Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

Today all I can think about is Luke Russert, Tim Russert's son. This twenty-something young man was in Italy with his mom and he got a phone call on Friday that his dad had died.

No warning.

No chance to say goodbye.

His father, the famous journalist Tim Russert, had a history of coronary artery disease but had controlled the problem with good diet and exercise and had done well on a stress test just a few months ago.

While Russert died doing something he loved and certainly did not suffer in his last moments, his family still had no idea that he, at the age of 58, would be gone.

And now, today, Father's Day, Luke is being forced to deal head on with the fact that he will never get to see his father again.

The reason this particular story is so painful for me is because it is my own. A little over two years ago, I got a phone call similar to the one Luke and his mother got on Friday. Just like him, I had no warning. Just like him, I was going about my life with absolutely no idea that at any moment I could lose my father. My dad had been doing well on his stress tests too. Yes, he had some blocked arteries in the past, but his doctors were being very vigilant about his care. Just like him, my dad was doing what he loved (mountain biking) and did not suffer. And just like him, a few days (in my case two weeks) later, I had to celebrate Father's Day with everyone except for my father. My dad was 55; his was 58.

I could try to impart some wisdom about appreciating your loved ones every day instead of just on Hallmark holidays and when it's too late. But for people who still have their parents, my story and Luke's will still probably not resonate through. It's just a fault of the human race that we can't appreciate what we have until it's gone or we worry so much about losing someone that we can't enjoy ourselves in the moment. There are some people who manage to avoid both pitfalls, but I don't know many.

I just know that today and every other day, I miss my dad, and when I read about Tim Russert, I got that same gut wrenching sensation I felt on May 28, 2006, because I knew that some other young person was having to deal with the unexpected loss of a parent. I do feel fortunate that I have so much to miss and I'm sure Luke is grateful for his father's amazing legacy, but the tributes and the outpouring of love and support can never make up for the loss of a good parent.

My dad, Joseph Hageman

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