During late summer and into the fall of 2017, I was privileged to witness the exquisite light of my father’s indomitable spirit…juxtaposed to his body gradually giving way to death. And oh, how his light shined strong as he journeyed through his final days.
Throughout my entire life, I got to observe my beloved father as a man of deep faith and steadfast optimism. He was an individual who greatly thrived on his connections with people around him…family, friends, colleagues, and strangers alike. He loved finding meaningful ways to recognize, as well as to more deeply get to know, those in his inner circle. His belief in God, and in the inherent goodness of people, seemed to fuel his open, full-hearted, playful Italian spirit and easy-going manner.
Yet what I was blessed to be able to observe during the days leading up to his passing was something hard to fathom, and at the same time powerfully inspirational and magical. My father’s essence, his very spirit, seemed to remain untouched by the pain he was experiencing in his physical body. He suffered mightily, and it was brutal to watch. However, during his entire ordeal, he never complained. In fact, instead, he seemed determined to keep a positive, caring focus on those around him – the doctors, nurses and visiting family members – through various uniquely connecting, caring, playful ways.
My father was a force like no other! Even as his body, and eventually his mind, slowly failed him, he continued reaching out to all of us in ways that signaled that his strong faith-filled, jovial, loving spirit was impossible to subdue or defeat. His determination to keep his kindness-of-heart and optimism alive was powerfully evident in the repeated times he offered his signature thumbs up gesture after painful procedures, or physically or emotionally trying moments. In these times, he was clearly giving us a precious gift – the gift of hope and acceptance in the face of despair.
My father’s indomitable spirit guided him, and us, all the way to his peaceful passing in hospice on September 19, 2017. Perhaps most importantly, my father’s steadfastly optimistic spirit became his final way of touching and loving all of us. He gave us, through the example of how he faced his last days and hours, the blessing of knowing comfort and peace. My father’s way of facing his death let us know that the journey to wherever he was headed next was one he was ok with…and one we could be ok with too. Amen. And thumbs up to beautiful, incredible you, dad!
Francis L. Sylvester ~ Jan.7, 1925 – Sept.19, 2017