“Your father was a good man. Growing up without him is going be hard. It’s going to hurt. You’ll feel alone, out to sea with no shore in sight. You’ll wonder “Why me?” “Why him?” Remember, you have warrior’s blood in your veins. The code that made your father who he was is the same code that’ll make you a man he would admire, respect. Put your pain in a box. Lock it down. Like those people in the paintings your father liked, we are men made up of boxes: chambers of loss, triumph, of hurt and hope and love. No one is stronger or more dangerous than a man who can harness his emotions, his past. Use it as fuel, as ammunition, as ink to write the most important letter of your life. Before your father died he asked me to give you this poem by Tecumseh. I told him I’d fold it into a paper airplane, and in a way I guess that’s what I’m doing – sailing it from him to you.”
So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion
Respect others in their view
And demand that they respect yours
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life
Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend
Even a stranger when in a lonely place
Show respect to all people and grovel to none
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living
If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself
Abuse no one and nothing
For abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision
When it comes your time to die
Be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death
So that when their time comes
They weep and pray for a little more time
To live their lives over again in a different way
Sing your death song
And die like a hero going home
I first heard this speech and poem from the film Act of Valor. I didn’t know it then, but it has become one of the most recalled upon piece of comfort and motivation to keep pressing on since my Dad passed away. The day, time, the scene, all of it is permanently engraved into my head and I still remember my brother, Jason sending me this during the night as we stayed up through the wee hours of the morning with our Dad and his nurse. There are certain parts of this that just scream Jeff Tiesman.
“Remember, you have warriors blood in your veins” … There is no truer statement about my father than that he was a F*&#ing Warrior. He did everything that was asked of him. He allowed me to help him workout before his surgery to speed the recovery up. He ended up taking nearly every type of chemotherapy and radiation that the doctors conjured up with a smile on his face. Never once did he get mad at anyone or upset about his situation because he knew it wouldn’t do anyone good. He never complained once…not once. He battled for my Mom, my brothers Mat and Jason, and he battled for me.
This is also a great time to let you know how much of a Warrior my Mom was. I can’t begin to even put myself in her shoes. She battled her own emotions to be strong for him. “Put your pain in a box. Lock it down.” This is as much of a quote for me now as it was for my Mom during this entire journey. She was strong, I mean extraordinarily strong and she still is till this day. She was there day in and day out with my Dad, changing his dressings, putting up with the aches and pains and doing everything she humanly could to make my Dad at ease. She never asked for sympathy from anyone and was relentless in her pursuit to make him better. My mom is one tough SOB and I love her dearly for being there with him when I couldn’t.
“Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend“… He loved his buddies, Mark, Mike, Randy, Pete, JP, Tommy, Browny, the list goes on. Thursdays and Sundays were his favorite days because he would get to relax with all of them at the golf course and work on his lifelong dream of hitting a straight golf ball. He was courteous not only to his friends but to others as well. My dad followed the golden rule of “treat those how you would want to be treated.”
The ending of the poem sums up the last few months of my fathers life. He was prepared, my mom made sure of that. He was not scared of dying, but rather the things he would miss. I guess I’m the same way. It’s a process, at least that’s what I’ve been told. A series of “firsts” that we must overcome. Holidays, birthdays, events, and memories or smells that make us think of him are all challenges we as family and friends must face and what I’ve come to realize is that there will be no end to it. To me, that’s a great thing. I never want to stop having “firsts”, that way I’m always constantly reminded of how great my Dad was and is.
“The code that made your father who he was is the same code that’ll make you a man he would admire, respect.”… Sorry this is becoming pretty personal, but it’s a good way for me to get some stuff off my chest. This is my blog after all. People sometimes ask me why I joined the Marine Corps. Most times I tell them that I wanted the challenge and to be part of the best branch of service there is. All of this is true, but not the complete answer. I joined the Marine Corps to make my parents proud and start my life. As you grow up, you stop taking your parents for granted and learn to really appreciate them and the sacrifices they make for you. When I joined, I wanted them to know that it was worth it. That I had done something with myself and made it. I had a phenomenal career in the Marine Corps. I was able to attend multiple advanced courses and was constantly pushing to better myself. Every time I got down, I called my parents and they set me straight. Some days I just wanted to quit, but they picked me up and I just kept pushing on. After getting out the Marine Corps, I went to college and earned my Bachelor’s. During that time is when my Dad got sick. He promised he would be there for my graduation and you bet your ass he was. When the opportunity for me to earn my Master’s degree and move to North Dakota to become an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach came around I was actually a little hesitant in my head. I knew I would be leaving him for at least a year, if not two. I didn’t know what could happen in that time and I thought it was selfish for me to leave him. Of course, in typical fatherly fashion, he kicked me in the ass and said “get a move on.” I did, and I finished my Master’s degree in one year even as it 90% of the time takes two. I wanted to thank him for everything he had done for me so I simply gave him my graduation tassel. A small token of thanks. He smiled, looked me in the eye and gave me a nod of acknowledgement. That was all and all that was needed.
In the final months, I asked my mom to have my Dad write me or do some voice recordings. I just wanted to have his words on paper or hear his voice. I didn’t care what it was or what he talked about. He could’ve talked non-sense for all I cared. I asked my mom later on if he had ever done it and she said that “he just can’t, it’s too hard.” I understood and I wasn’t upset. I can’t imagine and still can’t imagine the things that must’ve been going though his mind. I sit sometimes and just try to put myself in his position and it’s impossible. To say you understand or can relate with someone going through cancer and knowing the outcome in some situations, is impossible unless you have. While visiting one weekend, my girlfriend was looking for some paper and picked up a purple notebook to use. It wasn’t until I got back home that she said I should take a look at it. I opened it and kept skipping blank pages until towards the back I saw his handwriting. It was the beginning of a letter he was trying to write too me. It was only one paragraph and then the beginning of another and that was all, but I understood how hard it must’ve been to write that single paragraph and you know what…it was all I needed.
Thanks for your time everyone, I rambled quite a lot, but I just had to dump a little bit off my chest tonight. Cheers.