As is often the case I don’t know where to start, so I’ll begin at the beginning…
My dad passed away in his sleep on May 1st, 2013.
I’ve been absent from my online journal because, quite frankly, I can’t write. The last thing of any significance that I’ve written in nearly a month has been my words of remembrance of him that were thoughtfully read aloud during his celebration of life service in North Carolina. My mom and dad both are beloved in their church, and their church family did an amazing job in helping us celebrate my dad’s life. And celebrate we did. A celebration is what my dad wanted, and I was pleased to hear Pastor Susan tell us in a preparation meeting, “I’m glad you want a celebration, because we don’t do gloomy.”
To know my family is to know that we are passionate, fiercely loyal, filled with laughter and filled with even more love. My dad was the best of us all.
My usual routine on any flight is to sleep. I can generally nod off before the plane even leaves the gate. It makes flying more enjoyable for me as it helps make the time pass quickly. I mean, seriously, I can only look into filling my house with items from the Sky Mall catalog for so long. But as I sat on the four hour flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta (before changing planes and heading to North Carolina), my mind raced and, being a writer, I wrote. I wrote my words of remembrance for my dad. They were the most difficult words I’ve ever put to paper.
I have sat to write a number of times since, but realize the time isn’t right. As you might tell from this entry, I’m not quite organized yet. My fear, too, is the next few entries in my journal here will be filled with gloomy. And I don’t do gloomy either.
As I hand wrote my thoughts on the plane, fear and sadness and a sense of loss overcame me. There were still so many things my dad and I had planned on doing together. He had plans with my brother, too. He had a lifetime of plans with my mom. That sense of loss can be overwhelming.
My heart aches, and each day I’m learning to live with that nagging sense that something’s missing. And while I’m still processing that emotion, that loss, I was careful then as I’m careful now not to let it consume me. First, it’s not what he would have wanted. And secondly, I’m blessed beyond belief. I’m fortunate to have forty years of memories and stories, love and laughter that I shared with my dad. Many of you, most of you, will never be as fortunate to have known my dad. For the forty years of memories I have, I feel truly blessed. For me, the real tragedy would have been that I’d never gotten to know him so well.
Life goes on, and life is good…
He’s been to me like mercury
Changing with the weather
And though our paths don’t cross as much
The reception gets better
I’ve placed the blame in so many ways
Without considering consequence
And it’s been years to understand
How love takes precedence
So time has changed and seasons rolled
I’ve found fortune to be young
I’m proud to say I love my dad
And honored to be his son.
Virgil Thomas Morton
May 1st, 2013
If you knew my dad, he gave you something. You’re here because he gave you something. Chances are, you brought it with you.
40 years I’ve known my dad. In that time, I’ve gotten a lot. Some things I wanted. Some I didn’t. 40 years of learning. There are tangibles I’ve received. Heirlooms. I’ve received habits. I wear the cologne I do because that’s what my dad wore. He taught me to be a man. To be a gentleman. To love baseball. He taught me there are bad days and he taught me there are good days. Great days. The best of days. He gave me those…
The best of days.
Each moment was a piece of him. Each lesson, each gift he took from himself and gave it to me. He gave to you. Sometimes we wanted what he had to give. Sometimes we didn’t. But he knew we needed whatever he was giving. And never in 40 years did he ever ask for anything in return.
Sure, you might disagree. He could be demanding. Believe me, I know. His expectations were high. But that was part of his gift to us. He saw in us things we couldn’t or didn’t want to see. His expectations were high because he knew our potential. And he had enough ambition and drive to fill this entire room. Because he knew we’d be successful. He knew eventually we’d learn. And when we were successful, when we did learn, he was there to celebrate our success with us. Happy to see us happy. Proud. Our smiles were our gifts back to him.
I’ve never seen him so proud than when my brother served in the military. He knew the dedication and sacrifice it took to be successful in the army, and he beamed when he spoke of my brother’s accomplishments.
I’ve never seen him so happy than when he and my mom were together. I have many, many fond memories of them dancing. Oh yes, my dad could cut a rug! I still remember seeing him hold her tight and then spin her away before pulling her close again, all the while singing along with the song. He was always close to her, holding her hand. My dad taught me what love and respect looked like.
I’ve never heard him laugh so hard than when he and I were together. He laughed so easily. He was a great straight man…A great Dean Martin to my Jerry Lewis.
I still have so much to learn.
I have some regrets.
My heart aches because I miss him.
But I’m here because he gave me life, and so much more. 40 years of lessons, whether I wanted them or not. 40 years of being there for me. Always.
I imagine someday my own kids will be talking about me after I’m gone. I just hope by then I’ve managed to be half the man my dad was.
And when that time comes, I hope more than anything that he and I are together again, enjoying a beer, enjoying the warmth of the sun, playing golf.
And he’s still teaching me how to play…