.  Patrick reminds me of my dad in so many ways ... a man of God, a faithful and loving husband and father, and someone who loves me deeply.

If there is one thing anyone can learn from a sudden and unexpected death of a loved one it is that life is SHORT.  Today could very well be your last day on earth.  Are you in a job that you love, are you in a marriage where you are being honored, are you right with God?  If the answer is no, then change that RIGHT AWAY.  You just don't know when you will be called home.  67 is pretty young these days to be called to the Lord, as we have technology and medicines that should allow us to live well into our 80's now.  My dad didn't get to see those extra years, but I think that is just because his soul was perfected and God was ready for another servant in heaven.  When my husband lost his wife at a young age to cancer his priest said that sometimes it just takes less time to perfect a soul and that the departed may be able to able to do more for us from the other side of the kingdom. I take great comfort in those words during this time.  

May your memory be eternal, my beautiful and loving father.  I miss you so much!   

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