A Gallant Man

A Gallant Man

I’ll never get used to this death thing.  You would think by now we should be buds,  or at least on cordial terms, having lost both my parents, a baby brother, all my grandparents, uncles, cousins, friends, aunts, including my most adored one who was not really a blood relation at all, but like a grandmother, gifted to me from the universe to step in for the YaiYai and Nana I’d lost as a kid.  Yet, the universe does step up when you need it, for me in the form of my father-in-law who passed away last week, surrounded by his family and secure in the knowledge that he was on his way to the best of parties at the Place To Be where things would be a lot less worrisome than here on planet earth.

About a month ago, my father-in-law spent a week in the hospital.  He’d been taken by ambulance in the middle of the night when his oxygen levels dropped so low he could barely catch a breath.  For the better part of the last year, he’d been battling this issue with his lungs; for the 84 years prior, he’d been healthy, happy, and full of life, creating beautiful tables, lamps and sundries out of wood, still doing some side work for a friend, still helping his kids with their home improvements, still cutting his lawn with a push mower, still going hunting, still showing up whenever you needed him, still doing everything he loved and then some.  He’d been active in his church his whole life, until Covid, and was responsible for so many of the brick and mortar improvements at their church that it would be hard for anyone to walk in there and not feel his spirit just hanging about the place.

I think he could have dealt with most anything in life except the inability to be of service. That weighed on him — that and the leaky mitral valve that didn’t close properly so the tiniest bit of blood kept sloshing back and forth each time his heart beat.  After awhile stuff like that catches up with you and at the end, there wasn’t enough blood moving through to keep the rest of the body, especially his lungs, working properly.

The day he died, my father-in-law said to my mother-in-law:  “I don’t think I’m going to make it to your birthday.” 

Her birthday was only five days away.  Whether she expected him to say that or something else was unclear, but being the stoic woman she is, my mother-in-law reacted in a way I know I could not have. 

She didn’t break down or cry or ask God why.  (I maintain this is the difference between a Swiss/German ancestry and a Greek/Italian one.)  She just took it in stride, probably said something like, “yes, well,” shorthand for, “none of us has any control over what happens anyway since it’s all in God’s hands,” and went about attending to his needs.  “We’ve lived a good life,” she’s said again and again, and it’s true, they have.

Later that same day, my father-in-law asked Son 3 — there are four boys and one girl in my husband’s family — to get his car inspected, one less chore for my mother-in-law to do somewhere down the road is probably what he was thinking.  The standing instructions were to sell both cars after he died and buy my mother-in-law a new car so she wouldn’t have to hassle with car issues.  Even when he was dying, my father-in-law was thinking of others, especially my mother-in-law.  They’d been married for 65 years so this transition was going to be a tough one.  Everyone knew that.  Son 3 did as requested and then asked his father if there was anything else he could do.

“Yes,” was the response.  “Go get two dozen roses for your mother so I can give them to her for her birthday.”  My mother-in-law loves flowers and my father-in-law has always gifted them to her on her birthday and other holidays.  Son 3 bought the flowers as requested and snuck them into basecamp — the room where my father-in-law had been set up with a hospital bed and all his accoutrements for the three weeks since he’d been home from the hospital.  It was a comfy room with a TV, a couple chairs for visitors, a pot of hydrangeas my mother-in-law had put on the table so he would have something beautiful to look at, and pictures of their family throughout the years on all the walls, and, of course, the oxygen tanks.

The only problem was the windows didn’t allow him to see enough of the outside world like the bay window in the living room did so he’d fought hard to get out of that bed and into his easy chair that was just down the long hall that led to the living room.  A few days earlier, he had done it, done it so well, in fact, that all of us thought he was rallying, that maybe he could live for months or even longer this way.  The couple days in the living room were like manna from heaven for him and the family, a gift like no other.  He was talkative, animated, and full of wisdom he wanted to pass on.

Yet nothing of earth lasts forever.

 

“It all happened on the same day,” my mother-in-law said.  Her husband had died half an hour earlier, surrounded by us all, forever at peace.  Six hours before that, he had given her two dozen roses for her birthday.

With the instinct of one who knows they don’t have much time left to them, my father-in-law had dispatched Son 3 to buy roses for his wife.  He knew he wasn’t going to be there to give them to her personally so that day would be his last shot. 

Son 3 snuck two dozen roses into the bedroom.  The living room chair where my father-in-law had sat and entertained family a couple days before now seemed like another lifetime.  They called my mother-in-law into the room, and my father-in-law who now reclined in his chair in the bedroom motioned to the flowers and presented her with a card.  I wasn’t there, but I watched the video his son took.  The look of love on my father-in-law’s face was unmistakable and filled with such grace that my heart ached.  It said everything he could not.  The flowers were still there on her birthday, the day we buried him, not a consolation, no, but surely a symbol of his steady and undying love.

Losing a man like that is difficult for everyone who knew him.  My father-in-law was wise, understated, amazingly creative and mechanically gifted — there was nothing he couldn’t repair or build — a talented woodworker, an exceptional father, grandfather and great grandfather who loved trying new things — he bought a boat, and took up cross-country motorcycle riding in his 70s! — and never met a challenge he wouldn’t embrace, “I’m ready,” his epithet. 

 

He was always thinking beyond himself to the needs of others, and rather than ask how he could help, he just helped — the epitome of gallantry.  As for me, I am grateful for the thousands of ways, big and small, that he touched our lives, nurtured our children, and was tremendously supportive of us and our family.  When we used to keep bees he was there helping us with yearly honey extraction, and for me personally, he was especially supportive of my writing, a true gift to me.

 

Such a man can never be replaced, and really, there’s  no point in trying.  Instead, we’ll have to learn to live with the loss, but oh, how sorely he will be missed.

 

***

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll have read my posts about the book Sacred Commerce by Ayman Sawaf and Rowan Gabrielle, and my wobbly attempt to take up the challenge of writing about a different one of the 12 sacred virtues of the merchant priests each month.  It seems a very long time since the last installment, but in truth, I’ve been perseverating over this one — Gallantry — for a while now.  I honestly couldn’t come up with a single example of gallant behavior — neither the heroic kind nor the chivalrous kind.  I don’t know why I didn’t see the pattern in my father-in-law before.  My best guess is that sometimes it takes a tragedy to be grounded in the present.

“Yesterday I was clever. I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise. I am changing myself.”  — Rumi

 

Thank you for reading.

pam lazos 7.26.20

About Pam Lazos

writer, blogger, environmentally hopeful
This entry was posted in death and dying and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

74 Responses to A Gallant Man

  1. All this speaks to my heart’s core. I’ve no words, just a tear and a prayer for you and your loved ones. Such a tribute brings smiles down from Heaven, I’m sure. xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a special man. Brought tears to my eyes Pam. I’m so sorry for your loss. Death is something you never get used to. You just take baby steps each day and let yourself grieve. The sadness never completely goes away, but each day gets better as your loved one finds a special place in your heart. Take care Pam. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. da-AL says:

    so very sorry, dear. my heartfelt condolences to you & yours. thank you for sharing a bit of him with us ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ken Dowell says:

    I’m sorry Pam. I didn’t know the man but I got a little choked up just reading your touching tribute.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Linda Schaub says:

    Your tributes are always so beautiful Pam and this one is no different. He was an adored man and a man who loved doing for others and taken in his prime because for him, starting hobbies in his 70s, he had a lot of living yet to do. I am sorry for your loss and I am sure your mother-in-law read this wonderful post and wept for years of wedded bliss and the extreme loss that she will feel the most of all.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Sending hugs and love, Pam. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of such a loving, wise, and gallant soul. 💜

    Liked by 2 people

  7. cath says:

    This is a lovely tribute, Pam, to someone who was clearly an exceptional man. Please accept my commiserations.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. picopico88 says:

    so beautifully written Pam. So very sorry for everyone’s loss.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. hilarymb says:

    Hi Pam – what a quite delightful post … you have painted the most wonderful picture about your father in law … he sounds so thoughtful and kind, always there to help … and support. His death will give you so much hope in these dark days … just such a desperate time, but here is a golden light of remembrance. They both lived life to the full and had those happy 65 years. Totally lovely post … Gallant describes him perfectly … thank you – he is inspiring through your words.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Pam, I’m saddened to learn that you’ve lost your father-in-law–a beloved and wonderful man as revealed in your tribute to him. May you and your family find comfort in each other ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A beautiful tribute to an amazing man…

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Sharon Martin says:

    Pam, Thank you so very much for this tribute to Dave. I am so blessed to have him as a brother.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. You had me in tears, Pam. I am so glad his life was so full, so rewarding, leaving such wonderful memories for those behind.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Ally Bean says:

    A lovely tribute to someone who had a powerful positive influence on you. It’s always a pleasure to read about the good people in someone’s life. I’m sorry for your loss, but you’ve done justice to the memory of FIL.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. lampmagician says:

    Heart-touching! The memories are the best and most important thread to our beloved ones. Thank you so much for this wonderful tribute 🙏💖🙏

    Liked by 2 people

  16. TanGental says:

    I read recently that bereavement is about the loss you’ve suffered but the grief you feel is an expression of the love you have for the person and hard though it is it is a welcome reminder of how much they meant and mean. Beautifully crafted testimony Pam. He clearly touched you all and his footprints will lead you forward in his memory

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Jeffrey P Gibbons says:

    So well written, I had tears in my eyes by the end. I know this gallant man will continue to help you all in any way he can. Please accept my deepest sympathies.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Heller, Jonathan and Patti says:

    You wrote a beautiful tribute about Scott’s father, your father in law, and grandparent to your children. I always loved his woodwork and admired all of it when Jonathan and I would visit.
    Big (((hugs))) for all of you.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. mistermuse says:

    I like to think I’m a good writer, but I’m always at a loss for words when trying to respond to heartfelt tributes such as this. All I can say is that I am as touched by your post as the previous commenters.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. What an extraordinary and gallant man. Thanks for sharing him with us. So sorry for your family’s loss

    Liked by 2 people

  21. An excellent person is gone. My condolences to you and your family.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Pat Dodson says:

    So sorry for the loss of a fine man. His memory will always be in your heart.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. What a moving tribute.
    So sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. This is a lovely tribute. I felt like I got to know him through your words. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Jan Groft says:

    So very sorry, Pam. As I read your tribute, my heart ached with yours. (And when I saw the pic of all of you in your turquoise T-shirts, tears welled up. I have a very similar pic of my family at the shore, even the same color shirts, from decades ago—several of them are no longer with us. Those shirts reflect us all forever bound together, as I know they do for your family, too.) And the birthday roses, oh my, what a beautiful human being he must have been. Blessings & peace to you and your dear family. xo jan

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I’m so very sorry Pam. What a wonderful man. YOU have done him more than proud here. All my love to you all. xxxxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Catwoods says:

    A lovely tribute, Pam, to a remarkable person. My heart goes out to you and your family.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Connie Warnock says:

    That is a truly beautiful tribute, full of wonderful memories. My sympathy to you and your family. Love you.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Susan Scott says:

    So sad Pam for you all. This is such a lovely man who epitomises Gallantry in all that he did and was and will continue to inspire you all so that he will still be present. His heart will continue beating in all of yours. Thank you for sharing these stories with us, I feel enriched in reading them. Deepest condolences to you all.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Randy Myer says:

    Thanks for the cry what a beautiful tribute to Scott’s dad🥰

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Suzanne R says:

    Such an awesome tribute to an amazing man. I am truly sorry for the family’s loss. My prayers are with your husband and the family. xoxox

    Liked by 2 people

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