Laurie Wajda Unplugged

Originally Posted by LAURIE on MARCH 6, 2013

I woke up at four o’clock in the morning.  Yes, it was dark, but I could hear him breathe.  He was there.  I woke up frequently in those final days, as I do now.  Hoping to give him a little relief, I took my father’s medicine and massaged it into his gums, then settled back in for a bit more sleep.

An hour later, I went to sit by his bedside.  As I held my daddy’s hand, I sung to him, just as he sang me to sleep when I was a little girl.  “Somewhere, over the rainbow…”  I sung it low, tears streaming down my face, so only he could hear.  Later that morning, I watched my father take his last breath.

In the last six months, I’ve lost two of the most important people in my life.  It’s no coincidence I haven’t written another blog post since our loss of Mr. D, my best friend’s father.   That was hard enough.  Never did we think that six short months later she would be writing me a beautiful tribute for the loss of my own.  And so together we mourn the two.

As I read her letter this afternoon, I fell into a chair at my kitchen table and howled, finally letting out a month of grief and aggravation…  Of hurt and pain and trying to be so strong.  A month of guilt and frustration and wondering if I did it right… and I miss you daddy.  I guess I thought, maybe, if I didn’t cry, it wasn’t true… That if I could expect it enough, every time I walk through my parents door, he would be there with open arms to tell me how much he loves me.  But he’s not.  And it doesn’t matter how much that little girl in me comes out, he never will be again.

When I was done sobbing, I got into my car to go pick up my children.  Automatically I turned on the radio and Mariah sang…  “I’ll be there… I’ll be there… just call my name, I’ll be there…..”  I’d like to say that I believe in coincidences, but I don’t.  I know he’s there.   He’ll always be there.  But I would give anything for just one more hug.

You see, my father was always my biggest fan.  I think he believed in me more than I believe in myself.  It didn’t matter what a fuck up I was–and I am–he was always there, wrapping his arms around me and telling me how proud he was.  Even when he had nothing to be proud about.  And all these years, all I’ve wanted to do was give him a reason.  So far, I think the only thing I’ve done right is give birth to four beautiful little people.   And so it goes.

My mother asked me to write his eulogy.  I copy it below, not because I think it’s great.  I put it here because my dad was great.  And because I want you to know.  Why post such a personal thing?  The world needs more people like my dad.  His legacy should be public.  People should know that people like him exist.  My father touched the lives of so many, as I have seen and heard over the last two months, it would be a shame to not share his life.   I’m proud of him.

Usually I write for me.  But not today.  This is for you, daddy.  May your beautiful heart and spirit live forever.  I love you.

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My father has always been the strongest man I know.  Strong in body, strong in mind, strong in conviction, love, and faith.  He taught us all of these things, although some of us may not want to admit it, just by being.  I believe I speak for all of us when I say that a month ago, sitting here today was the furthest thing from our minds.  But I also believe, our father knew.  He had been preparing himself for this in his faith, for some time.  My father had a connection with God that not many others can say they do.  Some people call them God winks, but I believe God whispered them directly into my father’s ear.

Sitting on his workbench in his basement, where he worked endlessly on inventions, and patents, and God love you daddy, but who knows what else, sat an index card, which reads “When the chips are down, and there’s nowhere to turn, in a quiet church, ask for help in His name.”  This was my father.

He had a love for God, his wife, our family, and all people unlike any other I have ever been privileged enough to meet. His wife, his faith, and his family were his core, and he loved everyone.

I remember one morning, sitting with him in the hospital, eating his favorite, bacon, egg, and cheese, he paused and looked up at me and stated “I love people.”  “I know dad,” I said, and then he went back for another bite.  It was just a matter of fact statement that he lived his life by, and it was enough.  We know, daddy.  We all know.

In the last few weeks, friends, neighbors, fellow parishioners, people I barely know, have told me he was the nicest guy they ever knew:  That he would give you the shirt off his back if he could.  And he would.  My father would do anything to help others in need.  If you knew him, you knew this was true.

Those who didn’t know him, they missed out.  Those who didn’t know– they looked at him as an eighty-six year old man–one who was sick and frail and couldn’t get up to stand on his own at the end.  They didn’t see the man who was pushing his own lawnmower until it started to snow.  Or the guy who opened and closed his own in ground pool every year, and vacuumed it all summer long.  They didn’t see the man who fought for our country in a bomber in WWII, and then came home to marry the love of his life and raise five children, helping them each fight battles of their own all along the way.  No–they didn’t see that at all.  But we did.  And we do.  His family.  His friends.  His community.

My father loved life.  He loved his ice cream, his beer.  He loved to sing and to whistle, and even in his sleep, he smiled.  He loved inventing things, and held hundreds of patents, ones of his own and some together with IBM.  He was a smart man, a beautiful soul, a great and gentle spirit.  He wanted everyone to be happy, and his grandchildren to thrive in the love he had for them.  He wrote a plaque to every one of them, with a poem he had written and had engraved.  It reads:

“Of all the dreams that I’ve possessed
The one to share my God is best.
Our cares and every day concerns
Soon shrink and melt in his domain.
When through a silent prayer we feel,
His love and mercy’s very real.
All He asks is ‘Do your best’,
His promise is ‘He’ll do the rest.’

He signed it “Gramps.”

My family, we’ve learned in the last month, not all things are fixable.  But as the days passed, we learned to lean on each other a little bit more, to rely on each other’s strength that eminently came from our husband, our father, our grandpa, our friend.  We know that whatever hits us next, whatever bricks are thrown, we can face it together.  Our family has come together in a way I’ve never seen.  We are one.  We have a bond that I’m sure was there but had never solidified.  My father is our core, our backbone.  He always will be.  Was this his intent?  Probably.

I leave you with one more thought.  This life is short.  Not one of us knew this nightmare was coming.  It happened in the blink of an eye.  There was so much more to say and do… so many more hugs, visits, conversations.  None of us got the time with dad that we wanted.  None of us.  But to you… if there’s someone you haven’t seen in awhile, something you want to say or do but just think you don’t have the time or haven’t gotten around to it, go do it.  Go hug someone, tell them you love them.  Tell them what you’ve wanted to say for years but couldn’t, or thought maybe you shouldn’t.  Say it.  Do it.  Go love them.  Because you just don’t know when that privilege will be taken away.

Ed Dombroski, husband, father, grandfather, Godfather, neighbor, friend—if any of us become half the person you were, or have one quarter of the Faith, we’ll be in good shape.

We love you.