When I heard that my father passed away unexpectedly on Friday morning, the 9th of October, I knew that I wanted to write about his life...those that he loved, the things he enjoyed doing and the legacy that he left behind. I thought of some great stories to share and I pictured this moving, emotional memorial that would perfectly encapsulate everything that I feel and have felt for my dad over the years. This is difficult because my father suffered from mental illness for the last half of my life and the last 18 years of his. The childhood memories that my sister and I share of him are oftentimes clouded in the more recent experiences of his illness, but remembering him in the last few days, I wanted to focus on the life lessons that I have learned from him. We are all students of life, after all, so what did my dad teach me in his time here?
The first lesson is one of the earliest that I can remember. My dad owned a grocery store when I was growing up in Rifle and he met people from all walks of life. He held space for everyone he knew and extended a hand for anyone who needed it. My dad would give people work in the store, have them paint our house (even when he did most of the work) and invite anyone who was alone to have a turkey sandwich at Thanksgiving dinner. My dad helped. He had compassion for people. And, in turn, when it was his turn to be helped, there were those that had the same kind of compassion and empathy for my dad. They gave him jobs to do when he could no longer work. They bought him passes to the Recreation Center so he could shower and they gave him gift cards so that he could eat. There are people in this community that helped him get into assisted living. To them, my family will always be grateful. For those that cared for him at The Delta House in the last years of his life, the warmest and most heartfelt "thank you." When my mom, sister and I went to the funeral home to discuss arrangements, the gentleman there told us that my dad is the reason that we have a homeless shelter in Delta. The people that helped him recognized the need in our community and decided to do something about it. If there is anything good that can come from my dad's circumstances, we are thankful for that.
My dad loved to hunt and fish and he pursued those interests with the kind of joy and abandon that we should all have. My family always had hunting dogs and they were his truest companions. When looking through pictures of my dad over the last few days, there are so many of my family on the boat, on the lake and him with his friends and family in a field somewhere with his dogs and a haul of pheasants. I joked with my mom and sister that there is a lot of backwards hat wearing, cigarette smoking and fish in those pictures! When I look at pictures of him, I see his happiness. I see his joy with my sister and me. I see his love for my mom and the light in his eyes. Life is short. It's also painful at times, overwhelmingly sad and beautiful. Do the things you love. Spend time with the people who mean the most. One of my dad's favorite places was Lake Tobin in Canada. There is a picture of him on one of his trips. My family and I will take his ashes to be spread there. Perhaps it's one of the final things that we can do for him to show our love.
The last lesson that my dad taught me was one of the most difficult, but one of the most important that I will ever learn: we cannot outrun our demons. Life happens to all of us and we get to make the choices to become a victim of those circumstances or we can write our own new, brave endings. I believe that mental illness is one of the most debilitating things that can happen to a family. Every situation is different and no two cases are alike. Our family has had to heal in its own way and learn how to continue without the dad/husband/son/brother that we once knew. It's been hard to move on and there is pain and guilt that goes with that. A dear friend once told me that my dad would have wanted me to be happy. It took a good, long while, but I have come to believe that he was right. This leads me to another reason for wanting to write this memorial for my father. When someone suffers from mental illness, it is also a struggle for those that are close to them. In thinking back on my dad's life, I think it's very possible that some of us are holding onto some shame or disappointment about times when we felt we didn't do as much as we might have wanted to for him. If you feel that way at all, I ask you to treat yourself with the same compassion you would offer a good friend and forgive yourself. My dad would want you to do that. If there is any solace in his death, I think that it would be that he is finally at peace and his illness cannot follow him where he is now.
Randolph Lemuel Park, aka Randy Park, was born on Nov. 3, 1952, and passed away at his residence on Oct. 9, 2015. He was 62 years old.
His mother, Yvonne Park; his brothers, Jim and Bill; sister, Karen; and his two daughters, Jessica and Katie, survive him.
His father, William Park, preceded him in death.
If you wish to donate your time, effort, talents or resources in the memory of Randy Park, please consider doing so at the Abraham Connection Homeless Shelter, P.O. Box 910, Delta, CO 81416.
Arrangements are under the care and direction of Taylor Funeral Service and Crematory.
View the Internet obituary and sign the online guest registry at www.taylorfuneralservice.com.