8 years ago today, my Dad’s spirit was freed from a body he had fought to heal and take back from cancer. I love that I still miss him. I love that his friends and mine still speak of him with a smile often accompanied with a big laugh and a great memory. I love that I still hear him guiding and teaching me. I love seeing his twinkle in my son’s eyes — ok maybe that part scares me a little. A true country gentleman. Love you, Dad.
Below, are the reflections I wrote to be shared at his service.
It was unseasonably cool early on Saturday morning – it almost felt like a football Saturday. When I went outside to let the girls out, I didn’t know that would be the morning of the last day of my Dad’s life – all I was thinking about was wanting him to be well and be at peace and at the end of that Saturday I was granted that wish.
Mom, Laurel and I want to thank you all so much for being here and honoring my Dad’s wishes for a celebration. It was his desire to have all the people whose lives he touched enjoy a happy time in remembrance of him. My Dad had a strong faith and truly believed in the power of prayer and I ask you all say a little prayer for him and our family. Most of all, my Dad believed in making memories, telling stories and having laughs so we ask that you do that today for him.
I could talk for hours – and will if anyone wants to hear it – about my Dad and the man he was and the impact he had on my life and the woman that I am. As evidenced by the group of people that gather here today, my Dad was an incredible husband, father, brother and friend. He truly knew what was important in this life – people, friendship and family.
Our family is considered unique by many standards in that we are all still so close. One of the things that has brought us great comfort in these difficult times is that we don’t have any regrets – there were no missed holidays to look back on with sadness, no apologies we should have said, no amends we had to rush to make. When we told him we loved him for the last time it was with the knowledge that it was something he knew well and heard everyday from all of us.
My Dad taught me so many things…How to work hard but take the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor – he was the kind of Dad that was home every night for dinner, was present at every awards ceremony, banquet, dance recital, football game. Every big moment I ever had in my life – he was right there. He taught me the value of true friendship – many of his friendships last over 60 years. Most of all he taught me the value of family – how important it is to spend time with each other.
My Dad also taught me a lot of little things that make me the person I am today – how to laugh and smile in the face of sad times, the importance of making a list, and yes football. One of his great joys I know was calling to tell me the latest news he had heard about an injury in practice, a coaching shake-up, or calling me after a Clemson loss just to rehash it play by play so we could both get mad all over again. Oddly enough he and I would watch the old games on ESPN Classic knowing full well what was going to happen and still get angry when we had a receiver wide open down field and they handed off to the running back and went up the middle for no gain – but I digress. He loved to tell people “My daughter knows more about college football than most men” and that was all because of him. And while football season will never be the same, I know he will be there watching his Tigers get off the bus, rub the rock and run down the hill every Saturday.
My Dad’s battle back from cancer in 2000 and 2001 showed me the true strength and determination he had. For our family, it was another chance to hold onto each other and make every moment count. These last two months of illness were another opportunity to do just that. While he was in the hospital the four of us would still gather together to eat dinner, watch TV, tell stories, pick on Mom – most of all just be a family. Throughout this time watching my Mom and Dad he taught me his final and greatest lesson of all – what true love is. I was able to see my parents not just as parents, but as a husband and wife both best friends and soul mates. My Dad was able to battle back twice in those two months beating all the odds again with his strong spirit. In the end, I believe his will was there but his body was just too tired and so his spirit had to leave that body behind to be free from the illness and pain. I still feel him very much with me – telling me to feed my Mom and sister, not to give Rizzo too many treats, to give his brothers a hard time, all the things he still wishes he were here to do. He wants us to laugh, he wants us to love each other, he wants you to tell Laurel and I all the old Donny stories (even the ones he told you never to tell us!). People have asked us all week what they can do for me and I tell them all the same thing – if you are lucky enough to still have your Dad call him and tell him you love him. That is truly the most wonderful tribute of all.
Thank you so much for coming – thank you all so much for allowing me to tell you just a little bit about my Dad – and thank you all for your continued love and friendship. Daddy, I will miss you.