My father was a quiet and gentle man, with a sharp mind and a very quick wit. He served our country faithfully in the Navy for 28 years, during which time he attended law school and retired with the rank of Captain – an officer of the Navy JAG unit.
When I was young, he would tell us stories of being on a ship in the water at the beaches of Normandy. If my memory serves me correctly, he was on a ship that carried the wounded to safety.
He often told the story about being stationed in Korea during the Conflict, and standing next to a Jeep that had been shot. (The shot landed where you might typically find a gas tank.) He called THAT one of his lucky days.
His crowning moment, however, came during his high school football career when his team, the Geneva Bulldogs played their archrivals from Ashtabula. He was the center for the team, and the big play of the game was the center sneak, where he pretended to hike the ball-tucked it under his shirt and sauntered slowly across the goal line. He smiled and laughed every single time he told that story, and so did I.
He died of a massive heart attack when I was 19 years old. The doctors and nurses, who just happened to be dining at the country club at the same time as my parents, could not revive him. He was 58 years old.
There are many lessons that my father taught me before we lost him, but the most important ones were about empathy. I believe that he felt the true measure of a man was in the way he treated others. He showed me, by example, that you treat people with compassion, kindness, and a gentle hand.
After all, it’s that hand that you will hold as you both cross through those holy gates. You know those gates- they’re the ones you enter before you are truly judged, by the one person that really matters.