An open letter to my role model:
I realize that I am seven years too late to be expressing my appreciation for all that you have done, but I never could find the words until now. Perhaps as a sixteen year old, it was difficult for me to acknowledge and articulate how much you meant to me beyond that of your role in our loving, crazy family. At that point in my life all I could think to say to you was “I love you,” but I wish I could have added “Thank you.”
I want to first thank you for being a prime example of how one should treat others. You were a person who showed compassion, empathy and love to everyone you met. Whether it was someone with all the riches in the world or someone who was less fortunate than you, you treated them both with equal respect and validation for their dignity. In my opinion, you set the bar in our family for how we should treat others and I hope that all of us are making you proud.
Second, I want to thank you for taking me on service trips as a young child. Part of our faith is rooted deeply in service to others and you made sure that I, as well as everyone else, was exposed to service at a young age. One of my fondest memories was when I would go with you and your best friend to local shops to pick up donated food that we would distribute to organizations throughout our city that serviced the less fortunate. I know that my passion for being of service to others stems from witnessing your commitment to being a gift of self to others.
Lastly, I want to thank you for your commitment to our family. You set the foundation for our family to succeed by being an example of a loving, caring, gentle, and hard-working person. Not only did you raise eight children, but also you were a grandparent and great-grandparent to many. Even during the last years of your life when Alzheimer’s decided to make itself a part of our life, you never once forgot us. Yes, you might have called each of us by a different name on days where Alzheimer’s was more pronounced, but your face said it all whenever you saw us enter the room.
So, thank you Papa for being the most genuine and shining gift of self I could have ever imagined. You were always someone I looked up to, but I never realized how much I wanted to live by your example until now, seven years later, at the age of twenty-three. A lot has happened during these past couple of years, but the passion to be of service to others has not faded. I only hope that when all is said and done, that I have lived half the life you did.