Jay's dad died on Friday morning, December 6, at 84 years of age.
He lived in Mexico for many years, so we were not with him at the time of his passing, but his wife Carmen was. By her account, it was peaceful, and we are so glad. We were blessed to have a visit from them less than two months ago, and were able to appreciate that it was probably the last time we would see him, at least in this world.
For some reason we cannot explain, Joey called him Papa Don, right from the start. All the other grandparents are called Grandma or Grandpa, but Don was "Papa", by Joey's young authority. The kids loved visits from Papa Don and Carmen even though they were few and far between. Some of the kids (Sam most recently in July) had the chance to go visit him in Mexico. Jay talked to him every week, if not more often.
This is the first grandparent our kids have lost (yes, they are fortunate in that), so it was a shock for them. Nearly all of them cried and that was very hard to see.
Jay and I took a quick trip to Guadalajara last week to attend his funeral mass and to inter his cremains. His earthly body is at rest in a beautiful church right on the shore of Lake Chapala. I am so happy we were able to go, as the mass was beautiful, with a children's choir accompanying and absolutely stunning flowers. All of Carmen's family members were there and it was very clear how much Don had been loved and cared for by them all. That gave us great joy and comfort to see.
Don gave Jay many gifts...his love for good bread, wine, opera and entertaining. He also taught Jay to be sure the person working behind the Italian deli counter, if not the owner, was actually qualified to make his sandwich. To this day he questions young employees on how exactly they plan to put together his meal and how thin the meat will be sliced. Lord help them if they mention mayonaise at any point during the conversation!
Don was the first in his family to attend college and he graduated proudly from USC. Up until the very end he loved his Trojans and never missed a televised football game to my knowledge, even after his move to Mexico. He loved to talk with people everywhere he went about every topic under the sun and enjoyed little more than a leisurely meal with deep conversation. He was fearless, retiring to Mexico knowing little of the language and not a soul in the city he chose. He became fluent in Spanish entirely on his own and figured out how to buy property, take care of his residency requirements and make a faithful circle of friends. Not many people I know would have that kind of bravery. He built a nice life for himself there and enjoyed his last years very much. We wish he hadn't moved so far from us, but are very happy that he was content.
We will have a memorial mass for Don at Sacred Heart Church in Lancaster on Saturday, January 11 at noon. All are welcome.
We will miss you Don, but are confident that we shall see you again in the kingdom of heaven. May you rest in peace.