“Any man can be a father, it takes someone special to be a Dad.”
My first thought when I began writing this was to challenge myself and find one word that described Dad best. It wasn’t much of a challenge because the word passion instantly popped into my head. Dad was passionate about many things including: family, education, and spirituality, all of which were stressed as points of importance for human growth.
Dad was a proud son of Rose and John, proud brother to Jane, proud husband to Francesca, and proud father of Alan, Steven, Jennifer, Elizabeth, and Christopher. Whenever there was a family function it was important to Mom and Dad for all of us to show up, look our very best, and be on our best behavior. Thankfully, most of our family was relatively close by and we made it a point to see each other as much as possible. We did everything together as a family and I spent the majority of my childhood in a car seat as we made the trek up to PEI or to one of Dad’s various running races. One of Dad’s favorite pastimes was sitting at the head of the dinner table, looking and listening to all of the little conversations going on between his children. Because we all stuck together, whenever something unexpected was thrown at us, we were rattled but never lost our perspective or ability to get through the hardship. Everything came full circle on January 16th, 2016 . Dad was at the end of his life but we know he could sense that we were all there. We all sat there in his room at the Pat Roche Hospice House in complete silence for the whole day. Nothing needed to be said because our presence there together spoke louder than any words ever could. The moral to the story is to show up whenever there is a family outing and maintain a connection with your loved ones.
Right next to showing up together as a family on the level of importance meter, came getting a good education. I myself was fortunate to get a fantastic education from Derby Academy, Hingham High School, and Emmanuel College. The proudest moment of my family was when, as we were gearing up to head to Steve’s apartment in Boston in anticipation for another massive impending snowstorm, a package addressed to Christopher Sadler came to the door. The package was flat and was addressed from Emmanuel College. I knew exactly what it was. With some extra pep in my step, I walked over to the bottom of the stairs and yelled up to Dad, “Hey Dad, come down here, I have something for you.” As he came into the dining room, I handed him the package and he put it down on the dining room table. As he opened the package and flipped open the degree, he began to cry. Through the tears of joy, he said to me, “Chris, I am so proud of you.” That simple compliment meant the world to me. It’s something that I’ll take with me and cherish for the rest of my life. It gave me a huge jolt of validation, validation that I’d become a college graduate and done something that Dad was extremely proud of. Saying that all five of Dad’s children graduated college is quite the accomplishment. The moral to the story is if you are proud of someone, tell them. Don’t withhold such praise, it could change their lives for the better. It sure changed mine.
From the point of baptism and all the way through confirmation and beyond, some sort of religious education was one of the key pillars in Dad’s life and ended up being one in our lives as well. Through his spiritual journey, he found Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, MA. Glastonbury Abbey became his oasis. For him, there was no better remedy than silence and prayer. He was always a man that felt strongly about finding inner peace. He always encouraged me to find my spirituality. He was able to put his cancer aside because he was close to God. At Glastonbury Abbey, he was known as a dedicated member of the community and an oblate. He now lays peacefully in the columbarium there.
If six months ago you had told me that both me and one of my best friends would lose our Dad’s in a three month span, I would have called you crazy. Back in January when I was first attempting to cope with the passing of my Dad, my friends were there with their unwavering support and for that I’m extremely thankful. I was the first of my close friends to lose a parent. It’s one of those things though that you can’t truly understand it unless you are going through it. It stems from the magnitude of losing such a large and important figure in your life. You can’t just simulate that. Fast forward to April and Mr. Riley passes away. It sent me right back to the moment when my Dad passed away. I was armed with a fresh perspective and experience that I could now share with a family going through the same exact thing. I tried to explain what had worked for me, and here’s what I told them the night before Mr. Riley’s wake:
As you prepare to endure what will probably be the hardest two days of your life, keep in mind a few things. Both of our father’s were incredible men. They worked hard and they lived full lives. They had a certain will about them that made them both great role models. Having both passed peacefully and without much of a struggle, I’m a firm believer in the idea that they wouldn’t have decided to pass if they didn’t think we were ready to carry on and be self sufficient. They could have scratched and clawed to stay alive if they felt otherwise. Lord knows that they could have too. They both planted seeds in us and were able to watch all of us grow into fine adults. They felt that things were settled and felt that passing away as natural, and fluid. I know your Dad would be proud of all of you. Pride goes a long way in a father-son relationship. It comes in different forms. As you grieve your loss, there will be a roller coaster of emotions ranging from “He’s no longer suffering” to “Damn, I really miss Dad.” Don’t fight the tears. Let them breathe and let it all out. You’ll feel better afterwards. You can still talk to him. Your dad’s spirit will live on forever. Talk to him when you are in the car, find a song that reminds you of him, look at photos and celebrate his life. Know that I’m here if you ever need anything. All of this is fresh to me too. I’m still learning to cope and to try and find peace in all of this.
My heart goes out to Marie, Jason, Ben, and Nathan on this Father’s Day. In addition, my heart goes out to anyone else who is forced to celebrate this Father’s Day without their Dad here in the physical world.
As hard as it was to write this, It’s easy to celebrate a life well lived. Dad sure lived a full life. Through all of the jokes and pranks, my uncle Jack blessed me with the most profound pieces of advice at his fathers funeral…”Hug’em and Love’em while you can.” It’s a piece of advice that doesn’t need to be explained but rather deposited in our brains and our lifestyles. Dad and I sure made our time count. I’ll never forget all of the fun memories we made. He sure was an amazing father, best friend, and role model. He will be dearly missed. I love you, Dad. 1.17.16
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