Today marks the five-year-anniversary of Dad’s death. Days like today seem a bit like “time binoculars,” bringing an event or a person into crisp detail. Or, if you look through the other side, making the same person minute and hard to see.
If I close my eyes, we are gathered around his bed and have just made the decision to cancel our appointment with a funeral home, sensing his time on earth was drawing to an end. We, his tribe of women, lined his bed, all wanting to be equally near him and each other. And then the silence. Was it a long paused between breaths or had he died? In a few moments we knew, he was no longer with us.
If I open my eyes, and root myself in this current year and think of all the events and common days he has missed, it feels like he has been gone forever. Surely Dad was here when my books were published. Surely Dad was here when this life forming event happened to a family member. Surely he has seen Niece One drive and Niece Two learning to drive and Niece Three already in high school marching band and Niece Four becoming a sports fan. Surely he knows that Laura has become a voice over talent and Elizabeth (and Del) are preparing to launch their first and are now college tour experts. Surely he has seen how well his bride has navigated life without him. Not because he isn’t missed every day, but because he prepared her, and us, so well for the potential of his not being here.
How has he missed out on so much? How?
At Christmas time I was digging around in the piano bench and found one of the last birthday presents we gave him, a word cloud describing Tom Young through our eyes. Using Word It Out (free word cloud software), we let him know how we saw him.
As you can see, it’s not fancy. I printed it—free “Word it out” logo too—on brown paper, bought a cheap matte, and then lined the top and bottom with craft paper we had. While it could look so much more professional or Pinterest or Instagram worthy or whatever, can I tell you, five years out from the last time we held Dad’s hand, I do not care one hoot about how homemade it looks. I am flooded with gratitude that we moved beyond intention to action and made this for him.
As I read it and try to remember who said which word, I smile because this list captures him well. The depth, randomness, and playfulness of the words are an accurate picture of Tom Young. I’m fairly certain, “Knows me well” was added by one of his granddaughters, which brings tears to my eyes. What a legacy, to know your grandchildren! Some words or phrases are family jokes or lines, and today they are balloon memories, floating around giving me a place to focus. “Speaker of TA Hua” refers to the Chinese word “hua” which is a language or dialect. My dad was a native speaker of his own language, always making sense to himself, yet sometimes we needed him to translate from TA Hua into English. With a chuckle, he always did.
I am so grateful that while we had the time, we told him what he meant to our family. In those last minutes on earth when his body was fading, his mind so foggy, and his race done, on a deep soul level he knew. He knew who he was and he knew he was loved and he knew he could go peacefully.
We saw him as (a):
Great at math
P.E. (Professional Engineer)
Knows me well
Speaker of TA Hua
Dad, you were all that and more. And today we miss and celebrate and love you.
Amy on behalf of your people :)
P.S. Here are a few of the posts I’ve written on other anniversaries of Dad’s death.
The Downside of doing your good deeds in private