My emotions remain tender in thinking about my dad, but I am glad that the last time I saw him alive his personality still shone through the Alzheimer's. He was still telling jokes. As family and friends reminisced about him and his life people commented on his smile and joking personality, but time and time again what was recounted was all the ways he showed kindness and compassion to the world around him. What I have learned from my dad is that it doesn't take $ to and reach out to someone, we had little growing up and he had much less growing up, but the stories remained of how that didn't stop him.
** Growing up my Dad's dad left his family when my Pops was in the 5th grade. This left my dad to start working to help the family get by. He worked for various farms and gave the money to his mom. He worked and worked and worked. At the funeral his sister spoke about how he gave up things so her and his other sister, both younger than him, could have things at school that others had, and how he went without. In a book my sister had him fill out years ago, my Dad had written about how they used the cardboard from cereal boxes to line their shoes.
** Over the time us kids were growing up my parents cared for 7 different foster children. Some for a short period of time, some for much longer. Dad also spent time at the juvenile detention center working with kids who needed hope and guidance. For many who didn't have a male role model, he stepped up to the plate and became one. He never did this for the praise of the world, or because he had excess money to spare- he just wanted these kids to feel safe. To understand when I say we didn't have excess money, a story my sister shared was how going out to eat was so rare and if you did stop it meant one order of fries for all the kids to share ( and how she hoped there wasn't many in the car when they stopped.- and I remember him buying one Snickers bar and slicing it into 5 pieces for us to share.) I regret that in the younger years I didn't recognize my dad for the man he was.
** Hitchhikers, hobos and more!- It was routine for us to pick up hitchhikers and give them a ride on their way. And if their way was past our house, it was also routine for them to either be given a meal or food. We had a picnic table outside- and it was normal for us kids to be expected to serve these individuals. If a transient needed a place to stay they were offered the barn for the night, if they were a smoker, the garage. My dad helped out neighbors and strangers and more.
I loved that at the calling hours and funeral there were people from many areas of Dad life- church, local restaurant, neighbors and more. One man, with little worldly stature had a broad circle of individuals whom he had touched.
As family and friends talked it was mentioned time and time again how Dad taught us to look out for those who needed a hand up, to show compassion to those around us. As I consider my last post and this one, it makes it easy to see why I have become the person I am - a person who desires to help others- whether it is a family of a child with disabilities or a nursing home resident that doesn't have anyone to advocate for their cause. My Dad and Mom have taught me that compassion is essential. There is always something you can do. I'm grateful that my parent's taught me the importance of love stepping up, wherever you are. I hope I can teach the same lesson to my kids.
And so it goes...