It takes the heart of a champion to smile in the face of adversity,
One of my father’s favorite sayings. No matter what is happening, no matter the circumstances: nothing dictates how you respond except you. Dad, you always made it sound so easy, but these past few weeks have been difficult to adhere to those words. It has been heartbreaking to watch, my dad, my hero, has been taken from me. As hard as this has been, I take solace in the fact that even at the end, you were able to teach me about how to be a man. You handled this awful circumstance with dignity and grace. You made me so proud.
Depending on who you’re talking to; John Ward Byrne was either a devoted husband, a loving father, a brother, an uncle, a brother in law, or a friend you always knew you could count on. But above all, My father was a teacher. At times this was his profession, but it was always his passion. Today, I want to tell you about my dad and share with you some of the lessons he has taught me over these past 33 years.
He believed having fun was paramount. I have hundreds of memories of my dad’s smiling face, his laughter when he thought something was really funny, or the smirk in his mouth when he was playing a trick. Having fun with my dad was easy, he was always up for a game, or a pun. Being diagnosed with Parkinson’s can be devastating to some people. My dad always took it in stride. When the doctor told him his medicine would lower his blood pressure and he needed more salt in his diet, he lit up like a Christmas tree; knowing, my mom always yelled at him for using too much salt. Preceded to always set the table with the salt shaker next to my mom so she would have to pass him the salt during dinner. Always asking with a grin on his face. “Hey hun, pass the salt” When my dad was told that he only had 16% of his brain functioning properly, he instantly took one look at my mom and said 2% more than you! My dad enjoyed his life and he always wanted the same for the rest of us.
To me, my dad knew everything. I wanted to ski, I found out my dad was an amazing skier, I wanted to play basketball he would spend hours with me shooting around after work. My sister wanted to pitch softball, he let her ruin the back of the garage ripping ball after ball into the siding until she was a great pitcher. My dad was a special golfer, I remember my basement having 15+ golf trophies from back in the day. My brother participates in Special Olympics bowling, my dad somehow knew everything about bowling. To me and my siblings, my dad was superman.
He showed me how important family was. Not in words, but in actions. Always showing up for us, being at every event, even helping form a basketball league for special needs so my brother would be able to play. You don’t become East Brunswick’s man of the year for no reason. My dad never complained, he would get up early with my sister and spend weekends on end watching softball tournements, he always doing all the chores in the house so we wouldn’t have to. Despite my mother telling him otherwise. It’s just what he did, always put other people before himself especially family.
My father was in my opinion, a great husband. I would watch him bend over backwards for my mom, at the same time my dad would challenge her. He would defend his children even when they were in the wrong, especially me, He would always joke with me that 90% of his fights with my mom were because he had to stick up for something I did. He would make this joke with a smile on his face and I would know the next time I messed up, he would still be there sticking up for me. He once told me, Greg when you find the one who makes you as happy as mom makes me, you better fight for her. Life does not come easy, going after what you want is the only way to get what you deserve. Mom, Dad loved you more than anything, he was blessed to have you in his life.
The last lesson he taught me, was that if you live a life full of love for others, you will never feel alone. These past 2 weeks, the amount of support from family members and friends has been so evident. Dad, I hope you know how much you were loved, how much everyone adored and admired you. Your house was full of visitors 24/7 with people there to say goodbye, to lend a helping hand, to cook or clean, to be with you. As you move on, know that you will never be alone, for all of of us here will always carry a piece of you in our hearts.
So dad I promise; to always have fun, to work hard at my marriage, to show my family with my actions that they’re my biggest priority, lastly I promise to live a life full of love for others just as you did.
I love you dad, thank you for everything.