3 thoughts on “We miss you, Papa

  1. I thought maybe I should post these words, written just after his passing;


    Dad passed into eternal life today at 12:20pm, on the Feast of Divine Mercy, surrounded by his wife of 32 years and five of his six children, just three hours after the removal of the ventilator that was keeping him alive. He was 73.

    In 1978, when my mother married for the second time, I was eleven years old. I had two younger brothers, and my new stepdad had three daughters whom he had been raising alone, with two still at home. We were kind of a reverse Brady Bunch. He and my mother had just purchased 20 acres of almonds and a little farmhouse from my grandfather. Three months later my grandfather died, and we ended up operating his 26 acre almond farm as well. Incredibly, Dad did all of this “part time” when not working at his regular job as an engineer for PG&E.

    I called him Dad and will always call him Dad. He always called me his “number one son”. He worked hard to be a true father to us boys. He loved us as no other man has ever loved us. Acutely aware of our virtual fatherlessness, he patiently taught us, encouraged us, sacrificed for us, and gave us an example of responsible manhood. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I know something about how much he had sacrificed for his daughters too. Sacrifice is the banner of love, isn’t it?

    I have so many stories … if only I could tell them to you. Handsome, good-humored, warm and generous, he was widely known and loved in his community. Those who knew him couldn’t help but like him. In the inevitable conflicts of family life, he was always eager to reconcile and quick to forgive. When he looked me in the eye, placed his hand on my shoulder, and gave me that fatherly smile, well, there is nothing he couldn’t ask of me. Dad was an early riser. He loved breakfast and the morning paper. The best things about mornings, growing up, was Dad’s voice, Dad’s commentary on the news, Dad’s coffee, Dad’s unfailing morning cheerfulness.

    Dad and I worked side by side in the orchards as he taught me how to irrigate, how to prune trees, how to operate farm equipment, and much else. In recent years he loved to stop by the ranch just to visit. He often called just to chat or to tell me about something he had read in the paper (like a job opening). He left long, meandering messages on our answering machine with his wonderful soothing voice. He told me often how proud he was of my family. He came over to help prune the orchard, and most recently to remove some troublesome blackberry vines. He seemed the picture of health until a couple of months ago.

    I mentioned Dad’s sacrificial love, which he lived to the very end. The final act of his life was one of loving sacrifice. Late last year, his uncle was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. His uncle had no children and was estranged from his own family. As a child, this uncle was kind to him in a fatherly way, and Dad promised him that he would be there for him in his old age. Dad kept his promise. For five months Dad was away from home, across the state line, helping his uncle in every way he could, even to the point of taking on the tasks of basic hygiene, sleeping on the floor beneath his bed, suffering with him through this horrible disease for five months until he died. Dad wept openly at his uncle’s suffering, and in that fragile and exhausted emotional state he often found himself weeping at the suffering of strangers.

    While taking care of his uncle, Dad tripped on some cables and cords on the floor by the hospital bed, hitting his head. He got up, dusted himself off, and thought nothing more of it. Knowing him, I imagine he was more concerned about putting the cables right than tending to his own head injury. Shortly after his uncle died, Dad experienced a headache so severe he drove himself to the emergency room. As a result of a brain scan, in which they found a massive hemorrhage probably caused by the fall, Dad was told that he needed brain surgery immediately to save his life.

    The brain surgery was a success. Dad came through it with flying colors. He was finally allowed to come home for a week, though he needed a cane and still had a little swelling in his brain. After everything was unloaded from the vehicles, I noticed Dad standing by the sliding glass door, staring silently out into the backyard. I walked over to him and told him, spontaneously, how very glad I was to finally have him home. He had been gone for so long, and his experience had been traumatic. Before he even had time to grieve over his uncle he had nearly died himself. Overwhelmed with emotion, he hugged me tightly. I said my goodbyes to him and to Mom, but as a I walked out the door, he stretched out his arms again, his voice quivering, his eyes (and mine) weeping. I returned for another embrace and told him I loved him. It crossed my mind at the time that this felt like it could be the last goodbye …

    Fortunately it was not the last goodbye. Dad and Mom came for a couple of hours to the State fiddle contest in Oroville the following Saturday. During some of the fiddle rounds Dad was nodding off to sleep, and seemed to have trouble breathing. Mom was clearly worried. But Dad was cheerful and full of loving words for his grandchildren, of whom he was very proud. They went home and, the next morning, left again for Medford to get another MRI and to help his aunt with some of her affairs.

    The MRI results were encouraging and Dad seemed to be making a complete recovery. Nevertheless, his breathing difficulties continued, becoming so severe that he was rushed to ER by ambulance at 3:00am. He was diagnosed with a probable case of pneumonia and agreed to be intubated and placed on a ventilator while receiving treatment.

    That week I came back up to Medford to see him. Dad hated the ventilator but seemed in good spirits. The docs were convinced he had pneumonia and that the antibiotics would fight it off. We told Dad that the ventilator would probably be removed in a matter of days and that he would soon be going home. That seemed to encourage him. But the “pneumonia” was not going away and his condition was not improving. In fact there was little fluid in his lungs at all. The docs were puzzled.

    I had to go home for the weekend and therefore had to say goodbye again. This time I could not contain myself. Something told me this was more serious than any of us knew. I tearfully kissed him, said my goodbyes, and promised to be back next week. As I started walking out the door Mom stopped me and asked me to turn around. Dad, without a voice and half-sedated, was holding out his weak arms through tangles of tubes, calling me back. I went back and received, once again, his fatherly embrace for the last time, something I will always treasure and will never ever forget.

    Dad was raised Catholic, but he left the Church in a conflict over his first marriage. He always had some anger toward the Church and, so far as I know, never openly considered returning. However, at his mother’s funeral, I was surprised to learn that he had received communion – something he should not have done, but it was at least a sign that on some level he still considered himself a Catholic and was not, in principle, opposed to receiving Catholic sacraments. Another encouraging sign took place during his first week on the ventilator. As he seemed to be sleeping, I started praying the rosary very quietly, almost (I thought) inaudibly. He then opened his eyes and made some movements. I rose from my chair, grabbed his hand, asked if he was all right. I said I was praying the rosary for him. He nodded his head, then surprisingly lifted his left hand and tried to make the “OK” sign with his fingers. I told him I would pray a little louder and that he could pray along if he liked. He nodded his head again. I went back to my chair and continued the rosary, full of hope. Earlier this week a fine young priest came to administer the Annointing of the Sick to Dad while he lay unconscious and dying.

    As it turned out, Dad did not have pneumonia. He had an interstitial lung disease and had probably had it for years. Its sudden progression may have been triggered by his weakened immune system due to his brain surgery, or possibly some of the medications he was on. There is no known treatment for this disease.

    So many of you have prayed for my Dad, I wanted you to know a little more about him. I was able to pray several Divine Mercy chaplets at his bedside. That he passed into eternity on the Feast of Divine Mercy is a great consolation to me.

    Jesus to Saint Faustina:

    “I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from the very depths of My tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter.”


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