“Ordinary Greatness”—Remembering My Father

This morning my mother called to tell us that my father, Paul John Wilcox, Jr., passed on to be with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, around midnight last night.

Dad was 80 years old, and suffered from both emphysema and congestive heart failure. Although his health had been slowly declining for the past few years, with some ups and downs, a couple of weeks ago he took a sudden and significant turn for the worse.

My father was a good man—not the kind of man to garner fame or wealth—but a good man along the way everyone thinks of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Thanks to their local hospice organization, Dad was able to spend his last days at home, with Mom nearby, and with many friends able to visit. In his last lucid moments (maybe a week ago), he remarked that he was glad to be at home, rather than in a hospital.

Dad has shown remarkable grace through all this, and it was always encouraging to talk with him. His decline in health was probably harder on Mom than on him.

Dad knew his destination was Heaven—not because he was a good man, because no one is good enough to meet God’s standard (this is repeated throughout the Old and New Testaments)—but through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer. (If you’re interested in learning more about why we believe this, this Web site has a very well-documented, Scriptural presentation of the Gospel which is fundamental to our beliefs.)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
—John 3:16

In the end, Dad was at peace, and completely ready to go to his eternal home.

Even though we will join him someday, we miss him greatly, and today has been a very sad parting. Other than knowing Dad is in Heaven, I take consolation that Dad was able to die at home, lived a full and mostly healthy life, knew how much he was loved, that all of us (I have four sisters and two brothers) were able to see him within the past year, and that my last (and recent) words spoken to him were, “I love you, Dad.”

I realize I haven’t elaborated on my topic much at all; I will share more of my memories and details of Dad’s life later. Right now I’m very tired.

Please feel free to post your own comments.

6 Replies to ““Ordinary Greatness”—Remembering My Father”

  1. Five more minutes. Being a parent is not always about the big things, but about the little things. Perhaps, more appropriately, as a parent, one never knows which of the little things are going to be big to a child. When I was about 4 (I was still taking afternoon naps, so I might have been 3), Dad was watching me while Mom was out shopping. It was time for my nap, and I was playing with my small Tonka trucks. I asked if I had to go to bed. To my surprise, Dad said I could stay up 5 more minutes (Mom was always more strict). Exactly five minutes later, he sent me for my nap. To this day I try to emulate this example of flexibility combined with discipline.
    Destiny. My father, I think, always wanted a son who was interested in baseball, one of his favorite pasttimes, so I may have disappointed him there. When I was 10, he said he wanted to do something special as a father-son activity, and offered me the choice of going to a Red Sox game or the Boston Museum of Science. I chose the MoS, of course. I try to remember this with my own children; despite occasionally reciting the mantra from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, of “Baseball’s for mortals,” I try to encourage my children in their varied interests—even if they are sports-related.

  2. Good Advice. Dad was not a big giver of unasked-for advice, although as he got older he became a little more free in dispatching wisdom. Two years ago on our Christmas trip to Florida he said to me, “Son, when you get to the end of your life, you’re not going to look back and say, ‘I wish I had spent more time at work.’ Spend time with your family while you can.” I think he felt guilty about his long work schedule as a refrigeration maintenance man for Fernandes supermarkets (especially during the summers).
    Projects. This guilt was misplaced. Dad spent hours and hours working with us and having us help him with projects (with me when I was younger, and with my brother Paul when he was older), especially in the winter when he wasn’t working as much overtime. One winter we completely rebuilt a refrigeration compressor for a Christian camp he did volunteer maintenance work for many years. He taught me about electricity, how to do wiring, how to solder (electrical and plumbing), and many other things. His projects were always lovingly and perfectly done. (When we rebuilt the compressor, he even repainted the springs on its base.) One time he commented that I soldered like an 11-year-old. I replied that I was an 11-year-old, but he countered with, “That’s no excuse.” (He was right, but I’m still not very well practiced, and am ashamed of my soldering skills to this day.)
    Ultimately, his advice (and Nichelle’s urging) has prompted me to relocate the family to Nashua, so I won’t be spending hours away from my family each day just driving.

  3. Nichelle just got off the phone my my Mom, calling to convey our flight itinerary and find out what to wear to the funeral. Mom said she was wearing a red dress, rather than the traditional black, because she was wearing a red dress when she met Dad (I believe at a dance while Dad was in the Navy, back in late 1944), and Dad would like that.
    Mom said that Dad’s reaction to all the preparations and travel for his funeral would have been met with, “All this fuss over me?” The question would have been completely genuine.

  4. The best times I spent with my father when I was growing up were often in the workshop or garage — woodworking, cabinetry, fixing cars, and just tinkering kinda stuff. Glad to hear you had similar Good Times with your dad, too.

    The name “Paul J. Wilcox” doesn't turn up too much in Internet searches, so I'm wondering if your Dad made this synthesizer:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3711461622&category=38071

    It sure shows the attention to detail and appearance that you describe in your blog post.

    All the best to you and your family…..

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