The world has lost a gentle and wonderful man. Most of the world never knew him, of course, and has no idea what a treasure he was – or how much he will be missed, and by how many people. But I do.
After being healthy, active, and extremely social well into his 80’s, my father fell victim to a number of health issues and incidents that kept him either in the hospital or in a care center since early November. He passed away at the end of January, on a snowy Friday afternoon.
My sister – the one who lives near me here in Minnesota – and I left early Friday morning for what we thought was going to be a weekend visit with my dad and our other sister, the one who still lives near him and has been doing most of the work of caring for him. We got to the hospital around 1:00, and even though his situation had deteriorated to the point where he seemed restless and unaware of his surroundings, there is no doubt in my mind that he knew we were there.
As we held his hand, told him how much we loved him, and joked with him the way we would have done had he been his usual self, he and God must have decided that it was time for him to let go, and that it was okay now for him to do so. I think my dad was holding on until my sister and I got there so that we would have a chance to see him and say goodbye before he passed on, and so our other sister wouldn’t be alone with him when he did. I had visited the Chapel for a few minutes in the middle of the afternoon, and although I prayed and wished for a miracle cure for my father, my bigger prayer was that if it was time, that God would hold him and take him gently and comfortably home. My prayers ended, as they often do, with, “Not my will, but thine be done.”
And that’s what happened. Late in the afternoon, his earlier agitation subsided. His breathing became slow and even, and he seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Then his breathing stopped, and he was gone.
We took comfort in knowing that he was no longer experiencing any pain or frustration, and that he would now be reunited with my mom, with my sister who passed away five years ago, and with his parents, brothers and sisters, and other loved ones who have gone before him. Still, the comfort this gave us didn’t take away the grief of losing him.
It may sound trite or noble or corny to say that my dad brought joy and laughter with him wherever he went, but that’s the absolute truth. He was always delivering punch lines and one-liners, and he constantly complimented and flirted with women in all ages and stages of life. My sister once said that if she was visiting my dad in the hospital and he had been moved to a different room, all she had to do was follow the sound of giggling nurses or the sight of smiling faces in order to find him.
Dad was also the most good-natured, easy-going, agreeable person you could imagine. One of the comments we heard most often from family and friends after he died was, “Never once did I ever hear your dad say a bad word about anyone.” Many people also shared stories with us of thoughtfulness and generosity on my dad’s part. In gentle, quiet, small ways, which are the ones that really matter.
Although my dad spent his entire life in the small town where he was born and raised, and where he raised his own family, I’ve often thought about what a diplomat he was, and how much better off the world would be if more people were like him. If more people had his values, his concern for others, his lighthearted sense of humor, and his love and devotion to his family and his friends – which included pretty much everyone he met.
I know there will continue to be times when I think of my dad as if he is still here. When I start to call him on the phone before realizing that I can’t do that anymore, or when a special day or anniversary comes and it takes a minute for me to remember that he’s not here to share it with. But I also know that in many ways, he will be here forever.
At the funeral home during the visitation, I was talking with someone I haven’t seen in a while, and after we reminisced a bit he said, “You have your dad’s smile.” I can’t begin to say how comforting that was. Or how reassuring it is to know that all I have to do is look in the mirror to see my dad. And to hold him in my heart.
The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on February 13, 2014.
©Betty Liedtke, 2014
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This is a beautiful article and a tribute to one of the most wonderful men I know. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you, Georgette. And I’m sure you already know that I was thinking of your dad as I wrote this, too. Another loving, gentle, wonderful man.
I know, thank you…miss them both so very much!
Your description of your dad, sounded like your were talking about MY father. He was the same… dry humor joker, easy going, and I look like him. I even have his croaked bottom teeth. He passed away in 2000, the day after my birthday. It seems like another lifetime ago since I’ve seen him. Your tribute to him was very touching Betty. Thanks for sharing, and again, my sincere condolences. God is Good.
Thank you, Renee. Knowing you, it doesn’t surprise me to hear your description of your dad. Maybe he and mine have already met and started to get acquainted.
This is a beautiful article. It brought tears to my eyes, a smile on my face and a couple of giggles. Uncle George was a wonderful person who brought smiles to everyone’s faces. And of course, who could forget his snort.
I am sorry I could not be there for the funeral and for you all. I wished I could have been. You, your sisters, family, friends and Lemont lost a treasured soul. Uncle George will be missed by all.
Love you all.
Thank you, Clarence, for expressing your thoughts so eloquently. You have been in our hearts all along, and I know you were with us in spirit.
Thank you so very much for sharing these thoughts. I truly enjoyed his company whenever I could. I’d often stop by the Funeral Home knowing he was sitting there minding the store or taking a quick nap, always a big, welcoming smile. I was truly blessed just knowing him.
Thank you, John. It is so comforting to hear the thoughts and memories that others have of my dad. It keeps him here with us still, and I am very grateful to you for that!
What a great article, I miss him he was a great uncle. I had a rough day today and was thinking about him, so use to calling him to cheer me up. God has another angel in heaven. Dad and him are telling everyone this is my skinny brother.
Oh, Vanessa, this made me smile! How many times in our lives have we heard, “And this is my skinny brother?” A million, maybe? :>
By the way, anytime you’re having a bad day and need some cheering up, you’ve got my number. Feel free to call. I mean it!
So glad that I took time to read your blog today. Betty, you are blessed with a talent that allows people to identify with your feelings. I am blessed to have a father who hopes to make it to his 90th in July – and a reunion celebration in June. Fathers are so special and I pray for all those who do not have that special connection. We have been blessed; also with our friendship. Take care always, Cathi
Thank you, Cathi. You have a lovely way with words yourself! I’m glad for both our friendship and the connections we share. Early happy birthday wishes to your father!
So glad that we got to be part of his family. We really loved him at H & H and looked forward of him begining there every morning. His smile and his presence was very much welcomed by all of us. We will miss him alot and think of him every time we are there. His chair is part of the table that we share along with my mother. God bless you! Just know he was very much loved by us all.
Thank you, Linda. I get a little choked up just thinking about his empty chair at H&H. But then I smile thinking about all the stories and laughter shared around that table, and the wonderful people — yes, family — there. I’m sure my dad and your mom are smiling still.
What a beautiful blog about your father Betty. So sorry Ernie and. I were unable to be there. Ernie told me what a great guy he was. I lost my dad 20 years ago and so wish I had had many more years with him. We both will treasure the memories of our dads. Take care.
Thank you, Linda, and please accept my sympathy to you on losing your dad, even though it was long ago. I know he’s still in your heart and always will be, just as my dad will in mine.
My dear Betty:
My heartfelt sympathy is sent to you. If your dad was anything like you, he was a very special, caring, and wonderful man in many ways: one to be missed and thought about a lot, with a warm smile. Your writing brings to mind my own father: compassionate physician, poet, writer, talented musician, and family-oriented. Your article reminded me of how much dad added to my life and how much I miss his presence. Your feelings for your dad are positive and loving. Thank you for your beautiful article, Betty.
And thank YOU, dear Judy, for your warm thoughts and for the loving tribute to your own dad, which I so enjoyed reading. Hearing about your dad warms my heart as I think of mine.