An open letter to my Dad on the day of his funeral. Just a personal reflection on Dad and thanking him for being my father. I couldn’t have had a better Dad. I will carry his love forward in my heart until the day of my own death. I love you Dad.
“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.”
“Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad, and that’s why I call you dad, because you are so special to me. You taught me the game and you taught me how to play it right.”
“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”
Dad on his last trip to Chicago. He’s at the Signature Room on the 95th at the John Hancock Center.
Your hometown of Butte, Montana Dad…
I wonder how I am going to get through today. In my life today was the day I feared most. Getting through your funeral and then the cemetery is something that I dread. What bothers me is that it reminds me that you have died. Processing your loss has been hard and I feel so numb to the situation. Life is not fair I know, but in how things went with you and your illness I am especially troubled. I have discussed this with several people but how does a neurosurgeon get a brain tumor? That is one of the cruelest situations that I have witnessed in my life. This is all so fresh that I am working through it.
But I have so many other things that I need to say to you. Already I am hearing stories about you and your life and I wish I could sit down with you and discuss them. They are bringing questions in my mind that I would like to find answers. Or in some cases I would like to hear your side of the story. Its been in the past few days that this has developed and I know at your funeral and the luncheon to follow I will no doubt hear more. Already though in my mind, I can hear you laugh and say, “I remember that” or “This is what happened.” You were a very social person and you were so good at dining, wine and so many other aspects of life.
In much of this letter Dad I want to share with you what you meant to me. Dad you were in many ways the perfect father. I knew you loved me and I deeply loved you. I have no regrets of “I wish I would have told you I loved you.” I did that, and you also told me how much you loved me as well. You were deeply involved in my life. From Little League Baseball, to Indian Guides and Boy Scouts, all the way to football – you were there Dad. Actually when I played football at San Joaquin Memorial you were always there for each Friday night game. You never missed a game Dad and that means so much to me years later. You had a busy and demanding schedule as a physician and yet somehow you worked it out to spend time with me. I remember when I was in high school and I took anatomy to get out of chemistry. That was a hard class and required a lot of memorization. There were times when you quizzed me and helped me prepare for a couple of tests. To be quizzed by a physician sometimes felt intimidating but you never acted that way.
I also recall some of the family vacations. Some of them were coordinated with your medical meetings. I recall going to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1986 for the Worlds Fair, or Aspen, Colorado. Then there was always Butte, Montana and seeing Isobel when I was growing up. I also recall with fondness the way the family vacationed for a few days at Monterey Dunes on the California coast. Do you remember the way I burned out the engine to the station wagon while driving up to Montana for college? That was not funny at the time but years later we laughed about it. I learned my lesson Dad, to pay attention to the dashboard and monitor the car more closely. I can promise you that never happened again. Nor will it happen again.
Dad you and Mom taught me about art and musical theater. I remember when you took me to see Les Miserables in Los Angeles in 1988 or 1988. You explained how important it was to embrace the arts, theater and culture. You took me to other shows when I was growing up. Those included Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats, Starlight Express and the Lion King. I deeply appreciate what you exposed me to when I was younger. And in many ways that will always be cherished in my own life. You also took me to museums and art galleries in your life. From the Field Museum in Chicago to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium you wanted me to learn and love science. I have Dad as I appreciate science deeply. You also loved World War II history. How many years did it take you to read that biography of Erwin Rommel? I appreciated our World War II discussions. Then do you recall how I had you read The Killer Angels before we visited Gettysburg, Pennsylvania? You were like a kid in a toy store with all the history there Dad! You loved Gettysburg.
You and I went to the same college Dad. Carroll College in Helena, Montana. Going there was a good decision in my life. However I also did so to honor you as I knew how you felt about it. After graduating in 1993 and going forward I cherished the time I spent there. It gave you time to see Helena and see your lifelong friend Fr. Jerry Sullivan. It was a good place to call home and I embraced Carroll College and feel a deep affiliation for it. I know what Carroll College and Dr. Manion meant to you. Carroll helped you get into the University of Chicago which you also treasured.
You were one of the most talented people that I know. You went to some of the best medical schools in the United States. University of Chicago, Duke, University of Washington and then you taught for a few years at the University of Missouri – Columbia. You gave yourself to your patients. Over the years from time to time I had a patient that would approach me and say, “Your father helped me when I was ill and things are going well. He’s a good man.” That means a lot but especially now as I will hold onto those exchanges.
Though you are no longer with us Dad I can close my eyes and feel your hug. Hear your laugh and you say, “Oh really?” I can see your smile and imagine you driving your BMW which you treasured. Going through your loss Dad has been so hard. I have wept and cried so hard at times. I have wanted to kiss or hug you. Then the reality hits me that I can’t do that anymore. That is beyond difficult for me.
I want to make some promises to you Dad as a way to honor you and your family. Your Mom, Isobel has also been popping up in my mind as I contemplate you. Here is my promise to you Dad. I am going to work to continue to lose weight. I also am going to work at saving money which I have already done. I will draw closer to my sisters and be there for them and I will do all this because you would have wanted that to happen.
Dad I love you. I love you deeply and I will never forget you at all. At Mom’s wake I promised before her friends and family that we will take care of you. We did Dad. We took care of you all the way to the end. From the time of Mom’s death in April of 2017 for the next year and a half untill we stood in your hospital room at 3:30 in the morning as you lay dying. We were there for you Dad. I want to let you know that it was an honor to take you to New Orleans, Montana and Missouri. I know you had a blast and that you loved it. As your brain tumor progressed it became more difficult. Helping to dress and take care of you was a lot of work Dad. But it was the most rewarding work of my life. It allowed you to see sights you wanted to see and go places you wanted to travel. And in that context I smile.
Dad you will forever be in my heart. I will keep that thought close until my own death one day. I hope that you have no more suffering and no more pain. I hope you are reunited with Mom once again. Hopefully you are taking Max, Kurt and Blitz all for a walk at the same time. You also should be laughing at your own jokes. And I know that one day I will see you again. My love for you is strong. Its as strong in death as it is in life. While I have to let go of you physically, emotionally I will never let you go Dad. I love you so deeply. You were an amazing father. A perfect husband. A dutiful son. And a professional physician who was loved by the medical profession. You were all of those things Dad and in many ways you still are. However despite all that for me you will always be my Dad.
I love you Dad, I will always love you,