It is amazing how much your life can change in a single instance. The night before I had been talking with my dad on the phone. We had talked about gifts he had bought and was excited to give to my kids. About stuff I was working on at work and about him and my mom staying at our home for Christmas. I now have the greatest sympathy for anyone who has ever lost a close loved one.
I appreciate the many good people who reached out to my family with sincere hearts, wanting to help in any way they could. When we returned after the funeral from Oklahoma, we were surprised to find our home had been decorated with Christmas lights while we were away. The kindness touched me so much.
I feel through all of this that I have become more tenderhearted. I feel deeply, much more than before, when I read sad stories in the news about someone losing their life in a tragic accident, or from cancer, or anything. I feel for the family members that survive them.
I have had some great time for reflection (especially during the long drive to Oklahoma from Utah and back). I think a lot about how I can be a better father. I am grateful I had a good father as I know many do not. The lessons he has taught me through word and action will last with me forever. He was a great example of what a father should be, caring, encouraging, correcting when needed but overall a true friend. I loved talking with my dad, sometimes for hours on the phone. Now that I have kids, I would often spend time apologizing to him for any difficulty I caused him when I was a kid. I sometimes must have been such a pain. He would always return by letting me know I wasn't that bad (even though I know at times I was).
His greatest joy in life was spending time with his family. All growing up my father had to work long hours and commuted great distances for work. He would often come home completely exhausted. Even so he would still find the energy to listen to each of us kids (six of them) tell him about their day, help us with whatever project, hobby, or thing we were excited about and frequently even help my mother get us all ready for bed. As we grew up and could get ourselves ready for bed, the time was used for laughing and telling jokes, anything to help put a bright spin on the many challenges of life.
I grew up going with my dad to computer shows, fixing cars, building models, talking about calculators, cameras and electronics. My dad showed me at a young age how to do 3D modeling on the computer, how to make things out of wood and how to unclog the drain when it got full of all my sisters hair (I have four).
The night I found out about his death was very hard, I couldn't sleep and my heart felt as though it would implode with sadness. I was struggling for comfort so I knelt down and prayed to God for help. At that moment I remembered that two years earlier I had been playing around with one of my film cameras and had taken a roll of film while my parents had been in town. I realized I had never developed the film and that it might have a picture of my father on it. The next day I searched in my basement and after locating the roll (and buying some fresh chemicals) I developed the film. Most of the pictures were of my kids but the very last picture on the roll was the one below of my father.
I know it is just a picture but it meant so much to me, especially during those first few days and any deeply difficult ones since. I am so grateful I have a wife and kids who give me hugs when I need them, I can't imagine going through this alone. I feel for those who have had to and do go through similar experiences alone. I feel for all of those who have had it worse and hope that I can be more sensitive in the future and more thoughtful in ways I can help. I am amazed at the many good people still left in the world and through all of this have been inspired to be more like them.
The young man who was driving the truck (he was only 21), if I ever have the chance to meet him, the one thing I would want him to know is that we all make poor decisions in our life, what really counts is how we learn from them. I really hope this experience helps him make changes in his life.
I love you Dad and miss you so much.