One of the beautiful things about having a blog is that it provides space for reflection and an opportunity to share my inner world with the outer one. Although this website, and my writing in general, is focused on sharing helpful tips and resources, ever since my Dad (Bud Gibeault) passed away I haven’t felt like sharing (or even doing) much of anything. I’ve been numb from the pain of losing him to Alzheimer’s disease. The initial loss was actually a relief because that disease was such an insidious thief, stealing him away one piece at a time for the past 7 years. However, letting go has been a daily challenge and a painful wound that is still trying to heal.
That wound found great bandaging in the support of family and friends this past weekend as we placed Dad’s ashes in their final resting place, next to his Dad. It was quite an uplifting experience to have people affirm what an honest, funny, caring person Dad was, and to feel the depth of the loving bonds he had forged through his integrity and kindness.
I was lucky enough to share some final words about Dad. Although words can’t possibly convey what he meant to me, or the special bond we shared, having the strength and opportunity to say them was a blessing. I want to share them here to honor Dad’s memory evermore.
This is the day I have dreaded my entire life, the day when I have to say good-bye to my first love, my hero, and the holder of a big piece of my heart – my Dad.
One of the greatest lessons Dad taught me was to always be grateful and to never take things for granted. It is a lesson I’ve learned well. The tears I cry today, and the overwhelming emotions I feel, come from deep gratitude for having had his love in my life for the past 40 years.
Dad was the most generous, caring, hardworking, and selfless person I ever knew. Working for the telephone company for 36 years, he touched countless lives. He was constantly being called away to fix broken phone lines in the middle of the night, during holidays, and especially during storms. He worked many hours of overtime, which enabled our family to enjoy beautiful vacations, dinners out, and other luxuries. He and Mom were masters at saving and sacrifice, and although Dad’s big joke was that they would be putting me through college on Medicare, that ultimately wasn’t necessary. They made sure Cheryl and I were provided with education and an amazing foundation in life.
Anyone who knew Dad is already well aware of how kind and generous he was. He had such an incredibly big heart. He taught us that friends were the family you choose, and he chose many of you as members of our family. He was always helping friends and neighbors with projects, or donating to charity. Our house had an open door policy with impromptu parties and BBQs occurring on a regular basis. Dad had a knack for making people feel welcomed and special. Once he knew you liked something, it was always stocked in his bar. From special beers for his Son-In-Laws, to Eye of the Storm wine for his girls, his attention to detail filled every gathering with love.
In writing this tribute, I came across a quote that said, “the greatest thing a father can do for his daughter is to love her mother.” I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment. Our Dad loved our Mom completely and praised her every chance he got. From her cooking, to the way she ran our household, he was incredibly appreciative of everything she did. This was especially true as his health and memory began to decline due to Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease takes a lot from a person – memory, muscle control, coordination. But, what it couldn’t take was Dad’s loving spirit. He had such great love for his grandkids, his children, his friends, and a tremendous love for my Mom, who was in every way his hero and guiding light.
As his health declined, every time I saw him he would give me a big hug and whisper, “I love you and don’t YOU ever forget it.” He knew his memory was failing, but was still more concerned with my needs than his own. I think that is what he would wish for all of us – that we never forget how much he loved us. He’d also want us to smile when we think of him, because he really loved to smile and laugh. So in honor of that fact, I’d like to share one of Dad’s favorite, politically-incorrect jokes:
What did the Mexican fireman name his two sons?
(wait for it…..)