My Dad’s Final View – Cliffs in Ireland

So, I went to Ireland the other day.

Yes, it was amazing. Yes, it was a dream come true. But… it was something else.

It was a trip that I was supposed to do with my dad. Well, at least until he passed away in a motorcycle accident a year and a half ago.

The trip was amazing though and my dad would have thoroughly enjoyed every single last bit of it… except the driving part. He would have definitely hated that. But… other than that it would have been a perfect trip for him. 

My wife and I decided to do something a little different. We took him with us on the trip.

Not in his angelic form… because he looks ridiculous in a diaper and he doesn’t know how to play the harp.

Not in the ashes form… because he is laying down next to my mom in a grave in Ohio right now.

No… we took his picture. A subtle reminder of the trip we weren’t able to do the way that we had planned. But… one that he was with us anyways.

The final day we went to the Cliffs of Moher. I believe that it would have been the highlight for my dad. Six straight days from Dublin to County Clare went by like a flash, but the Cliffs get stuck in your brain. They are spectacular… and I know that my dad would have loved them.

So, we dropped him off. 

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You know… losing your dad is never easy. I have lost both my mom and dad now and sometimes feel like an orphan. However, I know that I am not alone and my parents did the best job they could with me. I am who I am because of what they did in my life. 

So, my dad deserved someplace special. Yes… it was sad… and has been sad the last year and a half… 

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But, we smile. Sometimes we hide tears behind glasses and sadness behind smiles. But, we move on. We continue the journey of life and take what has been given and do the best that we can with it.

For my dad, he left me looking at a beautiful life that I can only have because he never stopped loving me and believing in me. I have been unlovable many times, but he never gave up and I won’t ever stop striving to live the best life I can to bring glory to God and the memory of my parents. 

Today, my dad is smiling upon one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Want to see what he’s looking at? Enjoy a little bit of his view…

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Slainte Dad… I will always love you!

GP

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Sitting Shiva… Stained Ties and a Big Pile of “Keep”

Boxes, old pictures and ties from another generation fill my vision as I start cleaning dad’s house.

My mom did many things for my dad. She covered over a lot of his flaws… she cooked three meals a day… and she cleaned really well. Without her, flaws were apparent… microwave dinners became his cuisine… and dust accumulated into a protective layer that covered everything. It is into this sea of dust that I find myself swimming today. Doing what I have always dreaded… separating all of my dad’s things into three distinctive piles… 

Throw Away. 

Sell.

Keep. 

A pile of stained ties and checkbook registrars from 1983 pepper the “throw away” pile. My dad was from a generation that kept things “just in case”. So, file upon file of papers must enter this pile. Some will be shredded. Some will just move from their heap in a drawer to their final resting place at the bottom of a trash compactor. But, there are some things that “may” be used by another person that I have no desire to have. These things move into the “sell” pile…

Furniture that is so heavy that it makes you want to cuss when you move it. Furniture made before particle board was chic… or prevalent. Knick knacks and drapes and pictures of things that have no meaning to me… they are piled together in preparation for their new homes… to be spread out throughout a community who will buy them at pennies to the dollar. These are all things that enter this ever growing pile.

But… there are other things that will mean nothing to anyone but me… and those things enter a pile to “keep”. 

My shoes that I wore before I could walk that are worn down on the tops from crawling instead of the bottoms. The picture of an old man praying before his meal which has followed my dad to every place he has ever lived and encapsulated his soul and depth of spirituality. The holiday dishes that have sat in the back of his closet for years that were never used because my dad didn’t want anything to happen to them. They have sat wrapped each Christmas for their safety. However, dishes weren’t meant to stay hidden, but to be used… just like us. We are not called to simply hide in our homes and be safe, but to live life and breathe deep and venture from our boxes on to the dining room table. And… in doing that… they may get damaged… and so may we. There may be chips in the plates from wear and tear and there may be cracks in our lives from use. But, we are meant to be used and active and it is a chance that we must take.

This year, those dishes will be on my dining room table.

I found a small book that I had given him for father’s day many years ago that I wrote in. I flipped open and there was a message written under my note to him. It was something that he had written to me. It had sat in his house unread until this moment. It was written many years ago for this moment. A message that transcended the grave. 

That book will sit on my shelf. 

I found pictures that are over half a century old buried in a box of junk. Picture after picture of my mom when she was a small child. Faded photos of another generation of the people who helped nurture the ones who brought me life. I had never seen them before. Jumbled and scattered at the bottom of a box they sat there waiting for me.

Those photos will be displayed for the world to see. 

Those things that really matter. Those things that are really important. Those things can’t be replaced with a dollar sign. They are in the “keep” pile.

I am not excited about a piece of technology that can be replaced at any WalMart or some car that will only rust and die. I am enamored by those possessions that hold a memory… those “things” that carry a thought… that property which has a story that I can use to carry the legacy of my family into the future generations. These are the things that mean the most to me.

As I look around my home today I ask myself a tough question. “Am I living my days to accumulate stuff that doesn’t really matter in the whole scheme of life? Am I getting goods when I should be cultivating memories? Am I providing my family with those things that rust and time can not destroy?”

I hope I am. 

Because I know that there will come a day when I will breathe my last breath and I want to know that they will be able to look at each other and smile… remembering things that we did together or time that we shared. I want them recounting the moments of laughter and joy instead of the pennies that are left in the bank.

I will continue to go through clothes that should have been discarded a generation ago and probably find that 1993 tax information that dad kept so safe. I will wipe down walls and sneeze from the dust. I will fill vaccum bags full and empty out closets. And… with each item I touch… I will make a decision.

What will I trash? What will I sell? What will I keep?

I already know what is making it into the “keep” pile. Are you building a life that will assure that this “keep” pile will be the largest when you are gone? I hope you take a moment to consider this and how you are living… it makes all the difference in the world.

Thanks for Sitting Shiva with me!

GP

Sitting Shiva… Bulldogs and Bullet Shells

So, I led my dad’s funeral service… again.

If one time wasn’t hard enough, I did it twice. This time, however, I wasn’t alone. The flesh that had housed my father for over 60 years was nestled in the corner… in a box… that has become his final resting place. He laid there void of soul… yet, I sought to bring him back to life.

With words, I sought to speak his soul back into existence. With my voice, I tried to create his presence one last time…

I don’t know if anyone else felt that… but I did. I felt him there. Not the man in the corner, but the spirit in our hearts and the memories in our minds. He was there with us. He was there.

The funeral director was a blessing… quirky and kind. He did everything he could to give us all that we needed to make the ceremony perfect… but couldn’t deliver when it came to technology. I looked at him and said… 

“So, what kind of technology do you have.”

He looked confidently back into my eyes and said, “We have a CD player.”

Long awkward pause as I looked at him… No, I was looking through him.

He smiled. 

“Uh… yeah. What else? Do you have a TV?”

“Nope. We have a CD player.”

The 21st century just collided with the 20th century and I remembered that I was back in Ohio. 

Needless to say, I went shopping. After purchasing cords and a projector and some speakers… we were ready to go.

The day of the service came and there is nothing that I have ever HAD to do that I looked forward to LESS than this. I dragged my feet… I took an extra long shower… I buttoned my shirt slowly… I finally fell in the car seat and made the drive. As I pull into the parking lot, I see that people are waiting for me.

I am nearly 40 minutes early and people are waiting for me. 

I get out of the car and say “Hello”. I grabbed my bags and turn towards the funeral home. The door opens and my quirky friend’s assistant is there to greet me. I walk in the foyer and look at the closed door that leads to the actual room.

I look at the door again. It’s closed. I want it to stay closed. I want to turn and run away. But… I don’t. 

He opens the door. I know what is waiting for me on the other side of the door. I move through the opening and speak in a hushed tone. 

“Don’t let anyone else in until I say so.” 

“Of course.” He closes the door behind my family and I while he stands like a British soldier guarding the Palace. 

I look at the corner. There he is. Open casket. Flowers perched on his bottom half… hands tucked beneath covers… mouth wired shut – flat and emotionless. Just like how I thought I should feel… but, I didn’t feel that way. I look to my son. 

“You ready?”

We walk as a unit, my wife and son and I. We stand there staring down at the open box. I talk to my son about finality. I ask him how he is doing. My wife watches as a tear falls down her face. We stand there. I glance at the flowers and then over at the flag and then at my dad’s face. It is… was… his body. He has moved on. He wasn’t with me anymore and this box is not how I wanted to remember him… so my eyes dart. But, this box was part of the process… so we stood there and paid our final respects.

I look at the bulldog guard who is perched by the door. “It’s time”. I mouth it with a quick upward shake on my head. The doors open and people begin to come in. Fifteen minutes before the official viewing is open and people are already shuffling in.

Some drove from Kentucky… others Tennessee… others from right down the street. There were cousins and brothers and friends and neighbors. There were young and old, but they were all impacted by my dad. We even had a Lieutenant Colonel from the Pentagon… (yeah… I didn’t see that one coming either). 

All in all… my dad touched a lot of people’s lives and they were going to take advantage of this moment to honor him. And… in honoring him, they truly honored me.

I spoke. We laughed. We cried. Friends and family shared their memories and stories and it was truly a time of healing. I was able to meet a man who saw my grandfather die and he recounted all the details with me. (If you want to know more, read this post). I heard about my grandpa… the hero.

With a flag laid over his coffin, myself and 5 other special men carried my dad’s body to the hearse. It was:

Herb Kenter (my dad’s best friend)

Chuck Kenter (a close family friend for many years)

Shawn Kenter (another close family friend for many years)

Roger Smith (my best friend growing up)

David Hintz (my dad’s brother)

At the gravesite, there were many people waiting for me. Dressed in uniforms with rifles shining… they waited for us. A long line of cars pulled into the graveyard and worked their way to the tent where we stood. I helped bring my dad’s body out of that hearse and we laid him down under the tent. I took a few steps back as the people gathered and I let the soldiers take over.

I can’t explain in words right now what this ceremony meant to me… but I may in a future post. Let me simply say that it was the most powerful and honoring thing that I have ever been a part of. They spoke. They gave him a 21 gun salute. They played taps. They folded his flag and placed it into my arms. The commander saluted me and I returned it. I was then given the bullet casings from the 21 gun salute. I cherish them as much as I do the flag.

Those bullet casings mean something. They were filled with something at one point. They were filled with energy and have accomplished their purpose on earth. They are but a shell today… but a shell that reminds me of the most powerful moment of my life. A reminder of something far deeper than the actual metal casing… a reminder of my hero. 

Life is sort of like that… isn’t it. Each of us will be a spent casing one day. Each of us  will have accomplished our purposes on this earth and we will be done. However, we would have given each person who was part of our life a memory… or a casing… to remember. These memories point back to the purpose of our lives and live on far longer than we do. 

I want to leave casings… like my dad did. I want to leave memories… like my dad did. I want to touch lives and be able to say that my purpose was accomplished. Not only in what was given in the moment, but in the casings that lay scattered on the floors of those that I know and love.

My life is littered with the casings of others. People, who even in this season of my life, have changed me. Those who have loved me. Those who have stepped up to help carry the burden in these long days. I simply want to thank you and ask you to keep pulling that trigger in my life and I will commit to pull the trigger in yours. Together… we can make an incredible difference and leave casings littering the floors of each other. 

Thank you for Sitting Shiva with me.

GP 

Sitting Shiva… Meaningful Suffering and a Perch Sandwich

So, I led my dad’s memorial service the other day.

The question came from someone who cared deeply for me. “So, who are you going to get to do your dad’s service?” I looked back without any thought or hesitation. “Me. I am doing it. There is no one on earth who will do what I want to be done. I am the only one who knew my dad good enough to do his memorial and I am the one doing it.” 

They smiled… almost as if they knew the answer before they asked the question.

I meant those words. No matter how much care or preparation someone could put into a service for my dad, it would still leave me wanting more. I knew the purpose of the day and it was so simple. It is to celebrate my dad’s life and the man that he was… to share his struggles and triumphs in life… to let my mom (the absolute love of his life) shine as I knew that he would want… and to let his life inspire everyone who chose to be there.

And, I get to do this twice. My dad is blessed. He will get two services. One in Arizona and one in Ohio. 

His life could be broken down into three seasons. Life before my mom. Life until the death of my mom. Then, the last 10 years spent in the Grand Canyon State… Arizona. Those who have met him and cared for him in this final decade of years came out to celebrate his life this week. Over 100 people were cramped into church. Through tears… smiles and stories were shared. 

I heard a lot of stories that day.

I heard from those who had ridden motorcycles with my dad. They spoke of the love that he had when they were on the open road. They spoke of the stories they shared and the miles that they drove… together. Before my dad’s last ride. 

I heard from people who knew him at church. They spoke of his smile and the time that they spent serving God together in ministry. They told of how he would be missed. 

I heard from others who met my dad through the town. From his time working at the school to those things that he did to help the community, I heard many stories that continued to bring healing to my heart.

I heard from many who were near my dad’s age. They understood how young he was… how tragic is was… how it could have been any of them… how it could have been any of us. 

Tragedy makes you stop and think. That’s what it does… doesn’t it? There was no long sickness or extended goodbyes. There were no last words that were spoken or plans that were made. There was simply a man who was full of life and embracing adventure and then… nothing.

Or was there something?

I wonder if we speak more through our death sometimes than in our life. I wonder if the unspoken sentences still bounce around in souls and minister to minds who are left asking the question “What if?”

I would ask “what if”. But, my “what ifs” would be different than what you may think. They wouldn’t be…

“What if my dad didn’t take that motorcycle trip?” or

“What if I could have stopped him?” or

“What if someone would have done something that could have caused this nightmare to never have become my reality?”

No. I wouldn’t waste breath on questions like that. But, I would ask something like...

“What if God took my dad home and I am still here to take what he left me and live in such a way to make him proud?” or

“What if those lessons my dad gave me were for a greater purpose in my life?” or 

“What if there is not only meaning in my dad’s life… but also in his death?”

You see… these are better questions for me. I will still ask “what ifs”, but they will be questions that propel me forward and not drag me back. They will be questions that bring glory to the name of God and the Surname “Hintz” which was given to me by my father. I will seek to shine bright on this earth and let people know that the years of hard work, sweat and tears shed by my father were not in vain. They have a sense of purpose… great purpose… and they are not meaningless.

There’s no scarier word for me… “meaningless”.

At the memorial service this week I showed a video of a beautiful song called “Though You Slay Me” with a section that talks about “meaning”. And the message is simple… there is nothing that is “meaningless” in your life. It all has meaning. Everything has meaning.

Even the suffering. 

Even the tears. 

Even the pain.

Even the questions.

It all has meaning. 

I’m sitting in Ohio now and if there was ever a place that encapsulates the word “meaningless” to me… It’s Ohio… I know that some Ohioans are reading this right now and I am glad that you love your state… but I don’t.

But… you see… that doesn’t matter because MY DAD DID. And, because my dad did… there is meaning in me being here right now. In two days I will gather together with a new group of people. These people are from the first two seasons of my dad’s life. From his childhood… from his work years… from before he became a widower. We will gather together in the state that he always called “home”. And, it is in this place, where he will be laid to rest. Right next to my mom. They will be together again. 

I will seek to share his story with an audience that lived that story with him. They will hear about his life and the seasons that made up his years. I will hear some stories that I’ve never heard before. We will laugh together and… we will cry together. And… my hope for all of us… is that we will heal together too.

And… in that healing… we can all find meaning.

I ate perch today. 

I did it for dad. Fried Perch sandwich and steak fries smothered with malted vinegar and lots of salt. I know that it would have been his meal if he were sitting in my seat. And, I know that he would have taken one bite, clapped his hands and said… “Ahhhhh. There ain’t nothing like that Lake Erie Perch. There’s nothing like it.”

I didn’t clap my hands and I didn’t praise the heavens for Lake Erie… at least not out loud. However, in my mind I heard his voice. I hear his voice all the time. I hear his grateful praise for following his final wishes to the tee. I hear him comforting me when I’m sad. I hear his smile when he looks upon all those in his life that have cared for him and for those who have cared for my family in this difficult season. 

I hear him all the time.

Early on in my grief I was praying and I was asking about what to share at his funeral. I heard something that day too. I heard this…

“Tell them all that I loved them. Tell them that I loved them all very much.” 

I smiled. “Of course.” I whispered. “But I think they already know that.” 

And, sitting here today… I hope you do. 

Blessings!

GP

Start the journey with me from Day 1 or go to Day 8

Sitting Shiva… Tire Swings, Tidal Waves and My Vacant Stare

So, I had to find my shoes today.

Literally. I had no idea where they were. I haven’t really left the house lately and today was the day when I told my wife I’d ride with her to the next city… about 30 miles away. I found the shoes in the corner of my closet and slipped them on… thinking that what I was about to do was really no big deal. I was wrong. 

After loading my family of six into the car I slithered into the passenger seat and felt myself melt. We start driving… one mile away from home and I am ready to return. I don’t want to be in this car and I don’t want to be driving to the next city and I don’t want to be wearing these stupid shoes!

But… I do.

I stare out of the car window at the desert. My dad loved the desert. He hated the heat… but loved the desert. He grew to know its beauty and appreciated it. He would love to hop on his motorcycle and go on long drives through the desert highways. It is one of those highways that I find myself on today and a lump enters my throat.

My ambition is gone. My energy is gone. I sit with my hands folded and my arms weighted down. I stare behind sunglasses into nothingness. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know how to fix me… 

Maybe I’m unfixable or not meant to be fixed. Maybe this is the new me. 

As we drive I tell my wife that I’m not going into the doctor’s office… I tell her I’m staying in the car. I hear a voice come from the backseat. It is my six year old. He says, 

“I am sitting in the car with daddy.” 

I don’t even think… just speak in a flat, unearthed tone.

“OK. But I just want to let you know that I’m not talking to you.”

My wife gasps and I realize what I just said. When my words register in my consciousness I start to laugh.

I really laughed. It felt good. Who am I anymore?

I told my son that I was kidding and that he could talk my ear off if he wanted. He continued to play in the backseat… unaffected by me. And then I thought again…

Who am I anymore?

I mean… I know my name and my job and my position in life. I know my faith and my voice and my past, but who am I?

Death does that?

I am a son… No, I was a son. Now, I’m a father of sons… but I have been that for years. It is hard to stop being that which you have always been when there is nothing there to take its place. 

A Toyota truck loaded with tires sits in the passing lane as we continue down the highway. The tires remind me of days at the park with dad and my favorite attraction… the tire swing. I could play on that thing all day. I remember wanting to be pushed and pulled and spun in every direction. I remember getting so dizzy that I thought I was going to puke. It was sickening and fun at the same time. I remember leaving that park and looking down at my arms and legs. They were marked black from the tire. The rubber had left its mark on me. I didn’t notice it when I was playing… but now could easily differentiate each and every one of those marks.

My life with dad has been like that. Our relationship has been pushed and pulled and spun around in a million different directions. We have had our fights and arguments and hugs and special moments. We have disappointed and forgiven… made mistakes and apologized… loved and loved some more. Our relationship has been like my time on the tire swing. Scary and fun and filled with laughter. But now the ride is over. 

There is no more swing and no more park and no more time for us to share. It has ceased to swing and I have climbed off and now I look down at my life and see the marks that have been placed on me. Marks from our time together… our talks… and from the life that has passed between us. Except these marks won’t wash away, but have become etched into my soul like grooves that lead somewhere… someplace meaningful and everlasting. 

I thought it would be easier. I thought the pain would systematically subside each day until it just simply disappeared. But… it doesn’t. It shows up today worse than yesterday. I can’t stand the unpredictable tides of my life. I just want it to be methodical… like time. The clock ticks each second which leads to each minute that passes the hours. Grief should start like a full hourglass that loses it’s power over you in time. With each tick becoming weaker and weaker. But, instead, it chooses to hide around corners and jump out when you least expect it. It chooses to live in the songs you hear and the things that you see and the silent whispers in the back of your mind. It comes like a mouse one moment and a tidal wave the next. You are never safe.

And so you simply sit and wait for it. 

Then you sit through it. 

Then you wait again. 

On my way back home today I couldn’t wait to get there. I wanted my shoes to disappear into the back of my closet again. I wanted to close the door. I feel safe at home. I know where all the mice hide and the source of the tidal waves there. I know how to control it… I know how to check out… I know how to breath. 

It’s hard to breath when there is a lump in your throat around a crowd of people. It feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest while your body is paralyzed. I have never, ever felt this way before. 

I am present… but I am vacant. My family of 5 whirls around me as I become the sun in their solar system. They all move around me as I simply sit still. I love them. I just don’t have any strength to circle around them right now. But, I guess the sun wasn’t designed to circle.

This is my moment to be the sun. This is my moment to be still. I can’t feel guilty for it or bad about it or wish that I was anything else right now. I have to allow myself to feel this. I have to let the elephant sit.

You see, broken isn’t bad. 

I am not created to be perfect. I am not created to always be happy. I am not created to be flawless. I am created to feel and love and hurt and cry and laugh and rejoice and be paralyzed by grief. It’s OK. God has me in his arms. I am starting to learn things that can never be taught in a book… see things that can never be viewed with an eye… and feel things that I have never felt. And… in that… I trust my Creator is going to get me to the other side. 

A wonderful person shared a song with me yesterday that was so powerful. It was by a group called “Shane and Shane” and the song was called Though You Slay Me. The lyrics were timely and deep and ended like this:

Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still all that I need
You’re enough for me
You’re enough for me

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

I know this this too shall pass. I know that my God will restore me. But, I also know that God is changing me through this season. I surrender to His love. I surrender to His hand. I surrender to the One who’s all I need. I surrender to the work that He is doing. 

Thank you for sitting Shiva with me today. It was a hard one, but it’s easier with each of you. 

Blessings!

GP 

Start the journey with me from Day 1 or go to Day 6

Sitting Shiva… Heroes, Folding Flags and a 21 Gun Salute

So, I guess I get a flag.

At least that is what I’ve been told. I hear that is what happens when a “hero” dies.

They use the word “hero” because my dad fought for his country and I am glad that they will honor him in his death. They will send out men with guns and shoot fake bullets into the air. They will salute and they will hand me a flag. And… I know that my dad will be smiling down. He was always very patriotic and was proud to have served his country.

Sometimes, on holidays like Memorial Day, he would sneak away to a cemetery and visit the graves of the vets. He would look at the flags by their graves and bow his head and pray with moving lips before their headstones. He would finish his prayer and look at the name one last time and mouth these words… “Thank You”.

That was who he was. He was very sentimental and traditional and was a man of honor. I understand why he deserves a flagBut, it is not only because of what he did on a far away shore… but for how he lived his life and the example he set for me.

He was a hero in his marriage.

He was in love with my mom since she was 15 years old. When she was only 17 my dad was drafted into the Vietnam War and was shipped across an ocean where he served his country in the 101st Airborne – Artillery Division. However, while he was there fighting, he was given a short leave… a small window to escape the jungle and the turmoil that raged around him to find solace in the arms of the one he loved. The only problem is that she was not yet 18, her mom didn’t like him, and she was still planted firmly in the United States of America.

But… as my dad would often quote from one of his favorite shows… “The A-Team”.

“I love it when a plan comes together.”

The plan was simple. My mom would run away from home days before her 18th birthday with my dad’s brother. They would hop on a plane to Hawaii where my dad would be there waiting. My mom would turn 18 in Hawaii and then… in a Catholic Church in Waikiki… they would tie the knot.

I don’t know how they did it… but they pulled it off. My mom made it to Hawaii… but was chased by her mom (my grandma) and her sister (my aunt). They searched all over Hawaii trying to find her… but never did. Instead, Ms. Janice Elaine Stock became Mrs. Janice E. Hintz and the rest was history.

I couldn’t blame my grandma for wanting to stop it. My dad was fighting a war. Her daughter had just turned 18. Statistically… it would never work. But, somehow it did. My parents were happily married until the day my mom breathed her last breath on earth. And… if you knew my dad… you would know that their marriage lasted long past my mother’s death. People come to me now and make statements like…

“Your father sure loved your mom.”

“Your dad still talks about your mom all the time.”

“I watched some of your home movies with your mom in them.”

I would try to coach him to not talk about my mom so much, but it didn’t matter. My mom was with him and part of him and there was nothing that I was ever going to say that was going to change that. I stopped trying.

I now smile when I think of how deep my dad’s love was for my mom. He had something that was so special that many never have the opportunity to experience today. It was true love. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t always pretty. They had many mountaintop moments and they also shared time in the valley together. There was the moment when my dad was downsized and lost his job and they had to reinvent what life looked like. There was the moment my mom was diagnosed with lymphoma and they had to balance the “good days” with the “bad”. There was the moment they had to say “Goodbye”. My mom from heaven and my dad pressing hard against the earth. But, through it all, I saw a grace and love that I long to emulate in my life.

I saw my hero.

I look back to the moment when his idiot 16 year old son (Yeah… ME) ran away from home and ended up going to Florida from Ohio. I remember getting stranded on a freeway in South Carolina and I remember the long Greyhound Bus ride back to Ohio. I remember getting off a bus… broken and lost with a chip on my shoulder… and I remember who was waiting for me. It was him. In spite of all that I had done. In spite of all the lies and the manipulation and the shame that I had brought upon my family’s name… he stood there waiting for me. Why? To bring me home. I didn’t know it at the time, but when I saw his face as I looked through the bus’s side window…

I saw my hero.

You see, that’s what a hero is. Some believe that a hero is someone who does something for themselves… but that is not a hero. A hero is someone who looks beyond themselves for the sake of another. One who puts the needs of another above their own. One who chooses to sacrifice their wants for the sake of another human being.

My dad did that in the jungles of Vietnam… He did that through the journey of life with my mom… And he did it in a punk kid like myself. He gave of himself for the sake of another. 

I have pictures scattered all over my house. Some are black and white and some are tattered… some are yellowed out and some are crisp as can be. And, as I look at each one of them I realize the similarity that each one of them has. In each of them…

I see my hero.

His name was Al to many of you, but to me… his name is DAD. It always was and it always will be.

He is my hero because of the example he set. He is my hero for the memories he left me. He is my hero because he chose to live his life for something more than just himself… he chose to live for me.

I know that this may sound selfish, but I know that it’s true. When he went to work each day… he did it for his family. When he said yes to the opportunities and no to the temptations that surrounded him each day… he did it for his family. When he looked to the future, he never looked to it solely for himself… he looked for his family.

Now, I look away from the photos and I look in the mirror and I ask what he left behind. I look through the tears to see a mind that has been formed and a soul that has been touched by a hero. I know that many seeds have been planted in my heart over the last 38 years and I know that it is now my job to cultivate the soil of my soul and produce a harvest. To look back and remember the lessons that have been modeled for me… by my hero.

I look forward to receiving a flag and placing it on my mantle for the world to see. I will set it right next to another flag… the flag that my grandfather… my father’s father…  received for being a hero. I will look at both of these flags differently after today. I will see them for what they are… one man’s attempt to honor another. But, I will also see them for what they mean to me. A legacy of heroes passing down the mantle from generation to generation.

With my father’s last breath he passed the baton to me. I am now running the race for my family. I am striving to become a hero. Not for the sake of 21 gun salutes or pats on the back… but for the possibility that my kids will look at a ragged old picture of me one day and honestly say…

I see my hero.

Thanks for Sitting Shiva with me again today.

Blessings,

GP

Start the journey with me from Day 1 or go to Day 5