May 7, 2015 Dad died. May 7, 2016, he lives.

Today marks the first anniversary of our loss of this great man from our daily lives.

Today marks 365 days since the last time that Dad and I spoke to one another and it was just a brief time before he passed. I woke up this morning thinking about him and matched the ticking of the clock to the way this day unfolded last year, our last words, and the call that came shortly after from Lin to say that he was gone.

Ginger had dialed the phone for him that morning and when Dad got on the line he sounded like his normal self, cheery and optimistic for the day ahead. But Page had called the night before with words of foreboding. I told Dad that Julie and I were getting on the road shortly to come see him. We were in the middle of packing for the six-hour drive to Durham. He said, “It’s always a pleasure to be with you and Julie,” and that he looked forward to seeing us. He wished us a safe trip and then he said, “I love you, Steve. Thank you for all that you’ve done for your mom and me. You’re a good son.” I tried as hard as I could to sound strong, choking through how much I loved him. Then we said our last goodbye and he passed the phone back to my sister who said, “Hurry Steve.”

I’ll always be thankful to Ginger for her gift of that last call. Although we had been with him a lot through his struggle in the hospital, this turned into what we both knew was our last goodbye. It gave me some closure to know that in his waning moments we had reaffirmed our love for one another.

And now, on this morning, a year later, I am struck by how much Dad and I have been together since his passing. He lives in my dreams as alive and real as ever. He lives in my thoughts bubbling up in different moments of every day, so present that’s it’s like we just talked about the latest in our world. His hand is still on the tiller of my heart and I can hear his words, and see through his eyes. It makes me want to be a better man, a more forgiving man, a more fun-loving man who gave so much of his time to others.

I dreamed of my brothers last week, and could see Dad right there with them. I was smiling so much my brother Lin asked me what was up. I told him that Dad was standing right next to him. And then I woke up. I could feel that smile on my face as I lay in bed.

Do we miss his physical presence, the warmth in his smile, the way he lifted a gathering with that spark of fun in his eyes and rapid quips that helped you taste the moment? You bet. He was so unique in his point of view and his point in life that no one is able to replace him in mine.

Homer lived a great and long 92 years. It would be selfish not to recognize how truly fortunate we were to have him in our lives for so long. Long enough for most of us “kids” to reach our 60s, and most of our kids to reach into their 30s. For us all to know each other so well and to celebrate so many things together. What a blessing.

Maybe his long healthy life fooled me in to thinking he was not quite mortal. He was always so “bigger than life” to me. But you can’t beat this system of life and death. And yet, in many ways he did. He left so much behind for us all. And I cherish him and his memory so.

I remember the deep bottomless pit of sadness in my heart and soul that week together in Durham for the funeral. I’ve never seen such pain in the faces of my mother, my sisters, brothers, our children, cousins and our wealth of family friends. I think that we are all healing, but the hurt still works its way into my heart and causes me to take a quick breath in realizing that he really is gone.

Homer. Homer. Oh Homer. You were such a man. Such a father, brother, husband, grandfather and friend. Such a piece of goodness on this earth. These dreams make me look forward to sleep. I hope that they never stop.

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3 thoughts on “May 7, 2015 Dad died. May 7, 2016, he lives.

  1. It was an honor to know Homer. From first meeting him and knowing him as my friend’s dad, to growing to know him as mentor and friend, it was always a blessing to be around him as we built memories to cherish.

    1. He really loved you, Bob. First because you were my friend. Last because of you and who you are. He loved our traditional Christmas Day birthday call to you from wherever we Rileys are gathered.

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