Sunday, March 15, 2015

Saying Good Bye

This weekend I lost my first parent. I have been so blessed to make it 38 years before having this happen. I knew it would come eventually. It had to. We're on a path to death from the moment we are conceived. But… this was not expected. And what do you say when it comes to pass? 

Taken before the birth of the two great-grands, and three additional grands… This is family. This is love.
I am the "lucky" one. Of six children, I am the only one who lives more than about a four hour drive from my parents. So I have not been as close to the final days and hard moment-by-moment events. And I am the "unlucky" one too. Now that he is gone, I am hearing more and more about how many of my brothers and my sister went to sit and chat with him regularly; some of the even went daily. The grandkids, and new great-grands who were brought around, and how much they were loved. 

And how often he went to visit his elderly mother who lived nearby until very recently.

And the phone calls to his brother in Texas. 

And the e-mail chats with me.

What do I say? 

I say… I remember:

  • He was at every soccer game until high school... Track meets, notsomuch (having attended one as a spectator-parent, I don't blame him!) (He went to a lot more of the boys' events, but with six kids, there is only so much time.)
  • Hamburger Helper
  • He always called me "Meliss" (no 'a')
  • Google Earth
    Mom, Dad and the six of us
  • Comparing the Orthodox Church to the Roman Catholic Church to the evangelical groups
  • When it came to daily Bible study, he walked the talk
  • The stereo!! "Don't walk across the living room!!" (Said while transferring vinyl record soundtracks to cassette tapes. We children would run through the house and end up making the records bounce so he'd have to start over. At the time there was no way we could have appreciated his coming from a time before 8-tracks even.)
  • Sitting on Mike's lap to "drive" the car (he did the pedals) down the back roads in Canton, Tx. 

  • He went out to rescue me from the weird breathing sound outside of my window in our new house in the country. I had never lived outside of Dallas and he came back in laughing to let us know it was FROGS we were listening to down at the pond behind the house. What did I know? I'd never heard a frog before!
  • He didn't kill Nathan and me when we nearly burned the kitchen up by baking "no-bake" cookies (also Canton)
  • Watching him drive the riding lawn mower (never would let us use it, dang it!)
  • He would drive slow, slow, slow to not stop at the red lights for us. That one is right up there with Mom's "Turn-um……….. GREEN!!"

    My sister and youngest brother way back when
     (around 11 years old)
  • Visiting down in Monterey when he and mom, Stewart and Tyrney came to see me when I was still in my first Navy school
  • I was SO touched when I joined the Navy and his going-away gift was the shoe shine kit he had used for so many years that I had been with him. (I had no idea that those are sold in every military uniform shop LOL) I still have that original kit. Don't use it so much any more, but I still have it.
  • Watching him shine his shoes.
  • He used to tell stories of his Navy buddies
  • going up to the "surry-surry store" (what he always called the little corner market up the street)
  • My first year in the Navy, my Christmas gift to him was to give him a plane ticket to fly to Alaska to visit Nathan. Mom said he had a good time.
  • One year he was taking graphic design classes, and learning to use a special machine there, and he made these cute little papers that were like letter paper and he brought home a bunch and gave them to me. I still have some of those - just saw them in a drawer the other day. My daughter used some of the others.
  • Gray shorts
  • The mustache
  • Cutting his own hair
  • Stories of his dad and siblings
  • Football on Thanksgiving day


I share these memory snippets that I posted on FaceBook on a thread my younger brother started. And they are fitting to share here. My brothers and sister each have their own to share. These are the memories that make up our lives. He was part of mine for 32 years - by that point, you're no longer a "step-" anything; you're just "dad". I never called him that - he was always "Mike". To call him anything resembling "father" seemed disloyal to my biological dad, I guess. But I will always hope that somewhere in there, he got that when I adopted his last name at 11 years old, it was my way of accepting him in my life.

This… is family.
In his passing, there were blessings too. We had two weeks to tell him good-bye, and every child came to him. None turned away with hard words and harder hearts; grandchildren were brought to love him. Stories were told, love was shared, and it was clear from the memories - similar to my own - how many people he really did take care of in his way on a week-by-week basis. People always talk about "what do you want to show at the end of your life?" And he showed what many say they desire and few achieve: A lifetime of memories made in spite of hardship; love in spite of pain. 

He was special. I'll miss him. I loved him, and know we'll see one another again. 

Memory Eternal, Mike. God Speed until we meet again. Watch over Mom, eh?


Paul Michael Jerome Howell, Fell asleep in the Lord March 15, 2015, Tacoma, Washington. He left behind a legacy of 6 children with 5 significant others, 18 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren. 

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