We lost Dad on April 22nd. April 2013 will go down as a month we never want to repeat. I could never have imagined losing my father-in-law just a month shy of my daughter’s wedding. Never. Yet, here we are. I didn’t know if I would write about this. I didn’t know whether I could. But I’ve realized we need to share our memories of a great man, a wonderful father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Dad was a soft-spoken man, his deep, caring voice was capable of softening the hardest of hearts. He loved to sing and he was good at it. He loved reading, painting, needlepoint and he played a mean game of Scrabble. But most of all he loved his family and the Lord. My husband says Dad was the best preacher on earth. His sermons were always to the point, succinct and sincere. He made you think, made you re-examine life and the way you live it. I always walked away from his Sunday morning services with a lot to chew on for the week. I was young when I first heard him preach, definitely not living my life to the fullest. I figure he knew that. And he loved me anyway. Loved me through some pretty hard things too. Like my Mom having a stroke after a heart-valve replacement. I went to stay with my then boyfriend’s parents because I knew they would give me what I needed. Unconditional love and time to grieve.

He was the kind of man, who, after marrying us, drew me into a hug and whispered, “Welcome, daughter.” He was the kind of man who, even as he lay in the hospital during his final days, was thinking of others and wanted to ensure we all knew certain things. Like the fact that he’d already written the vows he was going to speak at our daughter’s wedding. He took care of others before taking care of himself. Perhaps that was his one flaw. He never wanted to be a bother to anyone. After several back surgeries over the years, he lived in constant pain. I rarely heard him complain.

Dad was the kind of man who loved his life and lived it to the full. He didn’t let his limitations get in the way of doing things. He set a great example of faith, trust and perseverance through trial – an example we will all be hard pressed to follow. He had a great sense of humor and he loved to tell stories. I remember fondly how he’d sit out on our back porch, a kid on each knee, and spin great tales about Honey Bears and Turtles – the stories were fun but they always carried a lesson too. He loved to swim, and during his time in Bermuda, you could find him floating around Harrington Sound for hours on end. He loved to eat too, and used to joke that he had a hollow leg. If you ever saw him at a buffet, you’d believe it!

He leaves behind so many memories, so many lessons learned from him, so many reminders of how he loved each one of us. His legacy is rich, faith-filled and ripe with the assurance that he knew exactly where he was going as he drew his final breath. He was at peace. And I know he’d want us to be too.

But it’s hard to say goodbye to someone you love. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. It doesn’t get easier. Our family dynamics have changed, but our roots remain strong. We can build on the love Dad left behind, draw strength from it, and look forward to the future with the conviction that one day we will be together again. We must move on, but life will always look a little different.

A week ago we stood graveside, held tight to the memories, and said our final goodbyes. He is loved, missed and will never be forgotten.

See you on the other side, Dad.