These past few weeks… it is hard to describe the emotions I’ve felt. If someone asked me how I feel, I’d probably say, everything. I’ve felt joy and pain, anger and peace, questions and comfort.
My dad was a wonderful man, one of my best friends. I really can’t say more about him right now without crying, but you can read his obituary HERE if you’d like. A few weeks ago we were sharing a drink in the Bahamas, celebrating he and mom’s 50th anniversary, and talking about the important things in life: family, music, work, and how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were going to win the Super Bowl this year. We say this every year, and one year we were right! Less than two weeks later he passed away. (As a side note, we buried him in his favorite Buccaneers hat… though that was also to cover the scar from the brain surgery.)
I think he went in the way he wanted to go. He didn’t like nursing homes or hospitals. In many ways, his quick passing was a mercy. And the fact that only a few days before he entered the hospital he was surrounded by his kids and grandkids with a video message from all of his friends… you couldn’t plan that kind of thing any better. His final days of life he got to spend time with mom, my sister, and myself.
The last words I said to him were, “I love you.” His last words to me: “I love you, too.” I am so grateful to have had the kind of relationship with him that nothing more needed to be said. We said it all in our life.
As I shared my grief among friends and social media, I’ve received hundreds of tweets, texts, posts, emails, and phone calls, all of whom sharing their sympathy and their prayers. At the funeral, hundreds more showed up to honor the life of a wonderful man and support the family who loved him. I’m sure there were over five-hundred people praying for his soul, my family, and myself over these past couple weeks, and I can tell you that I have felt like I’ve been held aloft by a thousand hands raised in prayer. I certainly could not have walked this journey alone, and I am grateful that I did not have to.
I cannot remember the last time in my life that I have felt such pain and peace at the same time. I and my family sincerely want to thank all of you who accompanied us on this journey, whether it be through praying a rosary, offering up a Mass, sending a message, or just taking a moment to close your eyes and hope that we would get through this. Every small and great thing you did to help us really mattered and did not go unnoticed, even if we’ve not yet had the chance to respond to everyone who reached out to us in this difficult time.
I’m writing this on a plane, heading home. Tomorrow I’m setting up music in the Fieldhouse at Franciscan University to get ready for the first Steubenville Summer Conference this weekend. My dad loved playing music and in one of our last conversations said that he thanked God every day for the gift of playing music, especially at Mass. Now he will be doing this forever in heaven. I look forward to playing with him again someday, in the throne room of the King, where there is no more sickness, no more crying, no more death. I think I’ll need a few more years (and decades) of practice before I land that gig, but until then I’m excited to sing His praises while I have breath in my lungs.
Please accept my sincere condolences. Your father and your family are in my prayers.
Please accept my condolences regarding your Dad. All I can really say is I went through the same thing a year ago May with my own Dad. You are so blessed with what your dad’s finals words were. In my case, Dad said three times, one after another OMG, I am afraid. I so wish he had left us with beautiful words. I remember meeting your Dad at St. Ambrose a couple of times. He was a wonderful man who raised an equally terrific son. God Bless you and your family. Joan Shepard