Ten Years

Ten years ago today, I traveled to Beaufort, South Carolina to see My Dad for the last time, after he had been critically injured by an elderly driver who had no business being behind the wheel of a car. My Dad was in the same hospital where I had been born almost 40 years earlier. He was not conscious when I arrived, and he never regained consciousness, though I was there with him when he left the troubles of this world behind and flew away, which is important.

He passed away a couple of days after his beloved North Carolina State Wolfpack stomped my alma mater Navy’s football team by a score of 65 to 19. That was okay, though. I like the Wolfpack, too. He watched the game from his hospital bed. The last time that we spoke, by phone, we talked about the game, through his morphine fog. I’m glad he got to see it.

It was important to me that the last words he heard from me on that phone call were “I love you.” We’re one of those families that ends pretty much every conversation with those words, because you never know what tomorrow might bring. In this case, tomorrow brought something awful, so having said that made a big difference.

The image above is a memorial that my Mom placed in The Beaufort Gazette, since My Dad’s buried in the National Cemetery there, and he had so many friends in the area who we know will like to see it. The top image on the Wikipedia page for Beaufort National Cemetery is one that I took just after My Dad’s funeral. His grave is the fresh one right below and to the left of the big live oak in the middle of the photo.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since I took that photo. Some days, it seems like a lifetime ago, since so much has changed since then — but other times, it feels like yesterday, since I remember it all so vividly, down to the tiniest details that usually fade with time.

I miss him terribly, and think about him daily. And, thus, the public service announcement that I make pretty much anytime I mention him online: if you know an elderly or infirm driver who is no longer capable of safely operating a motor vehicle, you really need to help him or her transition to a non-driving state. Now. The man who killed My Dad walked away with a sprained wrist, while our lives were irrevocably changed, forever, for the worse. You don’t want to be responsible for doing that to somebody else’s family.

Take the keys when it’s time to do so. Please.

20 thoughts on “Ten Years

  1. E,

    Libby’s dad passed on September 9, 1999, so we have been thinking about him as well at this time of the year, and although pancreatic cancer, not an elderly driver, took him, it was, like your dad, a vital life cut short and tragedy nevertheless.

    Thanks for sharing your memories of your dad.

    D.

    • I think it is the tragedy of life cut short that rankles the most, as I am sure you and Libby know from your own experience . . . my Dad had worked his whole life, hard, and the accident occurred mere months after he’d finally retired and was ready to reap the benefits of all his hard work. He was actually on the way to do some shopping before a well-deserved beach vacation when the accident happened . . . there was so much more he wanted, and deserved, to do.

  2. Eric-
    Hope all is well. My dad passed away on Oct. 29, 2011, although the stroke that incapacitated him occurred six years earlier. Our fathers help shape us when we are young and continue to mentor us when we become parents ourselves. The sense of loss we feel when they are no longer with us doesn’t abate, whether it’s a week or ten years. Somehow I think the sense of loss — and perhaps the details we can so easily recall from years past — allows our memories of our Dads to continue to guide us now that they are no longer here themselves.
    Thank you for sharing your story!
    -Mike

  3. Thank you, as always, for sharing the memories of your dad.

    Still one of my favorite pieces of writing (and not just by you, but one of my favorites PERIOD), is your “what summer means to me” piece you wrote for Metroland several years back. Although it is about your dad and the summer adventures he captained with your family, it takes me right back to my own childhood.

    Your father and mine had an identical idea of what constituted a perfect summer road trip — the memories that piece evokes is how I best like to remember him.

  4. I have such fond memories of your father. We loved him and we love your mom as well. It was truly a sad day when we heard of his homecoming. It is hard to believe it has been 10 years! We can rejoice knowing he served his Savior well and is with him in heaven for eternity. We were blessed to have him in our lives.

    • Thanks for a kind and thoughtful comment, Terry. You know how important his ministry and witness were to him and so many others . . . and I certainly know that I was blessed to have him in my life!

  5. Eric, it is always a pleasure to read your writings (your mom emails them to me from time to time). Like your dad, stories and words come so easy and flow so beautifully. I worked with your dad during his time at WAGP and looked forward to his story of the day. His laugh and smile would brighten up any day. When I think of him I can’t help but smile and think that sometimes I can still hearing him laughing and jingling the change in his pockets. He always seem to carry change and if his story was exciting and adventurous he would stand with his hands in his pockets and shuffle the change around. Let your mom know that I still have the WAGP coffee cup that he gave me. He was so proud of those. I too can not believe 10 years have past. I wonder how many stories he and the saints have swapped by now? Looking forward to the day that we can all rejoice together again. May God continue to richly bless you and your beautiful family. Give mom a hug for me.

  6. I was going to “like” this post, but that hardly seemed appropriate. However, it is compelling. As medical science enables longer lives, some day we may all be faced with this decision for an elderly family member, or when getting there ourselves. Your post makes the right decision easy.

    • Thanks, Kirk, appreciate the affirmation of the fundamental underlying point and, yeah, you’re right about it becoming more of a problem, not less. And good to “see” you here at Indie Moines . . . I look forward to seeing you in person in Great Barrington soon.

  7. Currently trying to get the keys from an elderly family member, so thanks for this reminder. In many cases, the elderly driver suffers terrible long-term damage or worse from what would be a minor accident to the rest of us. On the other hand, I don’t know that I can honestly say he’s a worse driver than he was 20 or 30 years ago . . . I don’t know how he’s gone this long without a serious accident.

    Sorry for your senseless loss. Had one of those around here ourselves recently (not vehicular), and are reeling.

    • Sorry to hear about your loss, too, Carl . . . “reeling” is such the apt word, I know, in the sense of losing the ability to accurately perceive a desired direction and move in a linear fashion toward it, when faced with loss that removes a gravitational center from one’s life . . .

      I do know how hard it is (both for those who are taking the keys, and those whose keys are being taken) to help folks through the “no longer driving” transition . . . as it turns out, as we note this anniversary, my Mom is having to do exactly the same thing with/for her brother-in-law, and he’s not taking it well . . .

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