My heart is very heavy.  Sunday night at 11:45 pm, my dad took his last breath.  He suffered a lot during these past few months.  He is at peace now and is no longer struggling against the inflictions that plagued his body.  His ordeal really began 11 1/2 years ago when he had his first stroke.  That stroke began a long saga of ailments that slowly chipped away at him.  Mid-July this year, he had another stroke, marking the last time he was ever at home.  Between hospitals and nursing homes, the doctors tried everything they could to repair the damage to his body, but nothing worked.  He was too weak.  The viewing and funeral are over.  My family and I now try to get back to a normal existance.  It was a great comfort to us to see all the people that came out to honor him.  We knew what a great father he was, but we learned how loved and respected he was by others at work, church, and the community. 

For two days, my siblings and I sorted through old family photographs trying to create collages for the viewing.  We came across many that we had never seen before.  There was an entire box of photos from when my dad was in the Army.  He served in the US Army from January 1946 to March 1947.  He was stationed in the Phillipines and was part of the crew that worked to rebuild that country after World War II.  He had a camera with him during his time there.  He took pictures and sent them home to his family.  On the backs of some of the photos, he wrote little notes.  On one that is a particular favorite of mine, he is standing shirtless at a side angle, pointing his pistol at the camera.  On the back he wrote the note:  "Dad, I'm keeping in shape.  How about you?"  I wonder if he had a double meaning to that note.  Obviously he was in good physical shape.  But I recall a story he once told me about when he was growing up.  During the Depression, his father was a night watchman at the local dump.  Dad would take dinner over to his father every night and then sit with him and practice shooting the rats. 
There was another collection of photos that I had never seen.  They were from my parents' wedding.  I often looked at the formal photo album, but I had never seen the snapshots.  Another favorite photo is one showing my parents kissing each other rather passionately after they danced their first dance as husband and wife.  Their marriage lasted over 58 1/2 years.  I know my dad absolutely adored my mom.  Eleven years ago, on a weekend months after his first stroke when my mom herself was in the hospital, Dad and I sat at home drinking a beer together.  He got very nostalgic and told me many, many stories.  I'm sorry I didn't pull out a notebook and write them all down.  I can't remember all the details, but I will never forget how deeply he loved her.  Their love is the model for true love.  They took their vow 'for better or for worse' very seriously.  The strength of their love got them through many hardships, including the death of their first baby, raising eight children including one that is handicapped, the deaths of their own parents, cancer for both of them and other ailments, and countless other struggles.

I don't have digital copies yet of all the photos I want from the masses we sorted through.  Here is one that I will always treasure.  This was Easter when I was 3 years old.  My sister Nancy is the baby. 

Here is the last picture of my family together.