Daddy George – He Did It His Way

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George Albert Hugo 1924-2011

Dear Daddy George,

While contemplating what you’ve taught me in this lifetime, I sat down to write, and the word “misunderstood” was prominent in my thinking. For the past few months, it became apparent to Jackie and me that you needed our attention. We learned to listen to you as never before. In the silence, I heard: “We’re all somewhat misunderstood, and our hearts open to those we love at different times. Don’t wait to tell those that you love them. We never ever know when our life on this plane is over.”

Being sensitive and not taking criticism well, sometimes I misread your concern as control. Because of your high IQ – you and my brother, Mike, are two of the smartest people I know – I didn’t feel that you valued my opinion. Maybe I was reacting to my own insecurities, and you didn’t feel that way at all. You finally understood that I wasn’t just careless or lacking smarts but had trouble focusing. There are various types of intelligence. Mother and I have emotional intelligence, which comes naturally to people-lovers. I trust you are now aware of our little personality quirks.

Can’t remember the first time I called you Daddy George. It was my children’s name for you from the time they could talk. During recent years, I’ve known you as my father rather than my stepfather. Thank you for not only loving Mom and Mike but also my kids and me. Wish I had appreciated you more.

Thanks for teaching me compassion for the underdog, human and animal alike. I admired you for your spirit of charity, which you passed on to Mike. Mother taught us to look for the best in people.

You gave me signs of what was to come with all the exuberant talk about your days as a pilot. You really loved that life. You showed me where the legal documents were in your office. We looked at yours and mother’s marriage license, and you mentioned wanting to put Mike’s and my name on the house deed. You encouraged me to come back often and see Mom. “She really enjoys you being here,” you said.

I hope you’ve forgiven yourself for your perceived mistakes, as we all should, since those so-called failures are all part of the spiritual journey. Like a child learning to walk, we get up, fall back down, and repeat the process until we learn the lesson.

Observing your passing, the whole process, was one of the most bizarre and spiritual experiences I’ve ever had. There were touching moments in that last week: the goodbye hug with granddaughter Jackie in the hospital; your talk with Mom, asking her to go with you, as if you could do that at will; and your chatty conversation with Mike, closing with “ I love you, babe.” The orchestration of a Higher Power was evident in the mix: from the hospice nurse to the young doctor honoring your decision with immense respect for you, and the flow of the spirit underlying the actions of all concerned. You refused invasive therapy. “You were ready and at peace,” was your affirmation.

I was astounded when you signed yourself into hospice without using reading glasses. The situation was mind-boggling. You didn’t look like a dying man. We called you, at age 86, a medical marvel, and a health-food freak with a desk covered with vitamin bottles. You carried yourself as a man in his 50s. I thought you might be depressed, but the hospice nurse, angelic in her speech and demeanor, gave me another perspective. She said that you knew your body well and had kept the symptoms of the disease from us. What a gift you left us with, leaving in peace, with little or no suffering that we could see. You entered hospice on Valentine’s Day, and within 24 hours, you had passed from this plane.

Was that you who gave us signs beyond the veil: dimming lights in your bedroom, a flickering living room lamp and the garage door remote quitting with light bulbs flickering out? Your beloved cat, Cassie, mourned your passing and slept in your bed for a couple of days. Now she has a new caretaker in me. Your bedroom remains serene, as I’m sure you are, between ecstatic flights to faraway places with you in command.

I’m curious about the afterlife. Like Mother, I’m not ready to go yet. Seeing your courage and bravery has relieved me from my fearful thoughts. I’m grateful for your life.

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