Things I learned Along This Journey

Things I learned Along This Journey  ( My words at my Father’s Memorial )

  • I learned that my father and I both have great taste in baseball teams.. Yankees for life!
  • I learned that my Aunt Margo is a living saint who fought for my father from the day he was born to the day he died… she was always his guardian angel… Thank you Aunt Margo.. I love you… oh, also, Aunt Margo can cook like you wouldn’t believe… she cooked Jamaican food for him all the time and always made sure to bring some for me…. My dad would talk about the stew peas and rice or chicken soup he knew she was bringing to no end… Yes, Yes, Yes… Aunt Margo is a saint…
  • That my father was a great cook… before the Hospice, my dad would cook for me every Sunday… any and every dish he knew I loved he would cook for me… Amazing Jamaican dishes… curry goat… rice and peas… red pea soup…. Roast pork…
  • That my father was a brilliant musicologist… He could tell you about almost every piece of music ever written… even when my father was dying, jacked up on morphine, he would sometimes come out of his dying state just to tell us who the jazz musician was playing a set on the TV.. Amazing!
  • That one does not have to speak out loud to tell someone they love them… but that it’s still nice to hear the words… Many days my dad and I sat together in his room eating good food and listening to music and we never said much of anything… but in the silence between us there were conversations of the heart that always meant the same thing…  Such as… Sean I love you and I am sorry for everything… Such as… Dad I love you and now that I have finally met you and know who you are… there is no need to apologize and I love you too..
  • That my father was a man of endless compassion… he would give the shirt off his back to those who needed it… and he would do everything in his power to make sure no one around him ever went hungry… And he would not only feed their bodies,,, but he would also feed their souls…  Time after time he would listen to people tell him their problems and he would be present for them in ways very few people know how to be present for others… you see, my dad didn’t judge people… he never told people that they were fucking nuts for doing fucking nuts things… instead, he listened to them, loved them, understood them, and when they were ready to listen, offer them sage advice…
  • That my father saved countless people who always used to come up to us at the cafe he loved to hang out at… and they would always tell me the same thing… If not for your father, I wouldn’t even be alive today…
  • I learned that there is a memory born in your heart that does not forget the joys and pains of our parents… that there is a genetic memory that puts a little bit of our parents’ souls into ours…. That there are pieces of your character that can be directly connected to pieces of our parents characters… and that though this may not always be an easy thing to bear, it is often times more of a gift than we know..
  • I learned that even though my father did not raise me… I still somehow grew up to be just like him in a million different ways… I have an insane love for pool and I am usually the best pool player in the room… so imagine my surprise when one day we went to the halfway house and I discovered that my father was a bit of a gangster on the pool table himself… or what about when I learned how much my father loved jazz…  Because I have always loved jazz… I was listening to Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach and all the others from the time I was about ten…  And what about the fact that my father was a writer who earned a degree in Creative Writing.. .  Just like I did…  Wow
  • I learned that time and love can heal all wounds… because for the longest time my father and I were not connected… And I once did not have the kindest thoughts toward my father… And then an aunt of mine wrote me a letter about love and forgiveness that inspired me to reach out to my dad… and from that point on, bit by bit, we built a relationship that lasted for three decades..
  • I learned that not even death could steal away my father’s dry sense of humor… like when the hospice nurse told him she would be right back and he said to her as she exited the room… Thanks for the warning…
  • I learned that when the time comes near, all your loved ones who have passed will come to help you transition to the next part of your journey and that they will fill up the hospice room with their love and their presence….
  • I learned that losing a parent is a truly unique sort of a loss and that the person you are before the loss is truly not the person you are after the loss…
  • I learned that my father was an extraordinary man who perhaps, suffered the terrible things he suffered so that one day he could do exactly what he ended up doing… Saving Lives!
  • I learned that Hospice nurses are angels… And I could explain to you why I say that, but until you see it up close, you really won’t truly understand… And I pray that you won’t see that up close for a while…
  • I learned that there are certain times in your life when no matter how independent and tough you think you are, you still need love and support to make it through the day… One day I was in the office and I broke down and so I called a mentor of mine in Albany and he walked me through the pain and that call meant the world to me and got me through that pain… Thanks Richard.
  • I learned, as a good friend, told me a while back, Who the fuck said you have to be superman… why not just be a man and see where that gets you! When you are the person people come to for help all the time, it is easy to forget that you are just like everybody else and that there will be times in your life when you will need people too and not only that, there will be times in your life, when you won’t be able to save the day for others… that you may just need others to save the day for you..
  • I learned that it is healthy to cry and to scream and to rage.. that God gave us our emotions for a reason.. and that holding in the pain is never the answer… And don’t let anyone tell you it is unnatural to be angry or sad… It is part of the grieving process and it is not only natural, but it is necessary and healthy
  • I learned that I had more friends than I knew… friends who have been there for me in both professional and personal ways.. and if not for them, I don’t think I would have made it…
  • I learned that nothing can prepare you for sitting in a hospice with your dying father.. Nothing…
  • I learned that family is as much about spirit as it is about blood…. The people who traveled with my father on his journey toward sobriety and to maintain his sobriety were as much his family as we, his blood relatives, are… and I want to say thank you to all of them for everything!!
  • I learned that there is nothing more precious than time… that this is by far the most important Gift God has given us… and it is up to us to use it wisely… to not waste it by thinking about what could have been, but to instead use it to fight for those things in life that have value to you… Travel if you want to travel… dance if you want to dance… write if you want to write… whatever it is your heart is asking for… do it all with passion and love… because as I always tell the young people I serve… What is offered today is not guaranteed tomorrow…
  • And the final thing I learned… Is that the little kid with the funny accent, the same one who once said he hated his father, actually grew to one day love his father… Or perhaps, he learned from this process… that he always loved him and only needed God to give him a chance to express that love… to which that little kid with the funny accent says to God… Thank You

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