2007 started on a sad note, with the passing of my father, Thomas Sneed. He had just turned 76 on December 24th, but shortly after that his condition started to deteriorate. First his kidneys started to give out, which in turn put pressure on his ailing heart. After about a week of dialysis in the hospital, he went home, where he stayed for just a few days, with the exception of one dialysis treatment, before his heart gave out. He was a doctor, who practiced medicine in various forms, including radiology, family medicine, and in his final years, psychiatry. But he had always had cardiac problems, including several heart attacks, at least two open heart surgeries, plus angioplasties and pacemakers. It really was a wonder he lasted as long as he did, but I’m grateful we made time to get together often over the past six years and that I had the opportunity to get to know him better.
Although he seemed at times overwhelmed by fatherhood, having raised six kids with my mother, I think he honestly tried his best to give us what advice and guidance he could, or at least what was in his capacity. He never really had any good role models for what it meant to be an effective father, and he was torn between meeting his own needs and responsibilities, and caring for his offspring, each of which demanded his time and attention. It wasn’t like he had it all figured out and could then hand on what he had learned. He took more of a laissez-faire approach, trusted we would each find our own way. Some of us did find our way, albeit after a great deal of wandering. On the other hand, I learned to accept him for who he was and for the father he was, not who I wanted him to be. Eventually, I found others who could guide me in getting established in life, mainly self-help authors. I was able to find a career that earned me money doing what I like to do. Not all of the kids were so fortunate â€“ only two of the six attended college, and those who did ended up with a large student loan debt.
My parents divorced back in 1980, wreaking havoc on the four kids who were still home. From then on I vowed never to repeat that ordeal, which is probably why I married as late as I did, finding the right person and getting a bit more maturity under my belt.
Still, I forgave both my parents for their failings and shortcomings. And I strove over the past decade to build friendships with each of them, spending time and getting to know them. That’s why, when my father did pass, I had already made my peace, knowing that I had gone the extra mile in striving to get together often. I was blessed not to have been outside the country when he died. I was in New Jersey at the time, getting ready to teach a programming course in New York. I was able to fly out on Sunday and get someone to teach for me on Monday, so I could comfort my mother and siblings. Unfortunately, the funeral, which had been scheduled for Monday, was rescheduled for the following day, making it impossible for me to attend. But at least I could pitch in and help where needed in the preparations, especially in the writing of the obituary (click here to read it).
My father was a man of faith, even though he often struggled and had his doubts. He started out a Baptist, then converted to Catholicism, and eventually practiced Judaism (he loved reading Hebrew). In our get-togethers we talked about God, Jesus and the Bible. Having a masters degree in Theology helped a lot in these discussions. J Deep down he had always yearned for a deeper spiritual experience, something I’ve had and spoke to him about. Nevertheless, he would not have taken his journey of faith without having experienced the divine, and in the end he confided in me his faith in Jesus as messiah, which has been a great comfort to me. Even now, I believe we are united in a special way and that he is present with me, more now than before when we were oceans apart.
Whenever we parted, he always said, “Bye for now,” implying that we would always meet again before too long, even if one of us passed from this life. Thanks, Dad, for your time and friendship. You will always be with me.