Rest in Peace, Philip Charles Gabriel

 

Three weeks ago, my dad talked to me for the last time. Three days ago, he died.

During those final weeks, any words surprised me. He was diagnosed with dementia eight years ago, four years after that with Alzheimer’s disease, and hasn’t been able to converse for several months. Every visit, he was a bit quieter, a lot thinner; a little less like Dad.

But he could still manage that sweet smile I remembered from my youngest days. Dad was gentle, peaceful, and seemed happy for visits, even when he didn’t know who we were. My brother, sister, and I would sit around dad’s couch or bed; he was content to eavesdrop on our conversations, occasionally revealing sparks of recognition.

He played guitar in his younger years, preferring outlaw country; Cash and Willie and Waylon. In the ‘60s, Dad would hang out at Waylon’s club on the outskirts of Phoenix before the singer hit it big. We’d play Dad some of his favorites on our smartphones and watch his face brighten. When words fail, music remains.

Dad was also one of the funniest people I knew. Never pie-in-the-face clowning, but subtle. Think Bob Newhart, his favorite comedian. The long pause, the slight reaction, the unexpected reply that broke up the room. Evening after evening, we’d watch Newhart or “The Odd Couple” reruns, as long as a Western wasn’t on the other channel.

There’s no way to sum up a life. His little lessons on hard work, faith, and honesty, and his living example of each. The fishing trips where he seemed almost annoyed when a bite would disturb the moment.

His memories were fading before he was diagnosed. As his mind receded, he would recount stories from his younger years. Stories I’d never heard that were buried until more recent memories evaporated. Ice fishing from his car on the frozen lakes of northern Michigan. Emergency-landing a homemade plane with his college buddy when they ran out of gas midflight. Tales about my boat-building grandfather who died when Dad was just 12.

My Dad’s last words were the same ones he said whenever we talked. Each time he dropped me off at school, talked on the phone after my latest Navy deployment, or shared our monthly lunches and brunches, he always made sure to end it with, “I love you.”

I love you too, Dad.

There are 33 comments.

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  1. John Davey Member
    John Davey
    @JohnDavey

    Gentle rest, Philip Gabriel. 

    • #1
  2. angelasg Inactive
    angelasg
    @angelasg

    My condolences on your loss, Jon.

    • #2
  3. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Again, Jon, sorry for your loss. 

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I’m sorry for your loss, Jon.

    • #4
  5. Jim Chase Member
    Jim Chase
    @JimChase

    Prayers for you and your family, in the days, weeks, and months to come, Jon.

    Peace and grace,

    Jim

    • #5
  6. Zed11 Inactive
    Zed11
    @Zed11

    Apologies for missing your original tweet on the 4th, and again, sincerest condolences.

    It was a 12-year run for me, although the doctors admitted my Mom’s brain MRI results (multi-infarct dementia) indicated the process was underway long before even then. I just thought she had ornery days. Stupid me.

    Night after night of TV and music, to get her to smile. Your words are very familiar, albeit it was more MASH, Stan Freeberg and Carol Burnett than Westerns and Newhart. (They definitely share Odd Couple appreciation.)

    Since I never knew my dad (the SF jazz pianists separated when I was one), Mom was the everything. 

    A pithy thread: https://twitter.com/TheZed11/status/806381865527640064

    Wishing you peace.

    • #6
  7. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    God bless Jon and give you comfort.  

    • #7
  8. Patrick McClure Coolidge
    Patrick McClure
    @Patrickb63

    Jon, what a beautiful,  graceful soliloquy. Eternal rest grant unto him oh Lord,  and let perpetual light shine upon him.

    • #8
  9. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    What a wonderful Dad. I’m sorry for your loss. 

    • #9
  10. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Zed11 (View Comment):

    It was a 12-year run for me, although the doctors admitted my Mom’s brain MRI results (multi-infarct dementia) indicated the process was underway long before even then. I just thought she had ornery days. Stupid me.

     

    Wow, and I thought 8 years was a long time. God bless you.

    • #10
  11. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    A beautiful tribute, Jon. Well done. 

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Thanks for sharing your dad with us, Jon. So sorry you’ve lost him.

    • #12
  13. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    Sorry for your loss, Jon. I have always found the words of Kahlil Gibran comforting:

    “For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand an seek God unencumbered?

    “Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim yours limbs, then you shall truly dance.”

    I lost both of my parents in 1994. My father died in late April of that year. My mother joined him the day after Christmas that year.  They had been married for 50 years. Reading Gibran at the time brought tears to my eyes, but eased the pain in my heart. I hope they help you find peace.

    • #13
  14. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    I’m sorry Jon. As my dad lay dying I read Eliot’s East Coker to him. I’ve long found these words appropriate for the moment:

    Old men ought to be explorers
    Here and there does not matter
    We must be still and still moving
    Into another intensity
    For a further union, a deeper communion
    Through the dark cold and empty desolation,
    The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
    Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

    May your dad rest in peace.
    • #14
  15. Sweezle Member
    Sweezle
    @Sweezle

    I am so sorry for your loss. 

    • #15
  16. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Jon,

    For your Pop.

    Good Shabbos.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #16
  17. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    The picture of your handsome dad instantly reminded me of Jack Lemmon, then you said he loved watching the Odd Couple.  When a child can write such a beautiful tribute to a parent, it says what a great parenting job they did.  You are his legacy so he’s not really gone – he just changed addresses, as Billy Graham once said. God bless.

    • #17
  18. Heather Champion Member
    Heather Champion
    @HeatherChampion

    Jon, our family sends our deep and sincere condolences to your family. My husband’s father passed from Alzheimer’s also – I know I wept more than my husband with the harshness of what this disease brings. Keep his memory alive with all your shared memories. Prayers. 

    • #18
  19. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Condolences, Jon.  It was about the same for my Dad.

    • #19
  20. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    There aren’t any words, but there has to be words. Thank you for telling us about Philip Charles Gabriel, and bringing him to life with your skill. 

    • #20
  21. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Condolences Jon. I was my dad’s caregiver as Alzheimer’s claimed him after a long battle in the last year of his life. There is one moment that I’ll never forget during that time. I found some old photos of submarines rafted together that he took, or perhaps a shipmate took during WWII. We looked at them together. I told him that they looked like Balao Class submarines. He replied of course they are, you can tell by the vents on the hull. I was stunned. He couldn’t remember my name, but somehow that memory found it’s way to the surface.

    May your father rest in peace Jon.

    • #21
  22. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    Jon, my condolences on your loss.  A thoughtful and moving post.

     

    C

    • #22
  23. Dick from Brooklyn Thatcher
    Dick from Brooklyn
    @DickfromBrooklyn

    Condolences, Jon. I’ll pray for you and your family tonight. 

    • #23
  24. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Been there. It’s difficult. My condolences.

    • #24
  25. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    I’m sorry for your loss, Jon.

    • #25
  26. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Your tribute is very moving. Thank you for sharing it with us.

     

    • #26
  27. KarenZiminski Coolidge
    KarenZiminski
    @KarenZiminski

    It’s hard losing a beloved father. Your tribute made me cry, in a good way.

    • #27
  28. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    I’m so sorry for your loss. May the memories of his life be a blessing, and bring you peace and comfort. 

    • #28
  29. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    My sympathies and prayers for you and your family, Jon.  Thank you for this tribute to your father.  God bless.

    • #29
  30. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    Didn’t see this until now. Sorry for your loss.

    He was a good lookin’ dude. Sounds like a good dad too.

     

    • #30

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