This world lost a phenomenal human being today. After a brief, but courageous battle with cancer, my father-in-law took his last breaths, free of any suffering, and in the comfort of his home. He was surrounded by the ones that loved him most, his wife and children.
To know Papa was to know a kind and gentle soul whose willingness to give was boundless. He gave...and he gave...and he gave some more, never once asking for anything in return. He had a sweetness about him that put everyone at ease. He'd make every effort to get to know you. For as gifted and successful as he was, he was also very humble and understood that you too had something to teach him.
Papa lived for the smiles and giggles of his grandchildren and they showered him with adoration in return. On any given Saturday he might show up at our house to take the kids out for donuts and milk followed by a junior drag-racing tournament in his driveway. His best, last moments were spent with his grandkids on his bed. When we took them away and asked him if he needed to sleep he whispered, "Are the kids still here?" And so we brought them back in for round two.
I knew Papa for less than ten years, but in that time I witnessed countless moments of his saintliness. My favorite, being the time he personally delivered a glazed donut to me in the hospital, after the birth of my third child. I hadn’t asked for it, but he knew I was a fan. So despite the fact that it was a work day or that he himself was in the middle of a chemo cycle, he just wanted to brighten my morning. What’s more, he also delivered a dozen donuts to the nurses station. But he never told me that part. I learned about it later that morning when a nurse came in my room, floating on a cloud and singing the praises of my "amazing father-in-law". And wasn’t that just like him to think not about himself, but of his son’s wife and all the amazing women outside her door providing care for her and his grandchild.
The only thing that gave me peace these past few weeks was knowing that Papa would allow us to spread some of his ashes around the fruit trees that would feed my children for years to come. To know that there would always be a part of him, at home with us, gave me great comfort. But in his last selfless action, Papa decided to donate his body to research. I am both proud and humbled by his decision.
So instead, we will erect a shrine to him in our backyard, a place where we can go and talk to our children of the great man that was their Papa. I made one last promise to him, that on his birthday, every year, I would make our family a dinner of his favorite meal: sausages, potatoes and his mother's Charlotte Rousse.
Tonight, my husband remarked about how fortunate we are to have small children around during this time. I couldn't agree more. Their untouched innocence is a beautiful reminder of the circle of life we all walk. And how with each passing generation, there is new life to live and more love to give.
Rest in peace, Papa. You are forever in our hearts and memories.