Dad had a way about him that made you feel like he had known you forever.
My Dad passed away in late 2008 in Brownsville, TX, while on an Oceanic Windsurfing Adventure.
While windsurfing, Dad was rushed to intensive care and then passed unexpectedly 3 days later. I've always believed it was the Swine Flu which was later discovered to be proliferating right about there and then.
Whatever it was Dad had, I got it from him while holding him through passing, and was so disabled by it that I missed his funeral.
I had always so dreaded the eventuality of my Dad's death.
But utterly, and completely unexpectedly, I did not sink into a bottomless grief from it. Instead something happened that had never once occurred to me. Even the concept had never crossed my mind. But it is exactly what happened.
Upon receiving the news from my sister that Dad was on his way to passing, I asked Dad if he could wait to pass until I could fly out to be with him, which I did.
For Dad's last hour or so I was alone with him, standing over his catatonic body at the foot of his hospital bed, rubbing his feet continuously, and coaching him toward letting go of this life, telling him that I would be OK, and that he could go now.
Lastly, I said "Really you should go now Dad, because you're the one that always said that whenever you died you never wanted to be lying in a bed like a vegetable."
Within 30 seconds of my saying that to him, the machines in the room suddenly went crazy, and then he was gone.
The most incredible gift for me was, and is still, that at the moment his body went lifeless, I felt something from him transfer into me, which then became a part of my permanent, temporal fabric. From that moment, I've never really "missed" him in the ways that I had always imagined and dreaded. I feel his presence continuously available within me – a gift, I suspect – from sharing, as we did together, his most peaceful passing.
His own father, a silver miner in Park City, Utah, died in the mine when Dad was 9 years old. When he was 15, Dad came home from school one day to find a note on the kitchen table from his Mom saying that she and her new husband (along with Dad's 3 younger siblings) had sold their house and moved to Nevada. From that point, Dad was on his own in the world.
Dad "pulled himself up by his bootstraps", finishing high school while supporting himself with odd-jobs, and then serving in the Korean War to fund his subsequent College Education. He got his PhD and became a much-beloved teacher and mentor, and a meritorious College Professor in the field of Vocational Education.
Dad had a way about him that made you feel like he had known you forever. He expressed love and made connections by patiently and graciously, yet tenaciously, helping you learn how to help yourself. Dad wanted you to recognize your talents (no matter how rough or underdeveloped), and then leverage those inherent gifts for joy and success in your professional life.
Dad's life's work was helping others learn how to raise themselves up in this world, as he had, from humble beginnings. He wrote a Junior College text book called "Personal Development for Life and Work" which has been used by tens of millions of students in high schools and vocational colleges world wide:Personal Development for Life and Work
I am reminded of a fun time with my Dad. We were on a father/daughter camping trip at Rainbow Lake, up in the Sangre DeCristo Mountain Range in Colorado:
After fishing one night, the half-moon above shed just enough light to see our way along the trail back to camp. Dad always followed behind when we were alone on a trail at night. I couldn't actually see the trail ahead, but I could sort of see the darkness of the path in my peripheral vision if I repeatedly shifted my line of sight.
Not really seeing where I was going felt vulnerable, but also kind of exciting. That was the kind of thing that my Dad and I could share only when we were camping alone together.
When the whole family went camping, the rest just didn't quite appreciate this same sense of adventure -- the heightened awareness brought on by the vulnerability of being so exposed in nature. But it was an unspoken, shared and treasured ritual with my Dad.
A little ways into the woods my legs suddenly stopped under me. In that moment I could not think, speak or move. I just felt a shock of alertness. Stopping in his tracks right behind me, my Dad quietly turned on a flashlight. Three feet ahead of us, directly in our path, was a skunk waddling along the trail.
In addition to his intellectual adventures, Dad was also passionate about his outdoor adventures. He was the King of Selfies long before "selfies" were a thing.