Happy Sunday, all!
I hope you are all staying well, safe, and sane during these challenging times. So many of us are in difficult situations, in many different ways. As I reflect on my life, the last year of changes, the upcoming year of changes, this virus, being distant from family, and all the unknown in our immediate future, it's a little easier to forget that no matter how difficult times might get, they will get better. On a day like today, I'm reminded of one exception - the end of a human life.
On April 26th, 2004, I woke up, rolled over, and peeked at my Nokia cell phone. "Dad died this morning." The message, from my brother, didn't sink in right away. I went to school, made it through the day, and opted to skip golf practice, letting a teammate know why I wouldn't make it. Word traveled quickly. The next morning, my basketball coach, Mr. Eppen, pulled me into his office, locked his class outside, shared a few tears and gave and offered me all the support he could. As much as I drove that man nuts, his true colors showed that day, in moments I'll never forget. I left school in tough shape.
My dad was sick, very sick. If you've followed this blog, or if you know my story, you know he struggled for most of his life with drugs and alcohol. At the age of 36, in 2001, doctors told him he had the beginning stages of cirrhosis of the liver, or chronic poisoning from alcohol. The doctors told him then that if he quit drinking, he'd likely live a lengthy life that would be similar to that of a normal person, maybe a few complications along the way. They also told him that if he didn't quit, he'd die, and it would be sooner than he imagined.
He moved to Minnesota shortly after, to be with his boys. He lived with us, we hung out, got to know each other, and had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the day came when the drug and drink got the best of him, and back to Massachusetts he went. He didn't even make it three more years, the better part of one of which he was sober. Two more years of drinking, and fatality became his reality.
Some of you might think the man had a choice and made the wrong one. You have the right to think that. I have the right to tell you, though, that through my own experience, working in the field of addiction, and a strong spiritual existence, he didn't stand a chance at making that choice. He was afflicted with one of the most baffling conditions humankind has ever known - addiction to chemicals.
My dad hurt a lot of people, no one more than himself. He poisoned his body, and dealt with the repercussions in ways no human ever should experience - a slow, painful, and miserable physical death. Many would look at my dad's life and think of him only as a bad father, a drug addict, an alcoholic, a reckless example of a human, maybe even a terrible person. Let me tell you the truth.
My dad was a kind, generous, loving, faithful, and supportive man at the core. He loved his family. He loved his kids. He was the funniest, smartest, most charismatic man that many who knew him ever met. He would do anything for those he loved, and even those he didn't. He tried, more times than most could ever think of, to beat this thing. Treatment after treatment. Detox after detox. Loss after loss. Let me tell you more..
My dad lost his mom at the age of 13. He had to watch the one constant, the one love he always had, slowly wither away by way of cancer. Many nights, he'd stand outside her bedroom door, looking through the crack, wondering if he should enter. His mom would always oblige. He lost his lifeline, the one to teach him, love him, watch him move through a successful life. Of course he didn't stand a chance. His life was never the same again. Is that a good excuse? Probably not for most of us. But we aren't him. We shouldn't pretend to be, or pretend to know. Instead, let us all be thankful we haven't died that death, and pray that we, or anyone close to us, never dies that death.
I know today, more than ever, because of my beautiful aunts, that my father was one of the greatest souls this world could ever ask for. After just 39 years on the planet, he left us, but not without leaving a legacy behind. No matter how bad his departure was, I will always view it that way - a legacy. By the time he found a way out, it was too late. At least in the physical world. But his spirit lives on. It lives on, each and every day, in the life I live, the life I share, and the life I give to the rest of this world. And when my life is nearing the end, I know I'll smile one last time as I realize I picked up where he left off, and that we beat this thing together. For him. For me. For so many others. For the world.
Love you, dad. And more importantly, thank you. Thank you for life, for strength, and for spirit.
Tell yours just how much they mean to you, as often as you can.