Story by Amy S. Toohill
My father was my Rock of Gibraltar, my strength. He was such a strong man with so much wisdom. As the youngest of ten children, you’d think I’d just get lost in the crowd—but my Dad and I had a very special relationship. He used to call me “Schnook”. I grew up with chronic pain and had a real hard time as a kid fitting in. My Dad was always there for me lending me a shoulder to cry on and an endless supply of hugs. He gave the kind of hugs that made you feel so safe and protected. And he never gave up on me, even when I wanted to give up on myself. He gave me the strength that I didn’t think I had.
In July of 1992, my Dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. He was given two weeks to two months to live. On October 10th–two and a half months later, my Dad’s final journey here on earth ended. It’s was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I felt as if my world had crumbled all around me. My Mentor, my Rock was gone. But as hard as the experience was, in those two and a half months, I learned so much from him. Lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
From the moment that my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, he started to prepare himself and everyone he loved for his final journey. He faced his death with such grace and dignity. He left no words unspoken. We shared so much those two and a half months and made so many memories.
One particular memory will always stand out in my mind. It was a day in September, about a month before he died. I went out to the hospital to spend my evening with him like I did every day. I could tell something was on his mind. He told me that he wanted me to read something that he wrote and let him know what I thought. He handed me a piece of paper and as I started to read, I realized that it was his eulogy. He had written his own eulogy for his funeral. Although I wanted to rip it up and pretend that he was going to be with me forever, I knew that this was very important to him and so I read it. It was so beautiful, yet I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for him to write.
I never considered myself a strong person, in fact just the opposite. I always looked to my Dad for strength, and he was always right there ready to give it. On that day in September, as I read my father’s eulogy through my tears, an overwhelming sense of pride came over me. I was so proud that my Dad actually felt that I was strong enough to handle that. That he felt comfortable enough to share such a personal and emotional thing with me. I can’t tell you how honored I was that he wanted to share that with me.
My Dad has been gone for seven and a half years now. It’s been hard, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and wish he was here with me. I miss him very much. I miss his wisdom, I miss his hugs and most of all, I miss hearing him call me “Schnook”. But I feel his presence and I take a lot of comfort in knowing that he is up in Heaven looking down on me. It’s ironic, he was always my strength. But that day in the hospital when he asked me to read his eulogy, I think it was his way of showing me that I had my own source of strength inside of me the whole time… and that I was going to be OK. That was his gift to me.