My dad transitioned on January 31, 2020. I wrote the following and shared at his celebration of life.
It’s no secret that Dad and I had our challenges. We were similar in a lot of ways so it was inevitable that we’d butt heads on some things, but there was always love.
I learned several lessons from him over the years and today I would like to share a few of them with you.
The first, is laughter.
One of my earliest memories of Dad is him laughing. Dad could tell a joke, he had a gift for impeccable timing! Some of his favorite movies were A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and any of the original Pink Panther movies. Listening to comedians on record got him laughing so hard tears rolled down his cheeks. His laugh was infectious, and before long, anyone around him was laughing too.
The Schroeder family speaks humor and sarcasm fluently. During the last week dad was alive we used humor to balance the sadness.
Second, is action.
Gandhi said, “Action expresses priorities,” and Dad was a man of action.
He may not have always had the right words for the moment, but he was present for all the moments. He was dedicated to providing for his family and was loyal to the people in his life (Mom, us, work, the fire department). He did this through actions. Our family a priority, and to be honest, he made it look easy. By making family a priority didn’t mean that he was a pushover. His expectations were high, but he gave my brothers and me the latitude to push boundaries and find our path.
Dad was the best “Papa” and mom is an outstanding grandma. There are not the people who raised my brothers and I. The house was full of junk food. Unrestricted TV time and no rules! My parent’s dependability and action remain just like for us. They are always there for their grandkids and their great-grandkids. The family was the priority, and the joy the family brought to Dad is evident in the many photos we will cherish and the memories we will hold in our hearts.
Then, there’s trust.
Consistency is the basis of trust, and my dad was consistent. For example, every year since I was born, he gave me flowers on my birthday. Regardless of whether or not he agreed with my choices, I could always trust Dad would be there for my little man and me. His consistency extended beyond our immediate family. Growing up, I lived in one of the few two-parent homes. A lot of my friends didn’t have a consistent father figure, so Dad adopted my friends.
Yes, Dad was unfiltered and had strong opinions. But I’ll let you all in on a little secret: his bark was bigger than his bite. When I was 12, I was staying with a friend in Nebraska for a few weeks. I took a pair of my mom’s earrings (without asking her) with me on the trip, and I lost one. I chose to take another pair from a store without paying for them. When I got caught shoplifting, dad drove to Nebraska to pick me up. On the way home I started imagining him dropping me off in a cornfield along the way for the shame I brought upon the family. But didn’t. He didn’t say a word. He offered me grace, and I learned a valuable lesson at that moment: people are going to make mistakes, and it is essential to be kind and extend grace.
And finally, Courage.
“Anything boys can do, girls can do better.”Unknown
These words hung above my bed for years when I was a little girl, my first affirmation. I was the only girl, and to be honest; I am not sure dad knew what to do with me, ever.
We spent a significant part of our family time at the firehouse, and while he was considered a “volunteer,” the reality was that Southwest Adams County Fire Department (SWAC) was another full-time job. I can’t recall a time in my life that doesn’t involve the fire service. There was a fire scanner in the living room and bunker boots in the kitchen. When I told Dad that I was going to become a firefighter, too, he told me to lie down until the feeling went away. He was worried about the challenges I would face being a female in the fire service.
Still, he supported me. When I was testing with fire departments to get hired, he would drive me to the physical agility tests. I did get hired and was struggling in the fire academy. Dad gave me a St. Florian pendant and a half of a Mizpah coin on a necklace. He had the other half of the coin. In his not so delicate way, he told me to pull my head out of my ass and that he was always with me. We didn’t always agree on tactics and strategies, but we shared a servant’s heart.
Over the last few years, Dad found the courage to share his softer side. I would get random messages from him telling me he loved me. His pride in the life I made even if it has been slightly unconventional. The last message he sent me was a picture of a shirt that said something about me being the stubborn daughter of a grumpy old man and not to mess with me because no one would find the body.
In our final conversations, I shared with dad that it was the way he and mom raised me that gave me the courage to live a life of no regrets. Courage to follow my passion. Grace to fail. And, the courage to walk away from bad situations. I developed the resilience to know I will be okay when life doesn’t go as planned.
Dad did the end of his life on his terms, like everything else. We had a week of closure, tears, laughter, and togetherness. I know that even though Dad is no longer here in body, his lessons of laughter, action, trust, grace, and courage are his way of continuing to support me.
So thank you, Dad, your legacy lives on. I love you, be proud, and we will take it from here.