Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dad's Four-Letter Word

After living with emphysema for 13 years, my dad passed away on July 13, 2014.  He was 87 years old.

When we met with the pastor to discuss Dad's service, he said that he would give people the opportunity to come up and speak.  I knew I wanted to say something, but I didn't know what or if I would be able to.  I woke up at 3:30 a.m. on the day of his funeral, and words kept flowing through my mind.  At 5:00, I decided to get up and write them down.  What follows is what I wrote that morning and, thankfully, was able to share with all who had gathered to pay their respects to a great man, Jack Burns, my father.

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Those who know me well know I have a bad habit.  Actually, I have quite a few, but the one to which I am referring is my tendency to let four-letter words fly on occasion.  Those who know my family well also know where I most likely acquired that habit:  Dad.

Lately though, there was a particular four-letter word Dad liked to use.  That word I can use in front of all of you.  It was "love."  When it came time to leave after a visit, I would give him a hug goodbye, and he would say, "I love you."  When I would call and talk to Mom, he could be heard in the background telling her to tell me he loved me.  She would relay back to him that I said I loved him too, and he would respond, "Good."

The thing is, Dad wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know.  I don't remember the words being used a lot while I was growing up, but Dad told me he loved me all the time.  He said "I love you" when I was a little girl and he taught me to read simple words in the newspaper he was reading.  He said "I love you" when he came to school performances and listened to me screech my way through a song on the violin.  He said "I love you" when he rushed to my side, white as a sheet, when I broke my leg in the 8th grade.  He said "I love you" when he supported my decision to go to college, crying as he left his baby girl so many miles from home and beaming four years later when I received my diploma.  He said "I love you" when he walked me down the aisle and later when he held each of my sons, Jared and Jack, in his arms.  He said "I love you" every time he made me call when I got home after visiting so he knew I had arrived safely.  And he said "I love you" when he wished me a happy birthday every year at exactly 9:05 a.m., the time I was born.  No, he didn't need to say he loved me.  He had already shown me a million times; there was never a doubt in my mind.

It was that same love that Dad felt for all of us, Mom especially, that kept him going.  It gave him the strength he needed to keep fighting even when the simplest of tasks became a struggle.  In the end, Dad proved just how powerful love can be.

I will be eternally grateful that [my sister] Katie urged me to come home last Friday.  Those last two days were extremely hard, but I am so glad I was here to help take care of Dad and to simply hold his hand.  It wasn't much, but I hope he heard loud and clear what I was trying to say:  "I love you, too, Dad."


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