Dad, I really miss you

bj_1988

It was the summer from hell. It started on Memorial Day.
A tearful call from my mom … she said they were OK.
But the their home for many years — it was on fire.
It was caused by a fan that had a faulty wire.

What would they do? I flew to Chicago to help them find an answer.
Complicating matters was my dad’s spreading cancer.
We consulted with insurance, they set them up in a hotel.
But not used to his surroundings, my dad got out of bed and fell.

For the rest of the summer, a nursing home is where he’d live.
It wasn’t what we wanted, but without a home there was no alternative.
Living out of luggage, my mom spent hours bedside visiting her spouse,
While juggling insurance and reconstruction of their house.

Keeping my dad in the loop every step of the way,
Making it handicap accessible so in his home he could stay.
But he increasingly grew weak, they hospitalized him to be cautious.
The cancer was spreading so fast, the only place to go was hospice.

On Sept. 20, 2014, I got the call I’d come to dread.
My Ninong was on the phone to tell me my dad was dead.
I had braced for this moment for more than 10 years.
But all that preparation didn’t stop the tears.

Dad was sick for so long, but his will you couldn’t bend.
He beat death many times, but cancer was his end.
A few days after his funeral, while we were still all very sad
Their home was finally ready, but it was weird without my dad.

Looking at his handicap-accessible room, which he never would see.
I felt a breadth of emotions sweeping over me.
Hard to believe it’s been two years, the time really flew.
I still think about him every day. Dad, I really miss you.

Eulogy for my dad, Walter G. Dennis

IMG_0095-0.JPGEulogy by Joe Dennis delivered at the funeral of Walter G. Dennis on on Sept. 24, 2014.

Many associate strength with fighting — the bravery to engage in physical conflict with another individual — and win the fight. My dad was the opposite. Rather than engage in physical conflicts or verbal arguments, he fought his battles with a Christ-like response. Anyone who knew my father knew he was the person you could go to if you needed emotional support or just needed to vent. He told me many times that his role is to pacify situations, and encouraged me to be the peacemaker when battles arise. To this day, I don’t know of one enemy he had.

But strength took on a different meaning over the past 15 years when my dad often joked that Edward Hospital was his vacation home — “Hotel Edward” he named it. Bad heart valve, loss of hearing, pacemaker, hernia, four intestinal surgeries and cancer — it has to be a record how many health battles he’s overcome. Since 2000, doctors have been warning of his pending death. Well, he outlived some of those doctors, as well as many other friends, family and caretakers. He said he was like a cat — he had “9 lives.”

See, what the doctors didn’t know was my dad was such a stubborn man. Whether it was planting a garden, cooking spaghetti or building a deck, there was a wrong way to do things, and then there was his way. And the doctor’s way of getting better — taking it easy, using a wheelchair, and resting — was clearly the wrong way. Instead, my dad continued to exercise, walked on his own and of course, maintained his garden. And the times he did need help, you had to help on his terms. His stubbornness fueled his strength and kept him alive through multiple operations and dozens of hospital visits over the years. Through his persistence, my dad taught me to never give up.

My dad was a great father. I know when I was a baby he worked multiple jobs to support his family. As I grew older, he never hesitated to play a game with me … teaching me the intricacies of Monopoly, Marbles and of course his favorite, Chinese Checkers, a tradition he taught my sons. Every Saturday we’d venture to the East Side Chicago Public Library and I’d pick out some books that he’d help me read back home — our mutual favorite being Curious George. He launched and lead a local Tiger Cub Scout chapter so I could participate. Even when he would leave home for a business trip, my sadness of him leaving was balanced with anticipation of what surprise he would bring back — usually a storybook record. When I got into sports, he always took time to help me learn to hit a baseball, swim or shoot a basketball. I knew that every game I played, he would be there, usually still in his suit coat and tie as he raced home from work to catch my first at bat. In my teenage years he gave me flexibility, supported my newfound love of heavy metal music. While other parents might have been skeptical of the influence of such music on an impressionable teen, my dad had faith the values he and my mom instilled in me through not only their words and actions, but the words and actions of a strong family would be a solid foundation. And they were right.

He showed great love for his surviving siblings and me, my sister, his grandchildren and of course my mom, who he would often call “his angel.” But that love extended to nieces, nephews, cousins, and a large circle of friends who were considered family. I know he treasured every family gathering — and being married to a Filipino there were many — and reminded me how important it is for me to be a part of them. The last words he told me was to “Be there for my family.”

He always told me that God and family need to be at the heart of everything. And again, he lead by example. It all starts with God, and my dad was the most faithful man I’ve ever encountered. Of course every Sunday church was a requirement, but it was much more than that. My dad taught me the importance of praying every night. He would sit beside my bed and we would recite the Guardian Angel prayer, the Lord’s Prayer and a Hail Mary. Then we would pray to the Holy family, and he would encourage me to think about things I’m thankful for, and people I want to pray for. He often reminded me when I questioned God that we needed to accept God’s will.

Keeping God at the center was evidenced by the importance of service in his life. His record of service could rival most anyone. Even as his physical abilities diminished, he continued to serve others. He taught me that we all have responsibilities, not just to ourselves and our families, but to the entire community. I remember as a child one night praying with him, and I said, “God bless everyone except the bad guys.” After the prayer my dad told me it was very important to pray for “the bad guys,” because every person is a child of God. And it is our responsibility to treat every person with love.

Walter G. Dennis was truly a great man. A great husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin and friend. A great member of his church and community. And a great soldier of God.

I love you dad. I will remember you everyday and continue your unselfish legacy of love of God, family and community. Thank you Dad, for teaching me how to love everyone, unconditionally.

Walter, our dear friend

Printed on the back of the memorial card for my dad, who died Sept. 20.

A child of God, he was one of his men,
Was given to us to be one of our friends.
His life on Earth was a blessing to many
He loved every person, especially his family.

In every person he met, he saw the good,
Anything to help another, he always would.
“See God in every person,” he would often say.
Love and help, and remember them when you pray.

He was always active, even sick he wouldn’t be still,
But he prayed and tried to live according to God’s will.
“Leave it up to God,” he said when life was getting tough.
Words he lived by until the end, when his body had enough.

He is now with God in Heaven, looking down at us from the sky,
Reminding us of our purpose here, and telling us not to cry.
For we are all God’s children, this life here is not our end.
Hopefully one day we will join God, and Walter, our dear friend.

–Joseph Dennis

IMG_5248.JPG