This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of my father’s passing. It is hard to believe that 10 years have elapsed already; it seems like only yesterday. Other times it seems like decades. Dad was taken from his family before dawn that Sunday morning, unexpectedly and silently.
The grief and shock were equally numbing; it did not seem real. We had no time to prepare for Dad’s passing, but we took consolation that Dad did not suffer a prolonged, pain-filled illness. Like many, Dad suffered pain through illness or injury at various times during his life, but never acknowledged it.
Mom discovered Dad that morning, and very quickly the paramedics and my two younger brothers arrived at our home. Living in Atlanta, I was not there with my mom and two brothers as Dad was taken from his home, never to return. It was the house that Dad helped build during the 1950s; it was the center of our universe.
My brothers called me early that morning. I called Aunt Alice to let her know; she contacted the rest of our Atlanta family. The rest of the day was filled with contacting work and airlines. My brother and nephew picked me up at Pittsburgh’s airport later that day, arriving home that evening. We were all devastated; Mom and Dad had just celebrated their 50th anniversary earlier that year. Now we were planning Dad’s funeral.
Harris Funeral Home was wonderful; I cannot speak highly enough of them. Relatives from Atlanta and my parents’ hometown of Pittsburgh paid their respects, as did many family and friends. A moving ceremony by local Elks lodge members honored Dad as a member and past exalted ruler. The funeral Mass at
St. Benedict’s in Geistown was beautiful and moving as well, in the church that was so much a part of my dad’s life. The church choir graced the service, evoking memories of Dad in the men’s choir 40 years earlier.
Mom asked me to deliver the eulogy, which I agreed to do. Writing the eulogy was not difficult; delivering it was. My main concern was doing justice to my father and his life in my eulogy; mourners at the service said I did. I was grateful in getting through the eulogy in one piece. The one thing I am most proud of in my life was that eulogy for Dad.
I spoke of Dad as a father, husband, grandfather, uncle, neighbor and co-worker. Dad had many memorable traits, with a personality to match. He was really a force of nature. Depending on the situation, Dad could be gentle one moment, or forceful the next. As said of those with red hair, Dad came by his temper honestly. Once you saw that temper, you never forgot it. But the same could be said of his kindness. Dad was a complex individual to be sure, but always had the best of intentions.
And so our family presses on, without Dad to turn to for the last 10 years. It has been toughest on Mom; she had known Dad since they were children. For myself, the world seems colder, harsher, darker, since Dad’s passing. For me, every victory rings hollow; every defeat inconsolable since that dark day.
When Dad was alive, he would greet my defeats with the question: “Well, did you learn anything from this experience?” I never wanted to disappoint Dad. My mind would race to think of an answer. That was Dad’s mindset: If life handed you lemons, you made lemonade. It was no sin to make a mistake, as long as you learned from it. Dad was always looking for that glimmer of hope to snatch from the jaws of defeat.
And so on this 10th anniversary, I will once again visit Grandview Cemetery. I will remember the man who was so much a part of my life, and continues to be in memory. Writing about Dad helps keep his memory alive for me. I keep hoping that Dad is somehow able to read my comments, that he knows how much I appreciate all he did for me. I guess I will find out when I see him again somewhere down the road.
Bill Eggert is a Johnstown resident. He writes an occasional column.