Tuesday, May 7, 2013

You did good, Dad

It's been a little over three months since my dad passed away. As you may have read before in my blog, my dad and I did not have a very good relationship for many, many years. I harbored much resentment--and even hatred--towards him because of his alcoholism. I grew up feeling like I didn't have a dad. And that hurt me for a long time. Decades, in fact.

Thankfully, last summer I was able to let go of the resentment and hatred. It all left my body one August afternoon in what my wife perfectly described as a "God moment." Something I never thought would happen did indeed happen. I forgave my father for his past misdeeds and learned to love him again.

I got about six months of uncontested love out of my dad. Even though his health was deteriorating and he sometimes suffered from dementia, I still appreciated being able to see and talk to him without that heavy weight on my shoulders. A weight I was tired of carrying around but never thought I could get rid of. Like I said in one of the most emotional blog posts I've ever written...Better late than never.

I've been missing my dad a lot lately. I find myself wanting to call him and ask him or tell him things. When the Detroit Tigers are playing on TV and a player does something great, I fully expect the phone to ring because my dad would frequently call me to say, "Did you see that?!"

When the Masters golf tournament was on TV last month, I thought of my dad constantly. He loved to watch the big golf tournaments on television. (Back in the early '90s, in an effort to "reach out" to my dad, I took him on a one-day trip to Augusta, Georgia, to watch a Masters practice round. It's something I'm really glad I did.)

Sometimes I think about my dad and just start crying. I'm not sure why, exactly, but I have a feeling that deep down inside I regret not having that "God moment" much earlier. But, hey...at least it happened. And because it happened I was able to love my dad again for six months. That may not sound like a lot, but for years and years I worried about how I would feel if I didn't find that love again before my dad passed away. I was worried that I'd live the rest of my life full of regret and constantly wondering "What if?" But I was spared that burden. And for that I am eternally grateful.

As my dad grew older and planned for his death, he decided he wanted to donate his body to the Wayne State University School of Medicine's Body Bequest Program. "Voluntary bequest of the human body is a way in which to make a direct and important contribution to medical teaching and research," it says on the Body Bequest Program's website. So my dad's body will help medical students learn about anatomy, one of the most important courses in the education of a physician. Future doctors will become doctors because they studied and learned from my dad's body. What a wonderful thought.

Over the years, my dad did some awful things. A lot of those things will be forever etched in my memory. But you know what else will be etched in my memory? The fact that my dad's last act was the incredibly selfless act of donating his body to a local university's medical school. I think that qualifies as going out on a positive note and it makes me very proud of my dad.

This Friday afternoon, Wayne State University is holding its memorial service for all the people who recently donated their bodies to its medical school. It's an hour-long service, followed by a symbolic burial. All family members and friends are invited and from what I hear it's a beautiful event. I am really looking forward to attending this memorial with my family. My sister from New York is coming. My younger son is coming home from school to attend, too. We will all pay our respects to my father and celebrate the wonderful deed he did to help others.

You did good, dad. You did good.

The last photo ever taken of my dad. December 20, 2012.

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