On Wednesday, February 10, 2021, around 4:25pm ET, we lost dad. Sam Hardy's passing was both slow, as his health had been declining steadily for many months, and yet fast, as he went from able to have a conversation to death in a matter of days. At just a few months shy of 85 years of age, he had a great life. While we are sad to no longer have him with us, his health had declined so much that he no longer loved life in the way he once had.
These last few months have been hard, with the last few weeks rough, and the last few days, brutal. In all, he was with us 11 days from when we were informed that there were no remaining treatment options. It was 5 days from when he entered hospice until the end. During that time, we watched him fade away, hour by hour, as his body slowly shut down.
There were three pieces of consolation during those final days. First, we were able to shift our lives around to spend as much time with him as possible. He was never alone, with one of us always at his side. Second, his mind remained sharp until the very end, with him watching Jeopardy less than a day before he passed away. Last, while his body failed him, it did so in a way that was at most discomfort but no pain. To paraphrase our hospice nurse, if you're going to go, there really isn't a better way to do it.
In his last days, many of his friends and members of our family were able to come and say good bye. I watched life-long friends hold his hand and grieve that their good friend was going before them. Dad loved, and was loved by, so many amazing people. After he passed away, calling his friends to tell them the news was at once incredibly heart-breaking, but supremely joyful, to hear so many people both heart-broken and full of love, at the same time.
After he was gone, my mother, sister and I have spent countless hours together, on tasks both mundane and sublime. We cleaned the house for mom, tidying up from a week of hospice and months of focusing on dad's health. We paid bills, argued with credit card companies, made funeral arrangements, did some shopping, fixed toilets, and many more tasks that had rightly been delayed to spend more time with dad. But within those tasks, we also swapped stories, told tales, and spun yarns, like every member of the Hardy family learned how to do from watching our relatives do the same for countless hours. We laughed, we cried, we rejoiced and we weeped, all over the loss of our beloved Sam.
As I have reflected on all these stories and my own recollections of dad's life, there are a few themes that continue to surface over and over. These are not necessarily what dad might have said were the most important to him, but they are ones that were clearly important to him. These are the things that people seeing him from the outsid, watching over a period of years and decades, would have noticed. They are the ones that when I think of his life, stand out to me.
The first is service. Dad started volunteering, giving of his time and resources, at an early age. Several different organizations gave him lifetime achievement awards for the many decades of service he gave them. He was always generous with his time. From working on disaster relief efforts all over the country, to building wheelchair ramps for shut-ins, to visiting the hospital on Sunday afternoons, you found dad wherever there were hurting people in need.
If you wanted to see dad light up with joy, sit back and watch when one his six grandkids came into the room. The title he most enjoyed being called is granddaddy. He gave every one of them huge hugs. They mean the world to him. His generosity to them, be it a little extra birthday spending money or the ever-present container of jelly-beans he would feed them, knew no bounds.
The final theme is that of care. When it came right down to it, he cared. You may only rarely have heard him say it, but you knew it thru his actions. About two weeks prior to his death, the bed he and mom had slept on for 25 years, ruptured. Despite being very ill, he had a new one shipped immediately to the house for her. Dad knew his time was drawing closed, yet he made sure that mom was set up for that outcome as best as he knew how.
You saw this in so many other aspects of his life. He was a fixer; he made things better wherever he saw there was improvement needed. From how he maintained our vehicles himself, to how he built the house I grew up in with his own labor, to how he always saved the day when a plumbing project I was working on would inevitably go sideways. He had his own way to do it, and while you may have chosen a different way, you always knew he cared enough to show up and do it.
There are so many other things I could say, so many other stories to relate, but at the end of the day, these are the ones that I feel matter the most. These are the words that mean the most to me when I think of dad. If my son says half as many good things about me in the days after I die, I'll consider my life to have been one worth living.