My Dad, My Hero

My beloved Dad passed away over 5 years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. It’s still hard to believe that he is really gone, as I often feel his presence, hear his contagious laughter, and fondly remember our many conversations. Dad was a true friend and I miss him, his quiet strength, and wise counsel. Dad’s wonderful sense of humor and fun were legendary to all who knew him! He was kind, caring, and loyal. I can recall countless times in my life when Dad was always there to support and love, no matter what. Like the time I called him from Germany to say that I was returning back to the United States after 16 months and there he was at Kennedy Airport in New York the very next day with a huge hug and a warm welcome. Or when Brian had his open heart surgery and he and Mom spent endless hours at the hospital stroking Brian’s little hand, giving Jim and I both support and much-needed breaks. If you looked up ” loyal” in the dictionary, you would definitely see a picture of my Dad next to the definition.

Dad was a constant support in good and bad times. I will never forget when Dad was my “driver” and “cheerleader”, along with Mom, to and from each of my chemo treatments for colon cancer. Even during this very difficult time, he always had a joke, a reassuring hug, and my favorite snacks from Panera Bread readily available for each treatment. Every trial, every victory, Dad was always there, our family’s rock and quiet strength. Of course he was not perfect, as none of us are. He did lose his temper quickly sometimes, as well as his patience, but never held a grudge. Dad worked very hard to provide for his wife and 4 kids. There were stressful financial times, along with the ups and downs of family life that are inevitable and often challenging. Yet, Dad persevered, continued to work hard, and always put his family’s needs first. I am forever grateful for the wonderful legacy that he left behind. I would like to think that I emulate at least some of what Dad taught me and hope that I make him proud, for he sure was everything to me!

My husband, Jim, had a similar experience with his wonderful Dad, who he lost very unexpectedly during his final semester in college, so unfortunately I never had the opportunity to meet him. Jim will often talk fondly about his Dad as well, sharing old stories and reminiscing about the many ways in which his Dad was a devoted husband and father. Dad McDonnell and my Dad were very much alike in the fundamental, important ways that are essential for a good family life. I marvel when Jim shares something about his Dad that sounds exactly like my own. Jim always says that my Dad was his “second Dad”. My husband and Dad got along famously, sharing jokes, discussing sports, and having many fun times together. Jim and I say how well both of our Dads would have got along. I’m sure that is exactly what is currently happening in Heaven! I can visualize and hear Brendan and Jerry sharing stories, laughter, and especially prayers, for their family members who are still here on earth. I take great comfort in knowing that our Dads are always rooting for us and that we will see them again! I can only imagine what an incredible, joyous reunion that will be! In the meantime, I hold the precious memories, hopes, and love from my Dad very close to my heart. He is always with me. Dad left his indelible mark on my life wherever I go. His wisdom and love will often come to mind during difficult trials and uncertain times. I can hear his advice, feel his reassuring hugs, knowing that everything will ultimately be OK…

Dad also had an incredible love for Brian! He called Brian his ” wee man” and took special delight in literally everything he did. Some of my fondest memories of Dad with Brian were watching the two of them interact during storytime, playing with toys, or giving Brian his bottle when he was a baby. He cheered whenever Brian achieved a milestone, cried with me when Brian was diagnosed with autism, and reassured me that God would always take care of Brian during the times when I needed to hear this most. The Boyle “Coat of Arms” or our family name crest, has a symbol of an oak tree with an inscription on the bottom that says “the Lord will provide”. Our family crest is a beautiful reminder of exactly what Dad always said and exemplifies how he lived his own life by faith and trust. I will always be grateful for the valuable lessons that Dad taught me not only by his words, but more importantly through his actions which were always a testimony to his fine character.

Dad was a reserved man by nature, yet made quite the impression wherever he went. People naturally gravitated towards his humor and fun. Although he preferred smaller group settings, he loved “working a crowd” in social gatherings and was a beloved favorite amongst his friends . Dad and Mom had a large circle of friends from their church, lifetime friendships that were cemented by faith, fun, and family. Dad was very active in church and participated in a variety of committees over the years that both honored God and gave back to the community. I was proud to see Dad in his role as a reader during Mass; he read the Scriptures with such clarity and assurance. Dad also collected our church’s Sunday offerings, was a bingo caller at my high school, and was even an actor/singer in a few shows at church , the most memorable being “Guys and Dolls”- who wudda ever thunk it?!

Dad’s lung cancer diagnosis in January 2014 was very unexpected and devastating. Dad had quit smoking 35 years before, so he never thought in his wildest dreams that this was even a remote possibility. Nor did he ever consider that asbestos exposure as a young man working in the shipyards over 60 years ago in Belfast, Northern Ireland, would be a factor. Yet, asbestosis was the causation that morphed into small cell lung cancer in Dad’s case. Everything moved so quickly once Dad was officially diagnosed. Doctor appointments, scans, MRIs, biopsies, and chemo treatments. It was absolutely heartbreaking, but there was really no time to process or grieve what was happening- that would happen much later. I accompanied my parents to all of the appointments and treatments, giving my best academy award performance of strength and valor. Meanwhile, I was dying on the inside, not knowing how I would pull this act off, but ultimately I did. I then understood how Dad must have felt when he took me to my own chemo treatments and realized how truly strong he really was, despite the agony he must have felt. It was Dad’s brave example that ultimately helped me to be brave too during his time of need.

God called Dad home almost 3 months after his lung cancer diagnosis on April 1, 2014. Dad’s transition to Heaven was a peaceful one, surrounded by his immediate family. I will never forget the peace and love that was present during that time and it gives me great assurance of what is yet to come…Our time on this earth is truly only a dress rehearsal- just wait until the big show in eternity!

Dad, you continue to bless my earthly days with your strength and love. I hear your voice and feel your presence. Thank you for all that you gave from your heart to our family! I definitely have a taste of what our Heavenly Father’s love must be like because of your great capacity to love. I take great solace in the fact that we will meet again, and knowing you, you will have a side-splitting joke or story to tell me as soon as I see you….🀣🀣

I love you, Dad, so very proud to be your daughter! Until we meet again….

Happy Father’s Day in Heaven!

Xoxoxo, Brenda 😘❀️😘❀️😘❀️…..

Until next time….thanks for reading!! 😊

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