*The title of this post was taken from the Oasis song of the same name*
Perhaps you’ve heard the question: “If you were to die today, what would people say about you at your funeral?”
I’ve probably heard that question countless times throughout my life. Never did it have much of an effect on me until I was standing with my mother at my father’s calling hours. That was nearly six years ago.
You see, since he has passed, my mother and I have raised my Dad to nearly mythic proportions. I guess, because to us, he was such a prized part of our lives.
And as we greeted each friend and family member who came through the line to talk to us (we had services in both Ohio and Tennessee), we found that we weren’t alone.
People loved my Dad.
There were co-workers and friends who told these amazing stories about struggles they couldn’t have gone through without my father’s assistance, his kindness, his wisdom. Some stories just shared a love for my Dad that was simply unforgettable.
One story in particular I didn’t happen to hear until several years after my father passed, at the calling hours of my Oma (Dad’s mom.)
Jimmy and Dorothy Williams were long time friends of my parents. Dad and Dorothy were friends back in high school. I was speaking with Jimmy at Oma’s calling hours, relating a story that I knew he would appreciate hearing.
For a little bit of backstory, my father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) in July of 2010. It was his intention to break the news to my Oma in person as soon as he heard. However, some things got in the way of him being able to make the journey (we were in Ohio, she was in North Carolina) and that trip didn’t happen as soon as any of us would have liked.
By Christmas that year, Dad’s weight had dropped dramatically and I think he may have known that time was running out. He booked the trip down and called Dorothy and Jimmy to ask if they would pick him up from the airport and drop him off at his mom’s. They knew he was sick but I am certain they weren’t prepared for the sight they would see when they came to get him.
That flight was very hard on my Dad’s body. He was already experiencing severe pain in his hips and airplanes aren’t exactly known for their particular comforts. When the Williams picked Dad up, they took him to Oma’s.
The doorbell was rang and my Oma came to the door to greet her guests (she was unaware my Dad would be surprising her with a visit.) She perked up when she recognized the familiar faces of Jimmy and Dorothy on her doorstep but when she looked in my father’s direction she paused. Her initial reaction was not of pleasure in seeing her youngest child. It was a frank reminder of some of the people who shared in the horror of the holocaust with her. Dad was truly that emaciated.
When she realized who was looking back at her, it’s my understanding that she had some difficulty recovering from her shock. The fact that she did not recognize her son was something that would continually haunt her and come up in my conversations with her until she passed.
The four of them visited for a while until Dorothy and Jimmy felt it was best to give my Dad some time alone with his mother. They reminded my Dad,
“If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to call.”
Well, that call came sooner that Jimmy probably anticipated. My father had sat down for a few minutes on the couch in my Oma’s living room and was unable to raise himself up. He called Jimmy and asked if he could come back over to assist him in getting up.
Jimmy came back and their conversation led to the discussion of food. Since my father had started chemo, he had been suffering from a loss of taste. Since nothing was tasting good to him, he was not getting sufficient nutrients in him. Jimmy reminded him, “Paul, you have to eat.”
To which Dad replied, “I know I do. I just get so busy with other things that I forget. Then, sometimes I just don’t have the energy to eat, so I don’t.”
These issues were contributing to my Dad’s rapid weight loss.
So, Jimmy made my father a promise.
“Paul, I’m going to set a reminder on my phone. Every morning when that reminder goes off. I’m going to call or email or text you and remind you to eat something.”
Sure enough, Jimmy kept his word. Every day his reminder went off and every day he contacted my Dad.
My father passed away on March 23, 2011. About 3 months after that conversation with Jimmy.
You see, I never knew that story until about 4 years later when my Oma passed and Jimmy shared it with me. And as he was telling me that story in 2015, he said “Jason, that reminder still goes off today. I can’t bring myself to get rid of it.”
To be honest, I was equally surprised and overjoyed to hear this story. I knew how much people loved my Dad. Stories like these never got old. This one was just exceptional because I know how those last few months were for my Dad.
Last week, I called Jimmy and asked him to tell me the story again. I told him I would be writing a post like this and I wanted to make sure I got most of the details right.
Jimmy, the kind man that he is, shared the story with me again. And as he finished he said, “Jason, I still have the reminder on my phone. It goes off every day. I just don’t want to let go of him. I loved your Dad. I’ve never met anyone else like him.”
“What it taught me was that I have to be present. And not to take anything for granted…”
And as I type these words out for you to read, my fingers are trembling a little bit. And I can’t stop my eyes from tearing up.
While nearly 6 years have passed since my Dad left this world, here is a very lengthy post to say to all of you readers a few things:
Take Jimmy’s advice and be present. Do not take anything for granted because you don’t know how long it will last. Cherish it.
And come back to the question I started this post with: If you were to die today, what would people say about you at your funeral?
Whatever you want people to remember about you, be that person. Right now. Don’t wait. Time is not on our side.
To my father, I love you. I miss you. Thank you for giving me every tool I would need to be more like you. I am trying. I promise.
And to Jimmy, I have to say: Thank you for being a perfect friend to my father. I know how much he loved you and Dorothy.
Rest in peace, Dad.