A lifetime of service

It’s been a very sad week at our house. My 95-year-old father, Merrill, died of congestive heart failure. He had been sick for about six weeks, in and out of the hospital four times and ultimately, on hospice care for the past couple of weeks.

One of the things he repeatedly said during his illness in fact over the past year as he lost some of his independence was “I don’t want to be a bother.” He told me that. His nurses, home health workers, hospital and nursing home workers all heard him say that. Despite everyone’s assurances that he was indeed, not a burden, I’m not sure he believed us.

It’s ironic that he would have those thoughts, especially knowing how much he has given to other people throughout his life. I started thinking about all of the people who had turned to him for help, comfort and advice.

My father worked all of his life as a funeral director working with people during some of the most stressful and heartbreaking moments in life. He offered those people comfort and support, while making sure there was a fitting and meaningful tribute for their loved one. His job often took him away from his family in the middle of the night, on holidays and all times in between. Following in the footsteps of his father, he continued a tradition of warmth and care for others.

He mentored my brother, cousins and other young men in the community as a Boy Scout leader and scoutmaster. Through his leadership, he presented a strong role model for many teens and helped show them that honesty, respect and responsibility were important character traits.

When Alzheimer’s Disease first became apparent in my mother, Dad didn’t hesitate to step in and provide her the care she needed. He would gently remind her of names and places that continued to

‘just slip her mind.” He watched over her when night terrors would come over her. Even when he had to make the difficult decision to move her into a nursing facility, he visited his wife of 60 plus years every day and sometimes twice a day. He was a little lost after she died, but seemed to find himself again. Golf, new friends and family became his focus.

Dad was always there for his family. He took great care of his parents and his mother-in-law, building them homes and making sure they were safe and happy in their golden years. He helped his children with college expenses, first cars and career advice.

He doted on his grandchildren, especially his youngest, Daniel. The two of them spent many hours together. Grandpa and Daniel shared a love of ice cream. Grandpa told stories about what it was like when he was young and Daniel taught his grandad about technology, Spongebob Squarepants and how to keep his TV remote programmed.

Last summer, Dad decided it was time to give up driving. I think that was hard for him since he had always been independent and self-sufficient. Now, he would have to depend on others for many things rides, grocery shopping and other errands. That’s when he started to tell us he didn’t want to be a burden.

He wasn’t a burden. In fact, my Dad was the model of a lifetime lived in service service to his community, his church, his friends and family, and I will be eternally grateful that he was in my life and taught me so many lessons.