Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Forever Blessed

Hello dear friends, it's been awhile.

It's been a busy couple of weeks for me - for our family. Writing comes hard. I can't decide if it's because I am too full...or too empty. Possibly a mixture of both. While catching up on some of my favorite blogs, I came across a quote by Red Smith that BrenĂ© Brown used when trying to describe her struggles with writing her new parenting book, "Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed." So true.

There are times when I write when the purpose is clear and the words flow so smoothly. And then there are times when my heart is full, emotion so strong, that I hesitate to even stick the needle in for fear that I'll have no control over what comes out. These things are tender and must be handled with care. For me, and for you.

Ralph Harold Johnson
This is a picture of my father-in-law, Ralph. But I never called him Ralph. From the moment I met him, "Dad" fit the bill. I could not imagine calling him anything else.
He passed away last week.

He spent the last seven days of his life at the N.C. Little Hospice, surrounded by his family. It was a decision that he made, and one that allowed his loved ones to let go of the role of caretaker and simply just be family. For seven days we sat together, ate home cooked meals together, had birthday parties together, laughed together and loved one another. As difficult as it was at times, it was one of the most meaningful weeks of my life.

The director of the hospice made a comment about Dad that not only speaks the truth, but will stick with me forever. He said, "You know the old saying 'You never get a second chance at a first impression?'. Well, my very first impression of your dad was that he was a true gentleman." He could not have been more right. My father-in-law was indeed, a true gentleman.

Always well dressed, always up for a big family gathering, always kind, always ready for adventure - he was the center of our family and the glue that held us strong. Wise beyond measure, quietly unassuming, Dad always knew just when to speak. Sometimes his words were lessons, sometimes facts, most times laced with a good bit of dry Scandinavian humor. His spirit lives strong in the hearts and lives of his children, in the wit of his grandchildren, in the joyfulness of all who knew him. He will be dearly missed, yet his legacy will be celebrated for lifetimes to come.

I've learned a lot these past weeks. As a daughter-in-law, I had many opportunities to sit back and watch as conversations took place, decisions were made, care was given, and tears were shed. I am humbled at the compassion and cohesiveness of this family. Unified in all they do, I learned what it means to sit in a place of trust, resting in the arms of those who love you.

As someone suffering from illness, I also had the opportunity to watch what it means to suffer with dignity. The joy of being with his family took precedence over any discomfort, or pain, or fear. What mattered most to this man was not himself. What mattered in the end - what always mattered most to him - was his family.

We are given but one opportunity. You never get a second chance at first impressions, and you never get a second chance at life. What we choose to do with this day is all that matters. Not yesterday, not tomorrow...just today. My father-in-law knew this well.

And we will be forever blessed because of it.
Ralph Harold Johnson


theotheralig said...

A truly beautiful tribute to a true gentle man (spelling and spacing deliberate) You are right, you were blessed xxxxx

Theresa said...

Thank you so very much. A gentle man for sure, a constant source of good in our lives.

Anonymous said...

I feel we know him through your post. I'm so sorry for your loss and my prayers and thoughts go up for those who are left behind. I know he is already at peace and watching over you. Gentle, kind hugs. Tammy

Theresa said...

Thank you, Tammy. Hugs accepted and received!!

Linda said...

Beautiful words, Theresa. Thank you for this lovely tribute to Dad.

Theresa said...

You are so welcome. Love you!!