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Our family spent a difficult week last week as my husband lost his father and friend.

George Thomas was a man bigger than life. Born in Lebanon in 1924, he moved here as an infant and was naturalized many years later. He briefly spent time in an orphanage, came home when his widowed mother remarried, was a standout athlete in high school, and left high school early his senior year to serve in World War II. He parachuted out of a shot down plane, landed safely in Belgium, gave chocolate from his flight suit to the children who surrounded him, and the parachute made of nylon went to the ladies who wanted it to make pantyhose.

George Thomas

George returned home safely from the War honorably as a second lieutenant, attended Purdue University on a G.I. Bill and with an athletic scholarship. He earned a degree in pharmacy and while working as a pharmacist, also worked as a PGA golf professional. He was a loving and devoted father to four wonderful sons and a daughter. He went on to have an illustrious career, playing golf, teaching golf, and coaching golf, most notably for 13 years as head coach at the University of Notre Dame. A complete biography is here.

My husband spent a lot of time with his father his entire life, particularly the last few years. He was his father’s legal guardian, but more than that, they had a very close and special relationship. When his father was diagnosed with kidney cancer, then Parkinson’s disease, David was a loyal and loving son.  No one but David could possibly know all the small, kind things David did to try to make his father comfortable, during his final years, months and days, from talking to him several times during the middle of the same night when he had something worrisome on his mind, to, in the end, feeding him applesauce with a spoon, and sitting with him at the hospital, gently adjusting his position regularly so he would not get bed sores. Other things are too personal and private to post, but will be treasured memories forever, providing comfort during this difficult time.

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It’s always difficult to lose someone we love, but Gido (‘grandfather’ in Lebanese) was especially hard to lose.  He was my second father, my buddy in pondering life, a source of motivation and inspiration, and someone with whom I could talk in depth with about anything.  George died just as our family was traveling to another state for an opening ballet performance- with four daughter dancers in the production, as well as my husband and me. It was horrible timing, but death is never convenient, and the grief that is intermixed with joy for separate things makes up the fabric of life itself.

In reflecting over the difficult week I realized several things that my relationship with my father in law has taught me.  These are in no particular order but I would like to share them with you:

 

  1. Life is short. The most important thing is to love people.
  2. Always strive for the best. It is not enough to be satisfied with the status quo. Continue to look for better ways to do things.
  3. Listen to other people’s ideas. Nobody knows everything. Plus, listening respects others and makes them feel important.  Ask questions.
  4. Keep fit in mind, body and soul.
  5. Achievement and awards are not worthy goals. Achievement follows when one pursues excellence. Excellence is a worthy goal.
  6. Life is short. The most important thing is to love people.
  7. Be interested in people. People will like you if you are interested in them.
  8. Preserve the culture and heritage of your ancestry. Tell stories. Cook ethnic foods. Be yourself. Work hard. Be real.
  9. Never stop learning.
  10. Life is short. The most important thing is to love people. 
  11. Dance. Enjoy life. It, like the people in it, is a gift. 

George L. Thomas Theresa Thomas dancing september 27 1986

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