The Adventures of Gabriel Celtic

The Adventures of Gabriel Celtic

Monday, July 20, 2015

Taking Time Out For Dad

For those of you that have been anxiously waiting for either Minute Mystery Monday or continuing chapters of Murmansk, I must apologize. 

During the last two weeks, my dad suffered a series of strokes which led to hospital stays, a stint in a nursing home, and then back to the hospital. On Thursday, July 16th, he passed from this world.

As you can imagine, posting new material was the last thing on my mind during this time of high stress, but there were some positives that came out of the experience. 

For one, we became closer as a family, and worked with each other to make sure that mom always had someone with her. And we told some stories of things long forgotten as well as some more current memories.

But there were two big things that I got to experience that have left me at least somewhat content.

On Tuesday night after his last stroke he couldn't speak, but he could still communicate somewhat. Before most of the family left, he said goodbye to each and every one of us. Taking our hand in his, he looked at us as we told him we loved him, and then nodded his head before pointing to mom.

The message was clear...Take Care Of Mom!

Although he lived two more days, he didn't communicate much, and I will be forever thankful for our chance to say goodbye.

The second thing I am thankful for is spending the night with him on Tuesday night. While mom settled close by on a cot, I sat by his bed.

It was a restless night. Although he indicated that he wasn't in pain, he was at the very least most a little afraid of what was to come.

I held his hand most of that night, which seemed to comfort him as it did me. I guess I'll never know if I really helped him or not, but spending that time with him helped me. Being next to him that night couldn't ever come close to evening the balance sheet for everything that he has given me in this life, but I hope it helped is his way to the next one. 

He was a great man that never gave a second thought to helping others, and it showed on the faces of those coming to say their last respects at the funeral.

I can only hope to try my best to help fill the void left by this great man.

Richard Thomas 'Dick' Lewis

September 22, 1932 - July 16, 2015

Following is his eulogy.

A Glimpse Into The Life of Richard Lewis

O Captain! my Captain! Our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  From which he’d always led

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! Dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen from where you led

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm…he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  From which he’d always led

As we sat in that dark hospital room, watching a part of the foundation of our family drifting away from us, the words of Walt Whitman’s epic poem kept flashing through my mind.
O Captain, My Captain!
I wondered about it at the time, this incessant verse that would not cease. I wondered what our dad, mom’s husband, would think if I shouted it out.
O Captain, My Captain!
At another time in his life, he would have probably just glanced up over his glasses quietly, his message clear:
Don’t take yourself so seriously!
But no more will we hear his quiet wisdom, no more that meaningful look.
With wrenched heart I watched as the ravages of time overtook him, all of us wanting just another week…another day…another hour with him before he left us.
O Captain, My Captain!
Truth be known, I wasn’t quite sure what the poem was about, only that it reflected the grieving of the crew for the loss of their Captain, which certainly fit our circumstances.
But I’ve came to see that it speaks of so much more.
The Captain has led his crew through the trials and tribulations of a difficult voyage, showing the wisdom and courage to spur them on to the end. And although the Captain has shown exemplary skills in leading his crew all the way back to port…he doesn’t quite make it to the end.
O Captain, My Captain!
It is hard enough to put into words what makes a life worth living…harder still to put a finger on the makings of an exemplary one. But this is what one does in these situations when one has too much time to dwell as we did.
So I thought about what made my dad the man he was to all of us. I thought about the makeup of an exemplary man.
Richard Thomas Lewis, Dick to friends and family, was born in Lawrenceburg, Indiana in the midst of the Great Depression on September 22, 1932.
I think he took pleasure in the fact that he wasn’t born at the beginning of the Depression…that way no one could blame it on him.
While the house of his birth was small, the family inside wasn’t. As one of eight siblings, he soon learned the value of asserting himself…especially around the dinner table!
In 1948 he and his family moved to Guilford, Indiana… on the banks of the meandering Tanner’s Creek. And it was while attending school at this truly back-creek town that his life in fact started to change.
To hear mom tell it…she fell in love with him at first sight when she passed dad in a doorway that first year.
True to form however, dad held his own emotions close to the cuff. Coyness was a skill to be honed, and even at that age he was sharpening those skills.
Be that as it may, they did start dating in high school, even attending the prom before he graduated.
After graduation however, things went unexplainably off kilter. While Dick went off to work and eventually the Army, Clara finished school and then also joined the workforce.
It seemed like it was not to be.
On a day in 1954 however, a friend called up Clara out of the blue and asked her if she would be willing to go on a blind date. Agreeing to the setup, she was surprised by who turned up…Dick had once again entered her life.
Once they had found each other again, they never let go.
They quickly started working at making a life together, marrying in 1956 and starting production on a family soon after. In a matter of a few short years they had a new house, four kids, and a mortgage.
They were living the American dream.
Throughout our childhood, dad and mom were involved in almost every facet of our lives. Not one to sit on the sidelines, dad became in turn a baseball coach, a 4-H leader, a Soap Box Derby car designer, and a Scoutmaster.
While most men his age were starting to lay back and take it a little easier, dad would lead us on a thirty mile hike. When at our first camporee our troop came through it with a lackluster showing, he worked with us and our equipment for months so that we could give a good presentation of ourselves.
And we did. In fact mom now has a basement full of awards our troop won over the years…dad’s troop. Dad continued to mentor scouts until there were no more scouts to mentor, and I think back fondly on those days when he was with us wherever we roamed.
Dedicated to his family, dad was always available to help out whenever something went awry in our lives, or if we just needed something done. There are four houses and a barn on our combined properties, and dad had a hand in each and every one. His work ethic was enviable, his energy astonishing.
But while the labor of life happened around him: work, kids, houses and barns…he still danced.
We all remember mom and dad going out to dance from earliest memory. And when they came home, they were always smiling after spending the night together.
Country and Western by the way…none of that new age country they are trying to pass off nowadays.
Dancing is not, however, something that they passed on to their kids.
Not that they wouldn’t have enjoyed us being around them on the dance floor, it just wasn’t part of our generation. It harkened back to an earlier time…it wasn’t cool.
But they didn’t really care, because it was what they enjoyed. Even when health problems started to plague him, they still went when they could.
Unlike most couples I know, mom and dad always did everything together. If the car had a bench seat, they sat beside each other when they drove anywhere. They were made for each other you see, and they worked to make sure nothing came between them.
As their kids grew, got married and started having their our own kids, our busy lives sometimes precluded seeing them as often. But this did not keep them from coming to every family event, and making sure that they talked to everyone there.
If they couldn’t see their family often, they made sure that they saw them at every available opportunity.
Their love and commitment to each other has been an inspiration to us, as well as to others.
When dad started experiencing physical changes these last few months however, he began to worry about the future, a future that seemed not to include him. Always a man of quiet faith, I think he did a lot more talking to God during those months, because he needed to know that the love of his life would be ok…that mom would be ok.
 The true test of this came on the last night we could communicate with him. He said goodbye to all of us one at a time as we huddled around the bed. And although he couldn’t speak, he made one thought abundantly clear to those that were gathered around the room.
Take care of mom!
O Captain, My Captain!
Faced with the uncertain, he still made sure he had everything done before he left us…certain that we were heading to port before releasing the wheel.
Oh Captain, My Captain!
And now we must continue without him at our backs, but he would want us to move on. He has given us all the skills we need to accomplish the voyage we must all take… this thing we call life. He has helped fill our hearts with love and caring…if not the ability to dance.
O Captain! My Captain!
Dick Lewis loved life, his children and their children. And he loved mom. His smile was genuine…his voice soft-spoken. He led an exemplary life, and seldom met someone that didn’t call him friend once they had met him. There are few people in this life that have made such an impression on so many.
Although our Captain did not make it to the end of the voyage, he made it as far as he could. While we mourn his loss, he certainly didn’t leave us rudderless. And as we grab the wheel of the ship of life, we have but one thought in our head.
It is our turn now.

Oh Captain, do not fear, for we have got this now,
Your skills at leading our ship through life have passed to us and how,
The storms that come when next we sail we can weather because of you,
The treasure we seek is love and life and we will claim it too;
                           Exult O shores, and Ring O bells!
                              For now we do not dread
                                 We take the helm and face the storm
                                      From where you always led


  1. J.T., I'm so sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful tribute to your father. I'll keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.