On the Death of my Dad


Yesterday I buried my father.

To be exact, yesterday was the funeral for my father. It was with military honors, as he served four years in the Navy during the Vietnam War, mostly aboard the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Newport News. Family and friends were in attendance, my younger brother as well as his older and younger brothers… rifles were fired, “Taps” was played and a flag was folded, which now sits on a shelf behind me as I write this. I exchanged my father in a box for that flag and a handful of empty rifle shells yesterday, December 13, 2012. He was 64 years old. Tomorrow would have been his 65th birthday.

He passed away at home sometime Sunday morning of heart failure, most likely brought on by a recent round of intensive chemotherapy. A diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia forced him to retire in June, although he never really got to enjoy his time out of work as most of his days were spent either in hospitals or clinics or else maintaining a regimen of tongue-twisting medications too numerous to count and planning for an uncertain future — which, this week, became suddenly very much certain.

His few and brief “good days” were spent, however, with family and friends, and he did make sure to do things he liked (and was physically able) to do. I got the opportunity to share time with him, and actually that was part of the reason that I moved back to Rhode Island from Texas after eight years away. I realize that many people don’t get to spend that kind of “extra” time with their family members before death takes them away, and for that I’m glad. Still, it’s hard to know that from now on I’ll be referring to my father in the past tense.

He was a decent hockey skater (a skill I never acquired)
He was a decent hockey skater (a skill I never acquired)

My dad was a man who lived his life the way he wanted. He didn’t care if it wasn’t up to other people’s standards, or if it was above them, his goal wasn’t to amass wealth or acquire land or purchase houses or expensive things. He wasn’t interested in impressing others. What he valued was his happiness, his freedom, his family and his friends. Those meant more to him than anything you could order online (not that I could ever get him to own a computer) or put on a credit card. Because in the end, they don’t amount to anything but stuff that you leave behind… stuff that won’t miss you when you’re gone — unlike us.

He used to say to me, when I would envision other places I thought were bigger and better than where I was, he would say “there’s nothing over there that you can’t get over here.” (And that is a direct quote. Of which he had many.) And of course since he was the dad and I was the son, he was wrong and I was right. And as things like that often go, I went off and looked for the things that were over there that I couldn’t get here. I’ll even admit that I found some of them.

Me and my brother Corey with our dad several years ago
Me and my brother Corey with our dad several years ago

But they were all just things. Just stuff. And I eventually came to realize that he was right, but not in the way I originally understood what he’d meant. Because what he should have said was “the things that are here, you won’t find over there.” Or anywhere, for that matter. Because here are the truly unique things… my history, my friends, my family… my father. And I could travel all over the country, all over the world, I could search the entire Universe and I wouldn’t ever find those things anywhere else. They were – they are – what matters, and he knew it.

Of course I wasn’t listening then. But I’m listening now. As most people one day realize, you remember the things that your parents said to you when you were younger but the meanings don’t often become clear for many years.

I’m glad my father taught me to appreciate the little things in life and the wonder of the world around me. He taught me that if you keep looking straight ahead, you’ll miss what’s down below or up above (and there’s some good stuff up there.) I’m glad he showed me that you don’t have to amass great wealth to be content and happy in this life. I’m glad he made me realize that you don’t have to do things the way others want; be yourself, and the people who still like you are your real friends. And I’m glad that I had some time to spend with my dad in the months since he fell sick. There was a point when I didn’t think that would be possible. But those few moments, whether it was watching the boats come in and go out down at the R.I. shore, having lunch at a cafe or just keeping him company during his stays at the hospital, those are times that I’m glad we got to have. Because we never really know when we may not get another.

Love you dad, I’ll miss you. You had a way with words and I’ll do my best to remember them all.

In memory of Stephen P. Major
December 15, 1947 – December 9, 2012

So many cool things to find...
So many cool things to find…


  1. Kandy Crowe says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this. Your father sounded like a fine man.


  2. Lili says:

    Sorry for your loss. Think of your dad like a star. He will shine a very long time after dearth.


  3. Dawn says:

    So sorry for your loss, Jason. This blog definately pulled on my heart strings and got me a little teary eyed. Life isn’t fair – but it sounds like you had an amazing father and role model in your life. I am sure you will find yourself using his quotes more frequently. I often say things my Dad use to say, it makes me chuckle and cry at the same time!


  4. alee00@comcast.net says:

    You have my sincerest condolences.  My mother passed away this year, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to spend those final days with her. 

    You were also fortunate to be able to spend time with your dad.  Also, I feel that you were blessed in some spiritual way since your dad’s funeral was on the day of the meteor shower.

    With sympathy,

    Annette Lee


  5. Jeff Barani says:

    So sorry for this bad new Jason. According to what you say to us about your father, I believe that your father was someone the good and having good advice of life…
    Courage my friend.
    Jeff Barani from Vence (France)


  6. Corinna says:

    Sorry to hear this, Jason. It is always hard to lose a parent too, last bastion against the world, but glad that you were able to spend time with him.


  7. Juliano says:

    Keep walking, Jason. Sorry for ur loss. Big hug from Brazil.


  8. My condolences and prayers are with you and your family Jason. I can tell that your Father was a good man who lived a good life. I am thankful to him and all soldiers who have fought and are fighting for our country. I know that God said to your Father, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the Kingdom” ! We will all see our loved ones and be untited with them once again in Heaven (all believers); that is for certain. Till then, it is hard, and we do miss those we love (especially during the holiday season). Know that you have a special Guardian Angel looking after you and your family, and live the legacy that he left you !!! God bless you my friend, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year !!!


  9. Lauri says:

    I’m crying. This is a beautiful tribute and you are indeed fortunate to have been close (location-wise) for the last few years. Too many families are spread too far from each other, my own included.
    But, 64 years old is way too young. Still, he got the most out of life and he had time to say goodbye. He was lucky to have a son like you.
    Much sympathy to you and your family.


  10. Ron Weber says:

    As always, you give us something to think about.
    I’m sure your Dad was and is very proud.


  11. Chuck Templeton says:

    Jason, thank you for sharing these beautiful memories of your father. Losing a parent is never easy, whether they are far away or very near. Fortunately you had time to spend with your dad during his last days. Treasure the many wonderful memories you have of him – they will last you a lifetime.

    My sincere condolences to you and your family.


  12. Nancy Atkinson says:

    Thanks for sharing this about your Dad, Jason.


  13. jokn4248@comcast.net says:

    I offer my sympathy. Sincerely.


  14. Margaret Schultz says:

    So very sorry that your Father died so young. Since My Dad and Mom died at an even younger ages in 1854, when I was 17, I can assure you that your Dad will always be with you and His love for you and yours for him will never die. The pain will decrease and the good memories will be easier to remember. My prayers are with you and your family.


  15. Christine Becraft says:

    Hello, From another kid without one of their parents, taken too soon, I send you my thoughts and support and empathy. Take care of you. Christine


  16. This is a wonderful tribute of your father. May his Soul Rest in Peace. I think the description is really memorable and I also feel your sorrows.


  17. Matt Jylha says:

    Sorry to hear about your father, I always enjoy reading your blog and that was a wonderful story that you shared with all of us. Sounds like a wonderful man and a great way to remember him.


  18. Bill Dunford says:

    Jason – Even though I never had the privilege of meeting him, I now feel like I’ve benefited from your father’s good advice thanks to this tribute. Thank you. The man raised a good son. Take care of yourself, and keep looking up.


  19. Kim says:

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful tribute to your dad…{{{hug shirt}}}


  20. MN says:

    What a lovely post in his honor. Hugs to you my friend.


  21. May his memory live on long after today.


  22. Kidmat Eden says:

    Condolences. I know how you feel, my dad left us 2 years ago, and I still think about him almost every day. Sounds like yours left you with good memories. Take care.


  23. Mike says:

    I am truly sorry for your loss. I also thank your dad for his service in the Navy.
    Your story is a great reminder for people to know what is truly important in life.


  24. Rob says:

    Sorry for your loss. I too lost my father this year to AML. He was 78 and we burried him with full honers as he was a Korean War veteran. I am 42 years old and always had my father as my rock. My father was in remission 16 months until it came back and took him. He beat cancer all the way to the end as I’m sure your father did. What I mean by beat is he didn’t let him get him down . Spirit is much stronger than a disease that breaks the body down. You cannot lose spirit.

    Have faith, your father and mine are living the good life now.


  25. PBMom says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your dad.


Comments are closed.