Father’s Day 2020.
Some people with whom I have spoken expect this Father’s Day to be particularly difficult for me. 3 ½ years ago, my beloved daughter, Morgan was taken after fighting various eating disorders for over 7 years.
Last October, October 24, 2019 to be exact, just 6 days before the commemoration date of Morgan’s passing, and in the same hospital, my dad passed away.
He led a full life. Air Force fighter pilot, businessman. I was honored to be his guardian when we went with 50 other military veterans, on what is called “The Honor Flight.” The Honor Flight takes 50 or so veterans to Washington, D.C. to tour the war memorials and monuments, to experience fellowship. Respect and true thanks for their past service are not just spoken words, but shown through actions and conduct.
And so, this Father’s Day is the first that I will experience without my dad and without my daughter. And many people may assume, perhaps rightly so, that it will be a somber day of remembrance.
We do remember.
And yes, we grieve. But sometimes, that grief does not have to destroy us. Sometimes that grief does not have to define us in a negative way. Sometimes, that grief fills us with incredible strength, purpose and insight.
The journey of our soul, its path revealed just enough to keep us moving forward, always forward. Its ending is not clear. Nor does it need to be. We only need to find a way to stay on that path. And we know we do not walk that path alone.
We know we are on the right path when messages filled with hope and love continue to be revealed to us during our darkest moments.
I remember the last few days of my dad’s life not because the specter of death was nearby, but for the courage, dignity and strength my dad showed as his final hour neared. His last fatherly lesson to me was surely, “the manner in which we face death is just as important as the manner in which we face life.”
Those last few dark nights in the hospital. There were times when I sat alone contemplating life … and death. And during those times, I sometimes felt a presence around me. A calmness. I certainly did not hear, but almost “felt” a message. A message along the lines of, “Daddy, you have done this before. You have weathered far worse. You are needed. I am with you.”
And I know I am not alone. I will never be alone.
As my father’s physical life force continued to weaken, I felt drawn to the hospital nursery. Looking through the window, I saw the perfect little fingers, the perfect little toes, the pink, black and brown faces, the promise of a full and happy life ahead. And instead of feeling sorrow, I felt a feeling of hope, of renewed life. I was led there not to mourn and grieve for the life that was taken three years before and the life which would be taken in the very near future. But, to see those faces, those incredible little bodies, to feel hope and joy and love.
Enveloped by the feelings of love, on October 24, 2019, at 12:54 p.m., Dallas time, my father breathed his last. Surrounded by all 5 children, their spouses, significant others. Surrounded by love. Once again, hearing those devastating words, “He’s gone.”
Tears of grief. Tears of sorrow. And yet, a firm conviction that his energy, his soul, his Higher Self was soaring. And I felt love. I felt hope.
I desperately miss my beloved daughter. I too, miss my dad, a man who taught me so many lessons, the last one focused on strength and dignity. And the path before me has never been more clear.
A person whose path is placed in front of them, a person who is filled with resolve, inspiration and strength, a person who fears naught, can do wondrous things. Not for his or her own personal glory, but because the message is powerful, clear and universal. The energy of others fill that person with hope. Hope that sustains them.
My father’s name is Richard E. Dunn. He was known to the many friends he made throughout his life as, “Red.” His call sign when he flew the F-86 Saberjet was “Red.“
And on this Father’s Day, to my incredible dad, I choose not to mourn you, to grieve your passing, but to celebrate your life. To my beloved daughter, I know you are with me filling me with resolve, courage, strength and hopefully, wisdom. I celebrate the lessons you are still teaching me.
My Father’s Day is filled with love. My son and I embrace our relationship and we joyfully await the birth of the next generation, his daughter, my granddaughter.
I embrace hope. And in the words of Andy Dufresne, from the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, “Remember RED, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Happy Father’s Day to all dads here and to those who have gone before us.