Mourning a Loved-One's Passing
Touched by Death
Death isn't a stranger to me. I've felt its touch on more than one occasion with the death of family and friends. I'm not alone in that, I know, and yet when someone I love passes on, it does create a lonely feeling. I can't help but think of the times I won't get to see, or have a conversation with that person I cared for, or wrap my arms around them again.
I've found myself back in that same position now, with the passing of my stepfather. "Stepfather." That word sounds so cold when I think of all that he really was to me. Had he come into my life at an earlier age than 11, no doubt he'd have been "Dad." But that's not the way life worked out. So instead, I called him by his nickname, as he'd asked me to. I quite liked his nickname anyway. I called him "Stub," and the name fit him well, for he was quite stubborn.
He'd married my mother, who was more than a little younger, in an effort to help her regain custody of my sister and me. We were, at the time, in a foster home and she had little hope of getting us back, as it wasn't the first time we'd been wards of the state. He made it his duty to bring us home and give us a stable life. He did that without ever once saying that it wasn't his responsibility to raise another man's offspring, even when in a fit of anger I'd told him a time or two that he wasn't my father. But the fact is, he was. In all the ways that matter, Stub was my father.
Now I find myself in a position I both asked for, and yet fear. I get to speak at his funeral. When asked if I wanted to, I said yes without hesitation, but now, thinking on it, I'm so afraid that I won't do him justice. He wasn't perfect, and I don't want to make him sound like he was. But he was a good man who has much to do with where I am now in my life. And let me assure you that I am happy with where I am in my life.
It seems I am now a woman without a father. I never realized before how much I'd counted on him being here, year-after-year. He was a fixture that maybe I took for granted. When I called, he answered. When I needed him, he ran. He won't be doing that anymore, but I know he's in a better place.
His last few months on this Earth were painful and I'm sure, at times, humiliating to him. He had to have hated not being able to do as he pleased. He certainly resisted having others take things over for him at times. While his body grew weak, his spirit stayed strong.
So I have to let him go. Not that I had much choice. But I know that I will see him again. I know that I will talk with him again. I know that I will get to throw my arms around him again and feel that reassurance that only a father can give.
Gone, but Not Forgotten
The best gift I can give him, besides overcoming my stage-fright and keeping those tears back long enough while in front of all those people at his funeral, is to repay him by living my life in a way that he would have been proud of. For I know he'll be watching. I hope that he will see that he had a great influence on my life. He made me want to be better. He helped me to believe that I was worth the effort he put forth in helping to raise me to womanhood.
So I will stand and tell all those who knew and loved him that I loved him too. I will do my best to confirm what most of them already know. Stub was a good man whose presence will be missed more than words can express.
He may be gone for a time, but he will never be forgotten. He's earned his place in my heart, and there he will stay. He is my family. He is my Dad.
The Story I Wrote for Stub
- Shadow Of a Man
I was fourteen years old and thought I already knew all the important things in life. I remember being more than a little annoyed at the assignment my geography teacher, Mr. Ream, had given the class. We had...