Over the course of a week, I watched a man full of hope and spirit deteriorate right before my eyes. Before he took his last breath, he had become a weak and frail man without any ability to speak or look at us. The doctors promised us he was not in pain, but occasionally he would try to move and clench his teeth, which made me believe he was uncomfortable. When he took his last breath, all of us were relieved that his suffering had ended.
Papa, my father-in-law, was an amazing man. He was the very first person I met from my husband's family. He worked in the home heating and boiler industry and was a man on the move. He often traveled throughout New England and Long Island doing trade shows, meeting people, and making customers into friends along the way. He was the kind of person who loved life, and he was passionate about his family, history, politics, and religion. He was an avid book reader, and his ability to remember facts made all of us want him to try out for the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (U.S. Game Show). He almost made it too!
Papa was somewhat unconventional in that he loved studying and learning about all types of religions. He converted to Catholicism for his wife Florence (who was born and raised Catholic), but he loved studying Eastern religions too such as Buddhism and Hinduism. He would spend hours each day meditating on a pillow in the corner of the living room--so quiet that he often scared me because I wouldn't realize he was there. (He even wrote a book and started a blog on his own spirituality teachings.) One day I signed the three of us (Papa, my husband, and me) for Tai Chi lessons, and Papa by far became the Tai Chi expert, out-practicing all of us.
In 2006, unfortunately, Papa's health started a long journey of deterioration. His hospitalization are too numerous to list, but ultimately, he survived throat cancer (having a Laryngectomy--where his voice box is removed and he must breath from a hole in his throat called a stoma), strokes, asbestosis, and heart disease. Our Tai Chi classes were cut short after a series of hospitalizations, and then as poor Papa's health continued to take a downward spiral, he lost his ability to work (a major blow for someone who loved to work, travel, and provide for his family).
For years we were on edge about whether Papa would live to see his next birthday, but amazingly, for eight long-years, he did!! His quality of life was depleted as he could no longer speak normally, travel, or do many of the little things that we take for granted, but nonetheless, his love for life and his family kept him going. Through doctor's visit after doctor's visit and medical emergency after medical emergency, he SURVIVED.
I knew Papa for thirteen years (during the time I dated and married my husband); however there is this other vibrant part of his life that I only know through family stories. For instance, I know that Papa was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, married his high school sweetheart (my mother-in-law Florence) and served in the Navy. I know he loved FAST cars and rode a motorcycle. I know he took my husband to a bike shop and helped him build the coolest bicycle in town. I know he loved swimming and family outings. I know that being a handsome man, women in town flirted with him, but he always stayed loyal to my mother-in-law through a solid 49 years of marriage. I know and witnessed that he would do anything for his family, and I'm told that for 49 years of marriage, he never saw his own paycheck.
Papa, Lewis Boyce, Sr., was a wonderful man filled with love, empathy, energy, and passion. My husband has always felt honored to be named after him, and we're both honored that Little Lewie also bears his name. (In fact, Little Lewie looks very much like Papa did when he was younger.)
Papa, you will be incredibly missed but never forgotten. You've been an extraordinary role model to all of us in this family, and we will never forget who and what you stood for--love, courage, compassion, hard work, gentleness, honor, and loyalty (to name a few). You're at home and at peace now...until we embrace again.
|My husband's "best man" at his wedding.|
|Christmas 2014 w/ Papa.|
|I LOVE YOU!|