May 25, 2020

Paying Tribute To My Dad

Garden memorial plaque surrounded by American flags

This time of the year is a TOUGH one.  It was at this exact time last year that I was sitting in a hospital room with my mom, day in and day out, as we watched my dad suffering through the most horrific last days of his life.  The memories of that painful time constantly flood my head and my heart, and I’m really struggling with how to deal with it all.

What many people don’t know is that I said “goodbye” to my dad years before he actually passed away.  You see, my poor father battled an insane amount of health issues for the last decade of his life, thanks to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam.  He experienced everything from shingles to strokes to cancer of the larynx to open heart surgery to cancer of the throat.  And those were just the major things.  The man went through more than any human being should ever have to face.

It’s probably not surprising that all those health problems did a number on not only my dad’s physical state but also his mental state.  His third stroke, in particular, really affected his ability to relate to other people.  He just never seemed the same after that, which was absolutely heartbreaking.  I sooooooo wish I would’ve known that EVERYTHING was going to change so that I could have appreciated his old “spunk” more than I did.  But that’s the thing with hindsight, isn’t it?

So now, I’m left with these horribly conflicting flashbacks of the hilarious, stubborn, independent, gutsy man that my dad always used to be and the feeble, sick man that he ultimately (and unfairly) became.  Believe me, helplessly watching a loved one in pain is honestly one of the WORST things that anyone can ever experience.  And unfortunately, thoughts of that gut-wrenching time continuously pop into my head at the most unexpected moments.

Surprisingly, though, I feel at least a little bit of comfort sitting in my backyard.  I’m sure it’s because of the beautiful tree that we planted back there in memory of my dad.  I’ve often seen a red cardinal hanging around this tree, and I feel very strongly that it’s a sign from my dad that he’s ok and no longer suffering.  I can’t think of anything more reassuring than that.

Tree in backyard garden surrounded by American flags

So on this Memorial Day, I’d like to pay tribute to my dad and to all the other fallen soldiers who sacrificed literally EVERYTHING for our country.  Like many other vets, my dad was always very humble and extremely private about his military service.  I’m beyond honored to own the flag that was presented to our family at his funeral and will cherish it forever.

Heroes never die.  They live on forever in the hearts and minds of those who would follow in their footsteps.” – Emily Potter

White vintage farmhouse with walk-up front porch and American flag buntings



  1. Laura says:

    Stirred up strong emotions in my heart and head. Thank you Jen for sharing.

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read it. It was a hard one to write but ended up being cathartic.

  2. Irene Guevara Quezada says:

    Sending you love & hugs. ♥️ I’m beyond thankful for honorable men such as your father. ♥️

  3. Penny Withem says:

    That was beautiful and heart wrenching. My dad was a Captain in WWII, and also was private and humble. I watched him die from alzheimers. It’s so hard. We do have so much to be thankful to these men and women for. Bless you, Jen, at this sad time for you. He certainly raised a smart, creative, eloquent daughter wuth a great sense of humor! He must be so proud of that accomplishment! ❤️🇺🇲❤️

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you – your words brought tears to my eyes. And thank you to your dad for his incredible service too – a true hero for sure!

  4. Marlie says:

    That is a beautiful tribute to your dad. It is indeed very sad to watch someone you love with all your heart suffer. Hugs! ❤️

  5. Anne says:

    I have a dear friend whose husband struggles with similar issues. He tried to take his life last year. Their service is often ignored, but I am from that generation and fully appreciate their sacrifice.

    • Jennifer says:

      I am so sorry about your friend’s husband. The effects of war are AWFUL & our veterans deserve so much more than they are given.

  6. Karin says:

    I so appreciate you sharing, Jen. I’m so grateful for his service. Thank you for honoring him, his story, and so many others’ stories. ♥️

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you so much – there are so many heroes in this world who sacrificed EVERYTHING for our freedoms.

  7. Christina says:

    Thank you for sharing! You’re dad is watching over you👏🏼🙏🏼🇺🇸

  8. Cass says:

    Jen that was so sad & my heart breaks for you & your family. I’m sure he was a wonderful man and loved you all very much . ❤️

  9. Me says:


  10. Pam Solomon says:

    I’m so sorry, Jennie. I haven’t seen you in awhile and I had no idea all of this was going on in your life. Thinking of you and your family. Sending you socially distanced hugs. ❤️
    XO Pam

  11. Kathy Kainu says:

    What a heartfelt account of your dad’s life and struggle due to his service to our country. I recall when he passed last year. The backstory is a powerful reminder of the sacrifice of our service members, and to never take a day for granted. Hugs to you and your family for sharing his story. My heart goes out to you💔

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you so much – I really appreciate your thoughts. We definitely owe everything to our brave military heroes!

  12. Ann says:

    What a beautiful tribute- I’m sure your father would be so proud of you and your kind heart. We thank him and others
    Like him for their service- I miss my own father every day, even 5 years later xo

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