Last week, I wrote to you about my father’s surgery. Despite him coming through it successfully, his heart couldn’t take the recovery.
It’s been just over a week since my Dad passed away, yet it feels like an eternity and a minute at the same time. The unfolding events are both a blur and the sharpest picture branded into my mind.
Rushing to the hospital, praying for Dad to pull through.
Getting the news on my two-hour drive that he had passed.
Pulling into a rest area and trying to not throw up.
Feeling grateful that it’s the middle of the night and no one else is parked here so I can scream without an audience.
Experiencing my entire body go limp and being unable to breathe past my throat.
Meeting my family at 2:30 AM in a room filled with tears, disbelief, and shock.
Cursing the hospital for having such shitty tissues.
Then a slight crack opened in the darkness.
“Did you hear about the fireworks?” my sister, Lisa, asked me.
I shook my head with a puzzled look on my face.
“One hour after Dad passed, we were sitting here looking out the window and saw two or three big bursts of fireworks in the sky. Mostly green with a little red and a little white. Then, as fast as they started, they stopped.”
“Fireworks?” I said, still confused. “In November? At 2 AM?”
“Leave it to Dad to let us know he’s still with us in a way we couldn’t miss,” Lisa said. “And of course they had to be green for the proud Irishman.”
The fireworks were only the first sign in a rapid series over the next several days.
Dad made Mom’s gas fireplace pop as family was sitting around talking about him.
My brother, while watching Monday night football, told his wife about the signs from Dad, saying he wished he’d get one. Just then, he turned to the TV as the camera panned to the back of a player with the name “Richardson” on his jersey.
My sister stopped by the family business to take care of a couple things. Suddenly, everyone heard a knock at the back door. When they went to see who it was, no one was there. Or maybe there was? Anytime Dad went to the office, he’d knock on the back door to be let in.
After the funeral, several people told me they saw only one of the pendant lights in the church swaying back and forth, and it was the one that hung directly above where my family and I sat.
There were several more signs in the form of pennies, butterflies, and beautiful sunsets. Dad wasted no time letting us know he’s with us always, and by “us” I mean his family and all the people he touched during his 81 years here on Earth. And of those, there are a lot.
Hundreds of people attended the wake. For more than four hours, the line snaked through the funeral home and out the door, with people waiting over an hour to reach the receiving line. Family, friends, local business owners, bank tellers, doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, members of the homeless ministry, and the church community shared story after story of Dad’s generosity and kindness.
My brother, Steve, shared a story that sums up Dad perfectly:
“Back in the late ‘60s, we had two cars and Dad decided to sell the older Dodge. A buyer traveled out from Boston to Franklin to buy the car. However, I had been playing with the keys and lost them. Dad sold the newer car for the same price because he felt it wasn’t right to have this gentleman travel all that way and not have a car because of our mistake.”
Yup, that sounds about right. Dad’s gruff exterior was a big façade.
Generosity and kindness – that was always Dad’s way. From following a garbage truck to give the guys $20 so they could have lunch on him to filling his car’s trunk with ice and chocolate milk for all the kids on the soccer field, Dad loved making others happy with random acts of kindness, most of which went unnoticed, which is just how he liked it.
And now I invite you, as my brother did at the end of the eulogy, to perform at least one random act of kindness this week in honor of my Dad. We are already receiving text messages and emails from people sharing with us what they’ve done. Maybe smile at a stranger. Write a thank you note to someone. Buy a cup of coffee for the next person in line. Anything that will brighten someone’s day.
When you perform yours, please post a comment on this blog and share. It’ll warm my heart to know that he’s still spreading love all over the globe.
Thank you for all your notes of love and support over the last week. I’ve read each and every one and they have helped me navigate this incredibly difficult time.