It was four years ago he took his last breath--May 22, 2012. We had only found out less than a couple of days prior to that it was the beginning of the end. A few days to a couple of weeks, if we were lucky, they told us. I was eight months pregnant with my first and for what should have been a joyous time was spent in preparing to say goodbye. Preparing. It’s an ironic concept because I’m not sure that there is really anything that can prepare you for knowing your father will be taking his last breath any day, any moment. In celebrating his life today, I would like to reflect on the important lessons he taught me.
Hard Work and Sacrifice
My father taught me the importance of hard work and sacrifice. He came from a large family where he started working young. As an adult, he worked extremely hard to provide for his family (my mother, myself and younger brother), getting up when it was still dark to commute over an hour away into the city to work. More often than not this would cause him to be constantly tired and made it difficult for him to be able to be present for sports or school events. However even after a long day, and being physically exhausted, I’m sure, he would do what he could, even if it just meant picking me up from a practice or game after working and driving for 10 to 12 hours when he would probably rather be home resting.
Minimalism, zero waste and living a simple life may be growing popularity these days but my father lived that life even before it was in style. He wore the same clothes day in and out until they were completely worn out (even though we would get him new shirts, hats, glove for his birthday or Christmas). When he passed we actually found a small stash of brand new presents he had received with the tags still on. If he didn’t have exactly what he needed for a project he was working on, he would try to figure out a way to make it work or simply do without. He taught himself how to repair things, like sewing a button or patch onto his work uniform. He took extremely good care of items he did have and still to this day is the only person I have ever met that actually shined his work shoes and repaired them (with black nail polish to cover a scuff).
My father was a gentle giant. He was a very tall and solid guy, a police officer you wouldn’t want to mess with. He had a kind and giving heart. He never bragged or made a big deal, but he would constantly serve others. I remember growing up and being with him multiple times getting to watch this happen. Since we lived in the city, there were times when we would encounter this particular older women who would always beg in front of the local store. I remember him stopping to give her money, food and had even given her rides. I remember being with him when going to drop off a bunch of items for donation and ran into a family who was down on their luck and didn’t have much. He stopped and gave them what he had. He would also take care of neighbors’ snow, and other yard work without them knowing. He may have not had much to give, but always gave when and how he was able.
Life is Short
Something my father said while in that hospital, as his body was failing him was, “I thought I had more time.” We all do, we all think we have so much time. Time to do this or that. Time to mend that relationship, time to ask for forgiveness, time to forgive. As I reflect on his life and the time with him in the hospital, I am reminded of this very thing. Time and life is precious and short. It goes by in just a blink of an eye. I know this. I am not guaranteed tomorrow, and neither are you. Make that call, spend more time with your spouse, your kids, your family, your friends. Do the very things you wish you had or that you’ve been putting off to do someday. Instead do them today. One of my favorite authors Lara Casey says it best, “You know those things you always wanted to do, just go them.” Let’s not get to the end of our lives and regret what we have not done, wishing we had more time. Let’s make the most of what breath and life we do have, let’s make the most of today.
***In memory of Ralph Francis Baiocchi II. November 25, 1952- May 22, 2012. Beloved Father.