A SWEET GOODBYE
Our family was so blessed — for the last two years, Daddyo was in a fabulous assisted living home, with warm, caring attendants. Mom and my wonderful brother Bill and his remarkable family were just five minutes away, so Dad was never isolated. We had the gift of an expected departure, so all four children and five grandchildren had opportunities to visit with Dad over the last months.
He died as he would have wanted — in his sleep, without all of us hovering over him (which would have driven him nuts), and relatively pain free. Dementia isn’t a terrible way to go — he flew gently into the night, leaving us right around midnight.
He was a good man, a good father and a great husband — he adored my mom, and they had 60 years together. I can't remember them ever having heated words with each other.
Dad had strong opinions, a fierce moral compass, and best of all, a wicked, irreverent sense of humor that defused the strong opinions -- and probably kept all of us from murdering him on occasion. The best thing I inherited from him was that humor. (I'll forgive him for also sharing the need for Dramamine if I even look at a boat.)
I think I always somewhat puzzled him. As a young girl in the turbulent '60s, in the SF Bay Area, I was artsy, liberal, and cared more about writing and music than skiing or football. (My baseball gene didn't kick in until I moved to NYC). Like most airline pilots, Dad was right-wing Republican, and saw the world in sharp black-and-white, where I saw a lot of confusing grey. There were rough days when I am sure I frustrated and disappointed him as I stumbled toward adulthood.
But Dad was always there when I needed him, and he had an amazing knack for saying exactly the right thing when I was struggling with a difficult life decision. He was a man of few words, but chose them well.
There is no question that I would not have gone to law school if he had not looked me in the eye and asked “Why not?” when, at age 28, I half-seriously stated that if I had my education to do over, I would have gone to law school. "It's not too late," he said. I took the LSAT a week later, and started the University of San Francisco that fall.
When I struggled terribly with ambivalence about going forward with my wedding, he gently advised, "Monica, if you are this torn up you'd be doing yourself, and your fiance, a favor to call it off." I needed to hear that before I could decide to not marry a very good man.
Bill Bay had no patience for BS, stood up for what he believed in, and taught us to be unafraid. The most important lesson I learned from him was “You can do anything. It might be tough. You might have to overcome obstacles, but if you really want it, you can do it.”
I once told him he was a feminist, and he said, “I have three daughters, of course I am.” Not expected words from a pilot.
Dad loved Hawaii; his last flight before retiring was from Honolulu to Chicago. On his birthday, February 21st, our family will gather in Honolulu and rent a boat to take us near his favorite runway at HNL. We'll throw leis and his ashes into the warm Pacific Ocean, and celebrate a life so very well lived. (Yes, I'll buy lots of Dramamine).
Thank you, Daddyo. You taught me to fly.
I’ll miss you very much.
December 11, 2008 | Permalink
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A beautiful tribute. May you find peace and joy in your memories, for even death cannot take the good which has already been given.
Strangely (I guess?) you and I share much in common. I lost my mom - my best friend, rock, idol, and biggest fan - 6 yrs ago to brain cancer. A loss of great magnitude for me, but has served to strengthen me in many positive ways.
I also grew up in the SF Bay Area (although coming of age in the 80s - a turbulent time in its own way), and grew up an artsy liberal (tree-hugging, granola-eating liberal as my oh-so-conservative husband refers to that period of my life!).
While I (purposely!) avoided law school, I ended up falling in love with this industry anyway, and have found a way to serve that feeds my brain and soul.
Along the veins of your wonderful planned farewell, my mom chose to be shot off in fireworks over the lake near her home (now that's going out with a BANG!!).
Anyway, all of that is to say that I am touched by your loss and found it quite easy to fall in love with your dad in just a few short paragraphs. He and my mom would likely have been famously good friends!
All my best to your and yours.
Posted by: Julie | Dec 11, 2008 3:22:12 PM
What an amazing tribute. So often we fail to say to those we love exactly what they mean to us...when they are alive and aware but clearly this wasn't the case with you and your Dad.
Thanks for reminding me how many times I need to hug my dad when I see him in just a few days.
Keep celebrating a life well lived.
Posted by: Susan Cartier Liebel, Esq. | Dec 11, 2008 7:34:12 PM
I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Your post about him shows how much you cared. My thoughts are with you and your family.
Posted by: Elizabeth Lewis, Esq. | Dec 11, 2008 11:52:43 PM
Beautiful Tribute. Rest In Peace.
Posted by: Michael | Dec 16, 2008 4:08:24 PM
I'm so sorry, Monica. Your post is a tribute--it sounds like he was a wonderful father, and it's so good that you had a such a great relationship with him, despite generational differences. I didn't know that he had prompted you to go to law school--wow, he must have been so proud of you!!
Going to Honolulu sounds like a lovely way to celebrate his life.
All the best,
Posted by: Katie Montgomery | Dec 16, 2008 5:18:58 PM
I smiled as I read your tribute to your dad, all the while wiping tears from my eyes so I could move on to the next sentence. If he was half the man you describe, he was a great guy. Somehow, I suspect, the real math is that he was twice the man. Yours is a remarkable human tribute, and it is easy to see that Bill Bay left a profound mark on the world.
February will mark the second anniversary of my post announcing that my dad had died. Not a day passes that I don't think about him and wonder if I will ever measure up to the standards he set. From that experience, I assure you that time will be your friend here, and that those frequent thoughts about your dad will start to inspire you instead of remind you about the hole in your life.
My condolences to you and your family.
Posted by: Patrick Lamb | Dec 20, 2008 9:46:56 AM
I was so sorry to hear about your dad. While most of us face the inevitable loss of our parents, it is the way that you handle it that determines how you will go on. Your tribute speaks to the closeness, love and health of your relationship.
Remember him well, for the memories you have of him will grow sweeter, the lessons learned from him will be keener and the bond you established will become stronger.
Posted by: Chere Estrin | Dec 29, 2008 4:56:45 AM
A beautiful tribute to your Dad; I'm so glad I got to meet him and "break bread" with your family on a couple of occasions. I wish my Dad had lived past my 14th year so that I could have known him like you knew yours - for that you are, I know, grateful. I lost my Mom this year as well. She was 97 but it is none the less a loss and a bit unsettleing to have no living parent even as an adult. Luckily your mom will be kicking for a long, long time. Please give her my best wishes.
Posted by: Juliet Moore | Dec 31, 2008 5:13:06 PM
My heartfelt condolences to you and your family. What a wonderful tribute to your Dad, thank you so much for sharing.
Posted by: Judi | Jan 7, 2009 6:33:46 PM
What a beautiful tribute to your father! I'm sure he would've been proud of such a loving and inspirational message from his daughter.
My condolences to you and your family for your loss. May your memories of him carry you through the difficult times.
Posted by: Tom Ranalli | Jan 12, 2009 6:48:47 PM
Monica, I'm very sorry to hear of your loss. Your post paints a very clear portrait of the man. One thing I know, nothing means more to a dad than the kind of love, admiration and gratitude from a daughter that you've expressed so beautifully.
Posted by: Scott Killingsworth | Jan 13, 2009 3:42:32 PM
I love this story.. it is soo sad but at least he died the calm peaceful way.
Posted by: Liz | May 14, 2009 9:03:58 PM