Hi friends! Today’s post is much more personal than the usual post, but I feel compelled to share the teachings and life lessons of one of the most amazing men I have ever known.
I am sure it has been noticed that I have not been quite as active on my blog as well as my social media accounts for a while. I have been making sure to take care of myself in light of a recent event that definitely changed my life as I know it.
My Papa passed away on June 25, 2019. We had his celebration of life, funeral mass, and burial the weekend of July 12. Needless to say, it has been a challenging time for me. When I announced on my personal Facebook account that my very first best friend died, I also included a very brief list of the life lessons my Papa taught me throughout my life. It was four different lessons, but I have learned way more than that.
Now that I have had time to think and talk to others about him, I would like to share with my readers what I learned from my Papa.
Always give more than you take
My Papa was a man of God with a servant’s heart. He absolutely loved to help others and serve his church, no matter what it was. He never complained. No task was beneath him. He would often mow lawns for family, friends, and the church. He was the beloved chef at many different church events.
Papa always welcomed others as if they were family. We always had an extra seat at the table for Thanksgiving or any other meal during the remainder of the year.
One year right before Lent, I asked him what he was going to give up, as it is a tradition for Catholics to give something up during the time of Lent. He replied, “I don’t give up anything for Lent, I give more.” Anyone who knew my Papa personally probably is not surprised by this statement. I was surprised because he already gave so much to the church and his community. How could he possibly give even more? But he did just that!
Family and love are everything.
Papa met his soul mate, my grandma when they were still school-aged. They broke up briefly towards the end of high school because Grandma was talking about marriage and it frightened my Papa. Once they spent some time apart and she started going steady with another boy, Papa realized that he couldn’t live without her and the rest is history!
Papa was all about family. I am the oldest grandchild and for a very long time, I was the only grandchild. He watched me often while my mom was at work. I definitely got him during the best part of his life. He was my very best friend.
I used to say when I was younger that I was going to marry my Papa. He would ask, “but Kayla, what will happen to Grandma?” I replied, “don’t worry, Papa, she can live with us, too!”
Obviously, I never married my Papa. As I grew older and became a bit wiser, I realized something. Perhaps I said that because I wanted to marry a gentleman like Papa. By watching him and my Grandma, I learned a lot about love. I learned about what love is supposed to look like, how a man is supposed to treat his wife (and how a wife should treat her husband), and I especially learned about being there for each other in sickness and in health.
Papa was truly the rock of our family. He was the man who brought us all together. He started many family traditions that we will keep. He was proud of his family, especially his grandchildren.
Keep learning and make smart decisions.
Education was also very important to Papa. I believe that he was the first person in our family to earn a college degree- and he did it while working full time. During my school years, he never missed an open house or graduation. He also showed up for sporting events, school plays, choir concerts, awards assemblies, and more. I wasn’t always the best student, and I will never forget the look he’d give me if I came home with a bad report card.
The very last conversation I had with him was actually on my last day of college. He was in the hospital, but he still remembered that I was finishing my degree. He asked, “did you finish all of your assignments?” I told him, “Yes, I did. I am officially done with my class!” His response? “You better be if you’re standing here [next to his bed].” I am pretty sure that he threatened my life right there! He gave me one of his mischievous smiles and I knew he was proud.
Papa has been one of my biggest supporters when it comes to my writing.
Not only was Papa book smart, but he was wise. He used logic combined with his conscience and made smart decisions. One of my favorite decisions of his was back during the Vietnam War, he chose to enlist in the Navy because he didn’t want to be drafted into the Army. He served on the USS Kittyhawk as a clerk, and he was damn good at his job! I read through the performance reports in his file and his superiors had nothing but good things to say about his work ethic.
He used his logic and morals to make decisions for the rest of his life. I strive to make decisions the same way he did.
Practice what you preach.
Sure, Papa was a devout Catholic. He went to church every single Sunday, prayed, and read the Bible. But he knew that even if you do these things, it doesn’t make you a good catholic. What makes you a good ANYTHING is practicing what you preach. That is exactly what he did. He was kind, forgiving, and faithful. He taught classes for those Catholics who wanted to be confirmed. He had discussions with people about God and answered all of their questions. He loved to share his love for God.
Not only that, but he didn’t care if someone he met didn’t believe in God. He would tell me, “I won’t be mad if someone worshipped a mop! As long as they believe in their religion and practice what they preach, then who am I to judge them? I only have concerns when someone says they believe in one thing but act the opposite.”
Live like you are dying… but don’t focus too much on the dying part.
Last, but certainly not least, I learned the importance of taking advantage of the time we have left on this Earth. Papa was diagnosed with leukemia in May of 2018. He did not want any aggressive treatment and because of his age, it was not recommended. We all supported him when he told us that he just wanted palliative care, meaning when his blood counts were low, he would receive blood transfusions. He knew that this type of care would result in eventually going on hospice, and he grew to accept that.
Another condition of his was that he did not want to be admitted to the hospital unless absolutely necessary. He wanted to live his life and he wanted to live it outside of the hospital.
Papa lived a very full and inspirational life. He was a very wise man, even until his last day. Most of my favorite memories have him in them. I will miss him for the rest of MY life, but I will also do my best to take the life lessons I have learned from him and put them into action.
I wear a lot of hats: NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Weight Loss Specialist, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. A writer with a B.A. in English and Professional Writing. A fur mom and a wife. A mental health advocate and a septic shock survivor. An Airman and an athlete. I live in South Florida and am in love with the ocean. People can typically find me either in the gym or at home, writing or reading.