Again, this post is written by my editor-in-chief– my amazing husband. (As as side note, if you feel compelled to want to write a guest post- contact me!) This post is written on one of the hardest days of my life, the anniversary of our friend Andy’s death. For those who know me, you know the story, for those of you that don’t, I am thinking I will write a full post about it later as it changed my life, it changed our lives. But as I remember this day eight years ago, I also remember in two short days it will also be the anniversary of my husband losing his dad just four days before his 10th birthday. If you didn’t need a Kleenex in my last post, you will probably need one in this post as it is about as raw and emotional as I have seen my husband get.
January 28, 1994 at 7:44 a.m. – my life changed forever.
I was 9 and in the fourth grade; 4 days before my 10th birthday. My dad was a Phy. Ed. teacher and left home early that day to open up the weight room at school. We gave our hugs and kisses and my dad left. I went to school like any other day. At school, we were told that school was closing early due to the weather. We were all very excited because we were going to get to go home, plus it was snowing so we could play in the snow at home. Parents were coming to pick up my classmates and I was waiting for it to be my turn. Then, I saw my Grandpa coming down the hallway to get me. I was so excited because my Grandpa meant the world to me. We got out to the car and the mood quickly changed. (I’ll admit, this part is a bit fuzzy to me because there are things that I just don’t want to remember.) The way I remember it, my mom was there and was crying. I was told that there had been an accident. I was told that I would be going to a family members’ house (I don’t even remember who or where).
When my dad was driving to school, he hit a patch of ice that sent him into oncoming traffic where his car was struck by another car. I was told that I was going to a family member’s house because my mom had to make the extremely difficult decision on whether to take me and my brother to the hospital to say goodbye to my dad. For quite a while in my life, I was upset because I didn’t get to go to say goodbye forever. I really wanted to be there. As I sit here today writing this post with a son of my own, I don’t know how my mom did it. I can’t imagine having to make the extremely difficult decisions that she had to make. I sit here today completely understanding the decision she made.
I wish I would have known that the early morning of January 28 would have been the last hug and kiss I would have given my dad. I wouldn’t have let go. I wish I didn’t take those mornings for granted, I wish I wouldn’t have taken my time with him for granted, I wish I wouldn’t have taken my time with the four of us together as a family for granted. I wish I would have known that he wasn’t going to get to meet my wife or son. I wish I would have known that on January 28, it would be my last day seeing him forever. I wouldn’t have let him go.
A few days after the accident, we had the funeral and visitation. There were so many people wanting to come and pay respects that the services were held in the gymnasium at Wisconsin Dells High School. It was full. My dad had an impact on so many lives, that the gymnasium that day was full with a line out the door. That’s the person my dad was. I often connect with people who knew and interacted with my dad because those stories connect me to him in a way that I wish I could have directly experienced.
My dad was 33 when he died. I am 33 right now and it’s a week before my 34th birthday. There are mornings when my son says time after time, “One more hug and kiss, Dad.” I tell him, “This is the last one, then Daddy has to go to work.” When I tell him that this is the last one, I never think that it is going to be the last one forever. If you were to ask my dad when he was 33 what really mattered in life, he’d say his boys. I can tell you that sitting here right now at 33, my son is what really matters to me in life. Work, money, stuff…none of that matters. Time with family is all that matters. That’s the one thing that once it’s gone, we can never get back. 2018 is the year for me to focus on what matters most, to make decisions regarding what matters most. I am going to try to make decisions for what’s best for my family, not what’s best for my career, wallet or the next must-have thing. I know all too well that life can change in an instant.
January 28, 1994 will forever be a day I remember. Don’t take life or time with family for granted. You never know when it will be the last hug or kiss.
I didn’t get the chance to meet this man but I think I can say for everyone who knew him, you see a part of him in both of his sons. And it is a huge honor for me to be married to one of them. Jeffrey John- I love you with all of my heart. I know this day is hard for you. I know it was hard for you to write this post. But I also know you are an amazing dad, just like Papa Jeff! Keep up the good fight.