In Loving Memory
I’m sitting in my garage with the door open, listening to the neighborhood children play. It’s a cloudy, gloomily Friday evening but the birds are chirping and the longer days give more hope to getting more done. I can’t really find a way to start or even write this entry, but I’ll do my best. My name is Tom Begley, and I write this on behalf my sister Virginia Massey as well. It is with our deepest regret that we have the opportunity to address such a wonderful audience our dad has acquired over the years.
Yesterday (Thursday) morning, my sister called me at 9 a.m. Telling me dad hadn’t returned a call from the day prior. I immediately eased her mind with the idea that he may be getting a new phone now that he was in town again. Plus his last blog mentioned how horrific the services are at his site, especially considering we were getting the rain he was concerned about. Ginny seemed instantly calmed, my job was done. I mentioned that he was coming over to possibly go to the train museum, weather permitting, but it was not. So, I said no matter what… dad will want to see my son by the time Jiujitsu starts at 5.
It’s not often enough that I talk to Ginny, I was happy to put her mind at ease. I told her, “Dad has lived in the worst conditions and now he’s hooked up to electric with a toilet 50 yards away, and hospitals in every direction. He’ll be fine.” We hung up. And now that Ginny was good, I came to realize how hard I pitched the idea that he was ok. Given his medical history and the tone in her voice, it didn’t sit right with me.
After a few errands on my day off with the family I was pleasantly entertained by an adorable 6 year old with a barrage of questions and the squeaky giggles of baby Charolette. By 12:30 I was asking my wife why he hadn’t gotten back to us. It’s not like him, and there were no more distractions. Now, I’m unsettled. Time to go.
I recalled the camp site from his last blog and started heading west. The phone said 30 minutes. The whole time I’m thinking thoughts I typically don’t. Dad is such a positive, easy going man and thankfully a little bit of those good traits had rubbed off on me, but not in this moment. I’ve got a part of me that is recalling dads heart issues. The other part of me is thinking that he’s visiting with a friend, and like every other time I’m about to see him, I am too impatient. I’m too excited and just worried for no reason.
Before I know it, I have arrived. Pretending not to be anxious, I was looking desperately for his truck. Really, not knowing if it was a good thing or not if I saw it. I was too distracted to be critical of the predicted flooded RV spots and gigantic pot holes. But the trees were practically nonexistent, I could see almost straight through…. and not a red vehicle in site, not one. just as I pulled towards the office… there it was!On the right, just like the picture but RVs on either side now. His bike still locked up and everything cleaned and undisturbed.
I quickly got out of the truck and pretended not to run over and lightly started knocking on the door. Other campers were everywhere, but the misty rain was keeping everyone in. I started knocking louder, on each window. But no response and everything was all locked up. I called my wife and ran to the office to get the ‘wellness’ check involving the police she recommended. They arrived a half hour or so after. It was getting real. We’re about to break the lock to the camper my dad loves. And he better not be in there! I’m about to give the go ahead and he better pull up sitting shotgun with a buddy yelling at me as to why I would call someone to bust his lock. This would be a trick considering I don’t recall him ever yelling at me in the 38 years I’ve know him. A couple stern talkings and a well deserved spanking or two, but my concerns for those died off when I was to big to be bent over his lap at age 6.
Before we break in, I step away to pee…. again. And on the way back I see the air fan hatch on top ever his bed. My walk turns into a full run straight to the truck, up the hood, top of the cab and right onto the roof. The hatch is open just a little. So, I lean down and can see something. It’s been almost 2 hours pacing around his truck. ripped that hatch off with no hesitation and punched out the desert dusted screen to see what I could. The officer asked if I got in, if I could see anything. Just then, poked my head in, my eyes adjusted to the lack of light and I could see. I could see him.
Dad was laying rested in the bed with the most peaceful, content appearance. Head on the pillow, blankets pulled up. But I knew how hard I was knocking and pushing on the truck. Reality finally set in. Our dad had passed. I screamed dad a few times while I thrust my arm in to grab his. He wasn’t waking up, our fears were true. The feeling was surreal. As I sat up with tears instantly pouring down my cheeks, I told the officer. Sitting on the roof, not sure what to do or think or say or how to act, my heart was crushed. Crushed just as I’m sure yours is now too.
I was overcome with fear and emotions I wasn’t prepared to feel. When I saw him, I also saw the keys hanging and was able to quickly retrieve them with a coat hanger the officer already had. I jumped down in a panic and let myself in to be with him. To make sure, even though I already knew. There was nothing to do but sit with him and cry. And as I was, I couldn’t help but really take in how peaceful he looked. This was on my list of personal ‘top nightmares’ to go though, and dad looks like he’s more comfortable then I’ve ever seen him. Accompanied by all this sadness, there was this weird relief. Not for me or anyone of us left to morn his loss, but for him. As much as we know how much he would have wanted to spend all summer holding all 3 of his adorable grandchildren, how every moment with him is always cherished, this really was the way he wanted to go. We all know he didn’t want to end up in a hospital, not for a second. He’d say it wasn’t worth the money, but it goes beyond that.
The dust didn’t really settle, it certainly hasn’t yet. But once that calm had passed over me and I could begin to try and enjoy my last moments alone with him, my fears turned into telling my sister who was so worried, along with the rest of my family. I reluctantly stepped out to call her, not wanting to hear the imminent pain in her voice.
Even though I was the person to have found him, it felt unexpectedly good to be able to sit with him for a couple hours with him before getting picked up. Knowing that he wanted to be immediately cremated and that my sister would only want to see him alive, I was happy to have that opportunity to sit with him and talk to him and tell him how much everyone who ever met him will be missing him. It may sound twisted, but I was just concerned about his grandchildren, friends and everyone that hadn’t met him yet, not so much myself. My dad was an interesting person to say the least. Adventurous, honest, loving, committed, faithful, diligent, quick witted and funny, the list goes on and on. If you met him, you most certainly know already. I wanted everyone to meet him, to enjoy the person he was. We all loved seeing him on his adventures, or what he would just call daily living. And we loved sharing him with the world and wish it could have continued forever. He was a man you couldn’t resist but want to be around.
Virginia and I are now left with the responsibility of informing all of his friends and family of their loss as well. There is no good way to let so many people know who care so much about him. We have all lost someone very special which whom cannot be replaced. But since this can’t be undone, instead of just letting the tears pool up, we will do what we can to make the best of such a great loss with happy memories, stories and pictures we hope to hear and share with other people that loved him too. Dad didn’t want people to morn his death, he never even really cared if his birthday was celebrated in any fashion, in fact we would sometimes remind him. But we will be having a service, not for him, but for everyone that cared about him who can make it. He would cringe at the thought of someone going out of their way for him, and we certainly would not want to burden anyone either. Simply having him your thoughts and prayers all this time has meant so much already.
Services will be held this Thursday, June 28th 4-8pm at Willow Funeral Home. In the following weeks, I will drive to his trailer left behind and hope to follow in his footsteps to some degree. Updates of that happening may be thrown out there in the near future. We truly wish we could have told each and every person that cares about him face to face followed by a big, uncomfortably long hug. Given the blogs he wrote, I couldn’t help but want to tell more of the story the way it happened. I will never have his writing capacities, but I now see the therapy in having a journal or just putting it out there.
There are so many stories and fond memories yet to be told about him. There are so many more pictures to be shared. Unfortunately, dads funny, beautifully told, HIGHLY detailed articles have come to an end. It wasn’t just entertaining stories, or checking in for those who cared for him… it was inspiring to say the least.
There was so much more he never told you. He never mentioned how great and loving of a father he was for so many years. He was the most supportive, dedicated caring man we’ve ever met. We will miss you dearly.
Willow Funeral Home
1415 W Algonquin Rd
Algonquin, IL 60102