We were to learn later that some time between the fall and that evening he had a heart attack. He had been having more and more pain and physical problems. He had been bright and happy for a few days after the wedding but then had started to retreat into himself. He had grown quiet and depressed and his mind was slipping badly.
Thursday evening at 9:05 pm, Dad passed on. He went quietly, with no struggle and any sense of discomfort. His children had been around him all day. I had been fortunate enough to have gotten to spend the bulk of the day with Dad by myself. We had talked and I had clipped his finger nails. I washed his face and hands and joked with him. Read him articles about places to travel to from Southern Living. He had been completely unresponsive, but that had not deterred me in the slightest. The other kids and grandkids had come through as work and school had allowed. We gathered together around him and told him we loved him. We told him that we understood and that it was fine for him to go. Everyone had left that evening, and once we were gone, he released his last breath and gave up his body.
It is so like him to wait until we were gone to spare us the pain of watching him leave. He knew all of his kids were happy and succesful and that we loved and admired him. He knew he could leave and that we would hold on to each other. That we would love each other and stay a family.
Today has been a flurry of activity as we made phone calls, met with the funeral director and made plans. We notified his loved ones, we hired a bag pipe player. We called the fire department, that Dad had been a part of for 50 years and arranged for pall bearers. We contacted the DeSota Celebration and let them know he was gone. We requested conquistadors to wear their uniforms and be part of the funeral procession. We made arrangements for a flag and color guard. Dad had volunteered for WWII and had been in the Army Air Corp. We cried in each other's arms. We laughed and remembered good times. We ate the delicious food brought by loving neighbors and friends. We celebrated our Father.
In 2003 my parents were named Distinguished Citizens of Manatee County. The first time ever for a couple to be chosen. They were a team. Were they leaders of the community? Many people would answer a resounding YES. But to my parents, they were just being good members of their community. The "hometown" they chose to raise their family. Daddy lived here, in the same house that he and Motheer bought in 1952. They love this town, and were active in everything. Dad was one of the founding four who started the first rescue squad that covered from south of Tampa to Mineral Springs. They chaperoned every dance, football game, bus trip and all the activities their kids were involved in. They were involved in scholarships, helping people to become nurses, preserving the agriculture community that they called home. Dad worked for the state with the employment service, he was elected to play the part of Hernando DeSota in 1987 and he and Mother travelled the world sharing the love and sensibilities of small town America. They were both teachers and had taught in the county school system. Dad had sold insurance, worked at the post office and for the Community Redevelopment Association. They were part of a community where everyone looked after each other's childrens. They raised all "their children" to be a part of their community and to give to others. To share the many gifts and blessings we have as children of this country with all the opportunties. They raised us to laugh, to be joyful and to love each other. They made a difference.
And they continue to make a difference by the values they instilled in so many young people. They loved their grandkids and were so proud of all "their kids and grandkids"
They travelled the world together, and instilled a sense of wonder and adventure in us. They raised us to eat healthy and get plenty of fresh air and exercise. They took us tent camping in the woods over every long holiday weekend. They taught us to respect people of all colors, creeds and religions. They taught us to love and respect, the plants and animals on this beautiful blue green globe, and to protect them. They taught us about God and country. We lived in a perfect world of apple pie and riding bicycles bare footed, running through sandspurs and splashing into the beautiful green gulf waters and the dark brown water of Lake Dore. They loved us and we knew it. They were proud of us, and it gave us the opportunity to do more.
They changed the world, just a little, but they passed it on, so we could also, quitely and in our own ways change our worlds. They worked with libraries here, and helped to get a children's library in Barcarotta, Spain. Where their beloved Spanish families live. The library is named in honor of them. They knew to change the world you have to share it. To give children and adults books and stories, to open their hearts and minds to all the magic and wonder of this world.
They are both gone now. Mother died in 2001, two weeks before 9/11. Daddy is gone now, but not really. He lives on in the eyes of my brothers, my nose, my nephew's sense of humor. They are everywhere we look.
I miss my Daddy. He has been my rock and close friend my whole life. I have been his little girl. I wish him a safe and blessed journey.
Blessed be, Daddy
and bless us all