Note: this post is back-dated for my records, but today is actually Mar. 27, 2018. For 2.5 months I’ve been thinking about how to write this. I knew I needed to write about it. We had a very rough go at the end of 2017 and it’s basically given me full-blown writers’ block. I don’t know how to write it all out and I know I just need to start…
In the very early morning hours of January 16, we lost the greatest dad in the world. By the grace of God, he went peacefully and surround by all his loved ones the days prior. Boy, do I miss him already.
The illness came fast and furious. Right before Thanksgiving, my dad wasn’t feeling well and was diagnosed with pneumonia. To be fair, my dad had a hell of a year with illness this year. He had sinus surgery in Dec. 2016 (the same day he quit smoking). Following that surgery (which is not nothing, but certainly not open heart surgery), he just couldn’t ever get fully better. He had colds and stomach problems and just always seemed to be catching something. Never anything dramatic, but never fully well.
After Thanksgiving, he went to the hospital with his pneumonia that wasn’t getting better. Again, it wasn’t a dramatic hospital visit (although he was taken by ambulance, because he like to showboat). They ran tests and it was definitely something more than pneumonia, but only a lung biopsy would give us the answers.
The lung biopsy was a hugely invasive surgery and we got our worst news. His lungs were covered in cancer, but the lungs were not the source. After a scary week of recovery (we nearly thought we lost him a couple times), we did an endoscopy and found the source was in the pancreas. On Dec. 14, 2017, his 75th birthday, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. What a jerk of a cancer.
Dad did get to come home eventually and was home for Christmas, but he was so very sick already. He needed 24×7 oxygen and had these violent coughing fits that often collapsed his lung. One day after Christmas, he had a coughing fit that required a 911 call. Back to the hospital he went. The oncologist leveled with us and said Dad was a very sick man. His strong spirit and willingness to fight was masking how truly sick he was. She recommended we send him home with hospice.
And that we did. What a miracle that organization is. We never would have survived one day without them. Luckily, we didn’t need to survive long *with* them. Dad passed just a little over a week after he was sent home. It was his time.
While his illness came on quickly and was ruthless and brutal, we are all SO thankful for how fast it was. It was easily the worst 6 weeks of my life, but I wouldn’t change a bit. My sisters and my mom were together for the whole thing. My parents’ grandkids were there for much of it. We were all as my dad would want it: together.
The best way I can think to remember my dad is to repost the eulogy I wrote for him. While I have had writers’ block, I will say that the words for the eulogy came to me so effortlessly. It was the easiest thing I’ve ever written, and I know it’s because my subject matter was one of a kind. So, if you’re still with me — here’s my eulogy for my dad:
FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO DON’T KNOW, I’M NICOLE. I’M CHUCK’S YOUNGEST DAUGHTER. I WANTED TO SHARE A FEW WORDS ABOUT MY DAD. HE WOULD BE MAD IF I MADE THIS TOO SERIOUS, SO I WILL SHARE SOME OF THE MANY JOYOUS MEMORIES.
EVERYONE IS HERE TODAY BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN TOUCHED BY MY DAD. MAYBE THAT WAS YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP, BUT IT MIGHT ALSO ONLY HAVE BEEN IN PASSING OR FOR A SHORT TIME. MY DAD NEVER KNEW A STRANGER. FOR 75 YEARS, HE CHARMED THE SOCKS OFF PEOPLE AND MADE FRIENDS AT EVERY CORNER. EVEN OVER THE LAST TWO MONTHS WHEN MY DAD WAS AT HIS SICKEST… WHEN HE KNEW WHERE THIS ROAD WAS LEADING… HE NEVER THOUGHT IT WAS TOO LATE TO MAKE A FRIEND. HE CHUMMED UP TO SO MANY NURSES, I THOUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO GIVE HIM A NURSING DEGREE. FROM NURSE TECHS TO DOCTORS TO EVEN THE TRANSPORT TEAM… THEY ALL LOVED HIM. HE WAS SO FOND OF THE 6TH FLOOR NURSES AT BAYLOR PLANO THAT HE HOUNDED ME FOR A WEEK TO WRITE THEM A LETTER OF GRATITUDE. THIS WAS NOT AN UNCOMMON PRACTICE OF DAD’S. IF YOU TREATED HIM NICELY, HE MADE DARN SURE YOU KNEW IT. I WAS OFTEN COMMISSIONED TO WRITE LETTERS OF PRAISE (AND OCCASSIONALLY DISDAIN) TO AIRLINES, RESTAURANTS, CAR DEALERSHIPS, ETC ON BEHALF OF MY DAD. HE WAS A SMART MAN, BUT A TERRIBLE SPELLER. 😉 THIS GIFT OF “GRATITUDE” IS A SPECIAL ONE I KNOW I PLAN TO CARRY ON.
THERE ARE A LOT OF CHARACTERISTICS THAT DESCRIBE MY DAD, BUT A VERY POPULAR (AND ACCURATE ONE) IS LUCKY. MY HUSBAND, CHRIS, NOTED THAT DAD HAS LIVED A VERY CHARMED LIFE. A LOT OF THAT WAS HARD WORK AND EFFORT. THE REST OF IT WAS PURE LUCK. DAD COULD WALK INTO A CASINO AND THEY BASICALLY START THROWING MONEY AT HIM. MAYBE THAT’S NOT ENTIRELY TRUE, BUT HE COULD ABSOLUTELY SIT DOWN AT A SLOT MACHINE AND HIT FOUR QUEENS IN THE FIRST SPIN. NO PROBLEM. THERE’S A STORY (THERE’S LOTS OF CHUCK “STORIES”) FROM 25 YEARS AGO OR SO, WHERE DAD GOT PULLED OUT OF A VEGAS CASINO BY SECURITY FOR COUNTING CARDS. HIS VERSION IS: HE MOST CERTIANLY WASN’T COUNTING CARDS. HE’S JUST LUCKY.
LUCK WASN’T ALWAYS ON HIS SIDE. WHEN DAD WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL IN COLORADO, HE WAS A GREAT BASKETBALL PLAYER. SO MUCH SO, HE EARNED HIMSELF A SCHOLARSHIP TO PLAY BASKETBALL AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO. DURING HIS SENIOR YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL, HIS NEIGHBOR PLAYED FOOTBALL AT THERE. DAD THOUGHT HE WAS THE BEES KNEES. SO, IN THE SPRING, WHEN THIS FOOTBALL PLAYER INVITED HIM TO A PARTY WITH THE FOOTBALL TEAM, DAD COULDN’T REFUSE. SOMEWHERE IN THE COURSE OF THE EVENING, DAD ENDED UP IN FOOTBALL PADS, HELMET AND GOGGLES (I WAS TOLD THERE WAS ALCOHOL). THE FOOTBALL PLAYERS CARRIED HIM TO THE FEMALE DORMS, SWUNG HIM BY HIS HANDS AND FEET, AND LOBBED HIM INTO THE SECOND FLOOR OF THE GIRLS DORMATORY. HE WAS SO AMPED UP, HE DIDN’T EVEN PAY ATTENTION TO HIS SURROUNDINGS AND HEADED STRAIGHT FOR THE DOOR… ONLY TO BE GREETED BY THE DORM MOTHER. DAD ULTIMATELY LOST HIS SCHOLARSHIP TO U OF C, BUT HERE’S WHERE THE STORY HAS A BIT OF LUCK. INSTEAD OF GOING TO UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO, DAD ENLISTED IN THE UNITED STATES MARINES…. AN EXPERIENCE HE NEVER TALKED A LOT ABOUT, BUT ALWAYS REFERRED FONDLY TO HIS SERVICE AND WHAT IT TAUGHT HIM. DAD WAS A PROUD VETERAN.
DESPITE NOT PLAYING BASKETBALL IN COLLEGE, DAD WAS A MASSIVE SPORTS FAN. WHEN HIM AND MY MOM LIVED IN DENVER, THEY WERE DENVER BRONCOS’ SEASON TICKET HOLDERS. TO BE FAIR, THE SEASON TICKETS WERE MY MOM’S, BUT HE SAID HE MARRIED HER BECAUSE SHE HAD THESE TICKETS. YOU COULD ALWAYS COUNT ON DAD TO HAVE HOT SPORTS OPINIONS ON EVERYTHING FROM THE DENVER BRONCOS TO DALLAS MAVERICKS TO TEXAS RANGERS. AND, OF COURSE, YOU COULD ALWAYS FIND HIM ON THE GOLF COURSE.
ANOTHER SPECIAL CHARACTERISTIC OF MY DADS THAT CANNOT GO UNMENTIONED IS HOW ORGANIZED HE WAS. I’M NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT YOUR AVERAGE ALPHABATIZING CAPABILITIES. THIS GUY HAD A BOX IN THE GARAGE LABELED “EMPTY BOXES”. HE HAD A FILE AND A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING FROM THE MEANINGLESS (1984 PHONE BILL) TO TREASURED MOMENTS LIKE THE 20 YEARS OF TRAVELING HIM AND MY MOM DID SINCE HIS RETIREMENT IN 1998. IF ANYONE IS LOOKING TO TRAVEL ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, I HAVE SOME EXCELLENT RESOURCES FOR YOU.
SPEAKING OF MY MOM. DAD LOVED MY MOM. NOT JUST LOVED HER — HE ADORED HER. RONNI WAS THE BUTTER TO HIS BREAD. I’M SURE IT WASN’T ALWAYS EASY, BUT THEY MADE IT LOOK LIKE IT WAS. HAND IN HAND THEY WENT THROUGH ALL OF LIFE’S STAGES. THE BIGGEST THING DAD WAS WORRIED ABOUT AT THE END WAS MY MOM. NOT BECAUSE HE DIDN’T HAVE FAITH IN HER, BUT HE TRULY LOVED TAKING CARE OF HER. I KNOW HE’S STILL WATCHING AND CARING FOR YOU NOW.
TAKING CARE OF THINGS WAS MY DAD’S SPECIALTY. HE WAS THE BEST AT TAKING CARE OF HIS FAMILY. WE NEVER WORRIED ABOUT ANYTHING IF DAD WAS THERE. THAT’S NOT TO SAY HE MADE IT EASY! HE TAUGHT US LIFE LESSONS ALONG THE WAY, BUT WAS ALWAYS THERE TO HELP US UP WHEN WE TRIPPED. MY LAST WORDS TO DAD WERE “YOU DID EVERYTHING RIGHT.” IT’S THE TRUTH. THERE’S NOT A BETTER MODEL IN MY LIFE AND HIS LEGACY WILL LIVE ON WITH HIS DAUGHTERS AND ALL HIS GRANDKIDS WHO HE TREASURED. IN CASE YOU’RE WONDERING IF CHUCK IS OUT THERE, I’LL CLOSE WITH A QUICK STORY TO TELL YOU WHY I’M CERTAIN HE IS. IN HIS LAST FEW DAYS, I BROUGHT VIVIAN (OUR YOUNGEST DAUGHTER AND CHUCK’S YOUNGEST GRANDCHILD, WHO IS 17 MONTHS OLD TOMORROW) TO VISIT. MY INTENT WAS TO BRING SOME JOY TO THE DIFFICULT DAYS. VIVIAN PLAYED HER PART PERFECTLY. I’D LIFT HER UP TO SEE PAPA CHUCK AND SHE’D ALWAYS SMILE, WAVE, AND BLOW HIM A KISS (WITHOUT PROMPTING). ON THE MORNING OF MY DAD’S PASSING, I LIFTED VIV OUT OF HER CRIB AND TOOK HER TO THE WINDOW TO OPEN HER CURTAINS. WE OPENED THEM TO NOTABLE SUNRISE AND WITHOUT HESITATION, VIVIAN BLEW A KISS. WE SEE YOU, DAD. WE LOVE YOU.