Part 3: Death and toughness

I always knew my dad was tough. He was a welder/fitter for 30+ years, and he was strong. I always wanted to have arms like my dad. Well actually, growing up I wanted to have arms like the Ultimate Warrior; I probably wanted the face paint too.

Wrestlemania VI…so epic, it was the “Ultimate Challenge”.  The Ultimate Warrior versus Hulk Hogan, talk about a tough match. At that point in my life, these were the toughest dudes in the world. I remember thinking about 30-40 minutes into the match How can somebody actually win this? 

After a Hulk Hogan boot to the face, it seemed like the Warrior was out for the count. What I liked about him so much though was his trademark comeback. Just when you’d think he was done; the fist would start to rise in the air, arms would start shaking,  head would start nodding with surety, and he would start to march around the ring unphased by whatever blows would be landed on him.

Well, it was that time. Pretty soon little Hulkamaniacs around the world found themselves in disbelief as the Ultimate Warrior held up the Championship belt, marching around the ring like a roided up madman. Now there are some rumors going around that the WWF was staged and fake; say what you will, it was real enough for 8 year old Brian.

What made my dad truly tough, was his commitment to his kids. He not only had muscular arms and strong hands, but he had a strong work ethic and dedication to taking care of his family. He would do whatever it took to keep a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and clothes on our back. I was very fortunate. He has always been a voice of encouragement in my life, and always cared more about us than himself.

One night when I was a kid living in Lakewood CA, some punks started banging on our house; and it freaked me out so bad. It was like thunder inside our living room. Without blinking an eye my dad was running out the front door with a baseball bat. No hesitation, just a father ready to stick up for his family. They ran off though, so there was no busting heads that night.

My dad worked hard, and he was committed to his work like he was committed to his family. Up every weekday morning before the sun. Sometimes I would hear him making his coffee or something, and I would just fall back asleep; sometimes I would get up and say hi. He never really called in sick or complained, because he believed that you should show commitment in your work. He would tell me the scripture work as though you are working for the Lord, believing that it is a gift to have a job; and that we should not take that gift for granted.

We would all eat dinner together, play together, have weekend breakfasts together, and spend a lot of time with each other.

That is a tough man.

I get it now that I am a dad. It takes selflessness to be a good dad, it takes dedication. Being intentional with your kids goes a long way. No matter how many times you say I love you, it’s how you live those words that really matters.

So, here we are sitting in the hospital room. My dad is asking me and my brother if we are okay, and encouraging us to not be sad; even though he is the one who just got diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. So tough, he was going to take this on the best he could.

Less than a month later, my brother and I were playing our guitars at his memorial service. He fought as hard as he could til’ the end.

That last month before he passed was so hard. He didn’t let on how bad he was doing because he didn’t want to burden anyone; because when you’re tough, you train yourself to persevere and stay strong through hard times.

You can read all about that last month in my other blog Remembering our Father .

Christmas was a little different this year. We spoke with his hospice nurse, and she told us we that dad was doing worse than he was letting on. She said we should come out to see him. Well, we headed out and and stayed in Cali for a week. We got to bring in the new year with dad and my brother and sister in law. It was good.

He started fading after that. It is very hard to watch someone die, and see the mental and physical shifts that take place before the end. I had to be focus on the whole of his life at the end as he transitioned through the terminal agitation, as they called it. He seemed to lose himself, and he seemed to be gone as I looked in his eyes. I’m glad this stage was only for the course of  14 hours or so, because me and brother were not prepared for that.

I believe my dad’s prayers from Christmas until the day he left, were to go out as himself; and to hang on long enough for one last visit with his granddaughters. Whether it be through the power of God, or his extreme will and live for us; we had that last visit, and we’re all able to say goodbye.

Do not lose heart, take courage, and hold on to hope.

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