On December 12, 2013, I was getting into my 99' Honda Accord to drive down the street to pick up 13-year old Ellis from swim practice. As I lowered myself into the car, I took a call from my brother-in-law Joel. It was a very short conversation. “We lost Dad.”
I’ll never forget returning home and walking into the kitchen where the eight of us collapsed on the floor, wedged into the corner of the cabinets, weeping at the sudden reality that PeePop’s was gone. Terry’s death was shocking and unexpected. He was 64, running on a treadmill at the gym, and collapsed due to a heart attack.
No one had an opportunity to talk to him; no last words or parting messages. I still have a string of text messages that I am committed to never deleting from my phone. In the last couple of text messages he informed us he was passing one of our favorite exits in Virginia: Dumfries/Manassas. We shared lots of chuckles over a town with the name “Man-asses.”
The day before he passed away, his Untappd beer app showed that he enjoyed a “Rise Up” coffee stout. We chuckled at the irony given the Christian hope Terry had of the resurrection of the dead.
We gobbled up every final memory or last words we could recount. I think this is our way of trying to retain some remnant or piece of our departed loved ones.
The sudden and unexpected death of a loved one leaves you feeling robbed of the opportunity to express your love or gratitude.
The ache of Terry’s departure is still present, but as time has marched on, we have come to realize that he left us with a beautiful gift.
He left nothing unsaid.
His wife Susan was not left wondering if he loved her, because he told her often. His kids, Gail, Jill, Joel, and Greg, had the privilege of having a Dad who was a man who often said “I love you” and told them how proud he was of each of them. Each of his grandkids who had the privilege of knowing him were loved deeply. For twenty years, as his son-in-law, I heard him express love and encouragement to me.
Yes, last words would have been nice, but we now know they were not necessary. Each one of us can reconstruct what those final conversations might have been by simply recalling the actual loving and encouraging…