FIT@50 / week 79
Tough Guy, Soft Words:
This week has been a trial. Leah and I received the phone call every child dreads. My dad had suffered two strokes and a heart attack. He was in the hospital and I should head home immediately.
Problem was, we’re 8 hours away. I drove with the burden of racing life’s clock ticking against me. To tell you I didn’t keep it a bit over the posted speed limit would be to not tell you the truth.
We screeched into the hospital parking lot late that night and rushed to his bedside. Unresponsive, but alive. I’d come in under the wire, but the race to life’s end was still running.
The next day, along with my brothers and sisters, we made the decision to remove life support and entrust him to hospice. The doctor assured us he wasn’t going to wake up and if he did, it would only be incoherent glimpses.
Contrary to their best guesses, my dad woke up three times that day, and with great clarity to speak with us in short replies. It allowed us to share a precious last few moments with him.
I believe God allows mercy for both family and the dying to make peace before their passing. It was a blessing to experience those moments.
My dad was a tough, silent guy from Philly. Typical of his generation, the son of an Italian immigrant, he showed his love for family by providing more than by speaking.
I can say that never once did my dad say he loved me. It wasn’t the way in his time, but I knew he loved me. He was fiercely loyal to my mom and all 7 of us kids.
This week in his last moment of clarity, his eyes were open and he was responding to our questions and comments. Dementia had robbed him of most memories. But he was with us.
We all told him we loved him, and each hoped to hear him repeat those precious three words. But he didn’t—he was a tough, silent man, who showed love instead of expressing it. We all laughed that he was stubborn to the end.
Then one of his grandchildren asked if he wanted us to pray. He said Yes.
Holding his hand, I pressed my face near his to hear that sweet, innocent one-word reply to an offer for genuine prayer—Yes.
This was the most soft-hearted word I’ve ever heard him speak. It would appropriately be his very last spoken word. I was able to lead my family in prayer, while my dad watched and listened with a gentle reassurance.
This week at his funeral, as a line of former students and football players lined up with community and family friends, a gentleman offered his condolences and spoke to Leah and I about how much he enjoyed the way we share our lives on Facebook. Then his words struck me as he leaned in closer.
“I can’t believe such soft words come from a rough, tough police chief.”
This good guy could’ve never know how significant his words were. Unbeknownst to him, he had just delivered God’s message. It was a message that I needed to hear.
I’ve always delighted in looking like my dad, taking after him in so many characteristics and mannerisms. I’m happy to emulate his love for family and wife, but always wanted to make sure I was more vocal with the way I felt.
I understand the value of listening instead of speaking, but I’ve also tried hard to speak when appropriate with words that have meaning.
Like my dad’s final “Yes” to prayer, I think I’ve also become a tough guy, with soft words.
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