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The Leader of the Band

Disclaimer: this post involves the story and current developments of my father, Gary Fiegel, who is undergoing a relatively risky medical procedure today, Weds. July 27, in hopes of improving his vascular health, extending his time here with us. As soon as possible, I will update this post following the procedure. Whatever the outcome, this is written with the utmost love and respect for story and character of the person in my life who, unequivocally, was - and is - “the leader of the band.”


Progress Update (7/27 @ 10:40AM): Dad's procedure was successfully completed, and he is being transferred to a recovery room now. The doctors expressed their relief in the initial success, and, now, the focus becomes ensuring that his recovery goes smoothly. Thank you all for your well wishes, prayers, and good thoughts throughout this morning and beyond. It is deeply appreciated.


Progress Update (7/27 3:00PM): Dad is currently resting in recovery, progressing well as we move through the next 24 hours. His spirits were good and measured while watching the Phillies game on the TV and having lunch. Continual thanks for all your well wishes, prayers, and good thoughts throughout this experience. It is deeply appreciated.


The Context

It’s that week: the one we all knew was eventually coming but had no idea what it would really hold for us. For me and my family, we did the work. We had the tough conversations. We laughed, cried, shared, cared, and moved forward, knowing that this day might come into reality. We worked to heal our hearts, as best we could. We asked questions. We found the truth. We told each other of our love, hopes, and dreams. We connected. We bonded, and here we are.


Today, my father, Gary James Fiegel, undergoes a relatively risky medical procedure: the TCAR (Transcarotid Artery Revascularization).


The TCAR is done in order to open up carotid artery occlusions in an effort to prevent/mitigate future strokes and treat carotid artery disease. The normal risks of the TCAR procedure include: damage to your carotid artery or cranial nerve, bleeding, bruising, swelling at the access site in your neck, stroke, heart attack, or death. Still, most patients have relatively short recovery times (approx. 1 week), and it is seen as a clinically proven treatment option - as opposed to angioplasty and medication - for carotid artery disease. Here’s the issue: my Dad’s not normal.


Okay, okay…I understand how that sounded. Side note: most who have gotten to know him might agree that he is not normal, but this is said in jest, attributed to the playful antics that Dad has pulled over the years.

Over the past 10 years, Dad experienced a triple-bypass open heart surgery, 3 asymptomatic strokes, deteriorating capillaries due to a heredity coronary artery disease, and, just last year, a heart attack that resulted in a triple catheterization after resuscitation. In turn, proceeding with the TCAR is a heightened risk for Dad, but it is a potentially necessary risk. The goal - to give him a better quality of life - justifies the risk. At the end of the day, it is his decision whether or not to go through with the procedure.


In that decision, we are hopeful. I am hopeful.


So, why is this photographer writing an in-depth blog post about this one person, sharing his story? Well, I encourage you to read his story (please take your time…even if you have to revisit it in chunks. Don’t worry, there are bolded markings along the way to remember your spot).


I think you’ll come to understand my reason.



Norris & James | All rights reserved worldwide.


The Leader of the Band

In 1981, Dan Fogelberg wrote and released a song entitled “Leader of the Band,” written as a tribute for his father, Lawrence Fogelberg, who passed in 1982. This heartbreakingly beautiful tune tells the tale of a father-and-son relationship from the eyes of the son. If you have never heard the song, please take a few minutes to listen to it (either the live acoustic version or the original released version), and read the lyrics below:




- - -


An only child, alone and wild:

a cabinetmaker's son.

His hands were meant for different work,

and his heart was known to none.


He left his home and went his lone

and solitary way.

And he gave to me a gift, I know,

I never can repay.


A quiet man of music,

denied a simpler fate.

He tried to be a soldier once,

but his music couldn't wait.


He earned his love through discipline:

a thundering, velvet hand.

His gentle means of sculpting souls

took me years to understand.

The leader of the band is tired,

and his eyes are growing old,

but his blood runs through my instrument,

and his song is in my soul.

My life has been a poor attempt

to imitate the man.

I'm just a living legacy

to the leader of the band.


My brothers' lives were different,

for they heard another call.

One went to Chicago,

and the other to St. Paul.


And I'm in Colorado

when I'm not in some hotel,

living out this life I've chose

and come to know so well.

I thank you for the music

and your stories of the road.

I thank you for the freedom

when it came my time to go.


I thank you for the kindness

and the times when you got tough.

And, papa, I don't think I said

'I love you' near enough.


The leader of the band is tired,

and his eyes are growing old,

but his blood runs through my instrument,

and his song is in my soul.

My life has been a poor attempt

to imitate the man.

I'm just a living legacy

to the leader of the band.

I am the living legacy

to the leader of the band.


- - -


Not everyone has this type of relationship with their father, I know. Beyond this, this song could be shared from the perspective of a father/daughter or mentor/mentee relationship. Based on my limited experience, I believe each of us has at least one person in our life we can point to, somewhere and sometime, who has shown us humility, kindness, compassion, truth, empathy, story, healing, hope, and love.


My unsolicited advice: if you can, share this song with that person, tell them you care, and thank them for being who they are - or were - in your life.

Now, would you join me in celebrating his story?


Gary James Fiegel: husband, father, partner, protector, friend, ally, teacher, coach, cheerleader, fan, student, writer, host, dreamer, believer, hero, and leader of the band.


 

His Story

Born on December 28, 1961 in the little town of Bethlehem, PA, Gary James Fiegel came into the world, wide-eyed and ready to face the future, albeit with some hair sticking up on his head. His mother, who, at the time, was 20 years old and now raising two children - Gary’s older brother and himself - primarily on her own, brought Gary into the family roots. In many ways, with the exception of the world-renown, bustling Bethlehem Steel plant, the quaint city of Bethlehem, PA in 1961, resembled the Smalltown USA atmosphere of Mayberry - the fictional town in North Carolina from the famed, classic TV show “The Andy Griffith Show,” known for its neighborly community, mom-and-pop corner stores, and friendly disposition.


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Children played outside from dawn until dusk when not in school, everybody knew everybody, food and drink was seemingly plentiful, and Sundays were respected as a day of rest, reconciliation, and worship. Picturesque, right?


Hardship and challenge were not absent in these times. Despite the appearance of plentiful food and resources, the obstacles and disparities in wealth, relationships, healthcare, and both national and world events (e.g. Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam) existed to certain extents within the community.



Gary, wide-eyed and ready for the world | All rights reserved worldwide.


For Gary, as he recalls, he experienced a childhood that knew both realities but focused on the good. With the in-and-out absence of his father in the household, he found kinship and a father figure in his grandfather, who was a WWII veteran, one of the designers of the Executive 9-hole course at Bethlehem Golf Course, and the Assistant Fire Chief at Central Fire Station in Bethlehem. As an active child, Gary found himself embedded, some of the time, in mischievous pranks with - and against - his older brother, who, in the lovingly frustrated words of their mother, “gave her a real run for her money.”



Gary’s grandfather, seen on the right behind the wheel | All rights reserved worldwide.


Continuing to grow through his childhood, Gary found friends and community support in neighboring families. He annually recalls a distinctive gathering with many other local families in Liberty High School on July 20, 1969 to witness the astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, of Apollo 11 make their historic landing on the lunar surface of the Moon. Awestruck, Gary internalized the perspective of the visionary, dreaming big and setting his sights on high standards.


Throughout his adolescence and teenage years, the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins in the NFL shaped Gary’s passion for football and being the playmaker as a Quarterback for the Liberty High School football team. Through faithful passes, punishing tackles, and skillful decisions, he developed skillsets that would overlap considerably into other areas of his life. Courage, leadership, integrity, humility, work ethic, tenacity, decision-making, passion, and faith were nurtured in this experience, though it was another area of life that would guide him like no sport ever would.

Though Gary’s family had a minimal background in music with the exception of his grandmother’s modest piano and vocal ability, Gary found music - or, rather, music found Gary - at a young age, invariably blossoming into an innate passion. What’s more, his talent for music was self-directed; he had no formal training, learning drums, piano, guitar, voice, and other instruments all from playing by ear. From saving up to purchase his first drum kit to witnessing live the harmonious voices of the world-famous Osmonds at the Allentown Fair - a core memory that he, still to this day, recalls the “unmatched descending harmonies of their hit song ‘Are You Up There/I Believe’” - to facilitating a “Battle of the Bands” fundraiser in high school, his journey with music was simply at the beginning of what was to come in the future.


In 1980, Gary graduated from Liberty High School in Bethlehem with honors. He was honored with a prestigious service award, which was a surprise to his mother at graduation. Throughout these formative years, he enriched a moral compass that was built in his childhood: a drive to combat bullies and those who victimize people while continually serving others.




Gary, at graduation at Liberty High School in 1980 | All rights reserved worldwide.

- - - -


Life often has a serendipitous way of bending a straight path into a curved, winding, unpredictable one. Following graduation, Gary was given a choice: find work (likely at the Steel) or enter the military. In that summer, he married and entered into the United States Air Force (USAF).

In a four-year contract that would last from 1980 to 1984, he was deployed to Ramstein AFB in Germany, the U.S. operation in Grenada, and Altus AFB in Altus, OK. Over the course of his military career, he trained in law enforcement, became a decorated Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO), and served on both the counterterrorism detail following a bombing at one of the gates on Ramstein AFB in Germany and the USAF Military Airlift Command, escorting and transporting C-5 Galaxy aircraft around the world to various bases. Notably, Gary earned prestigious, meritorious honors such as the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, Air Force Commendation Medal, and Top Cop in the USAF.



C-5 Galaxy Cargo Aircraft | Courtesy of Flickr, by marksontok.


Most importantly, he still recalls the people. Whether it was telling stories of the first warm, overflowing beer stein surrounded by the embrace of locals in a village pub in Germany, witnessing a pint-sized but commanding female K-9 officer abruptly silence a joint-branch drunken brawl between Marine and Army servicemen, learning lessons of civility, integrity, and honor amid uncertainty in the chain of command, responding to a drive-thru bank robber who, quite literally, thought he could rob the bank by pulling up to the drive-thru window, passing a note through the teller’s slot, and waiting (he was arrested), or enjoying the delectable, sugary sweetness of Oklahoma Sweet Tea - pronounced “suh-weet tay” - underneath the hot skies of Altus, OK, where “the mission was fishin’,” Gary cultivated an intimate understanding of the intrinsic and explicit value of others, touting a belief in their goodness over all else.



Gary, serving in the USAF from 1980-'84 | All rights reserved worldwide.

Near the end of his time with the Air Force, Gary played his music - specifically, an original song entitled, “For The Children” - at a local event. A producer of the Children’s Miracle Network telethon was watching him perform and invited him to become a part of the mission at the Children’s Miracle Network. In turn, the song “For The Children” earned Gary his first musical award: the acclaimed Pascal award for “Song and Songwriter of the Year.” In addition, he became an instrumental player in the growth and development of the Children’s Miracle Network as it grew from a telethon to an international non-profit powerhouse.


Do you remember how life often has a serendipitous way of bending a straight path into a curved, winding, unpredictable one? Well, per the invitation of this producer, Gary came across the opportunity to work with one of the founders of the Children’s Miracle Network, whose musical and business prowess and work is known worldwide: Marie Osmond. Yes, that Marie Osmond.


- - - -

If you’re unfamiliar with the Osmond family, their repertoire of sound, and impact on the world of music, they rose to critical acclaim amid the decade of the family music bands (i.e. the Jackson 5, The Bee Gees, The Beach Boys, and Credence Clearwater Revival).

In the several years following that invitation, Gary expanded his music exponentially, performing with the Osmond Brothers around the nation, producing numerous radio and television commercials, contributing to the development of branding and merchandising initiatives, and proceeding to write original songs for the development of his own band.


After some intensive time and unforgettable experiences with the Osmond Family, Gary found his way back to Bethlehem, supporting family members and contributing back to the community that raised him. Serving audiences locally and beyond, he developed “The Gary James Show,” which was comprised of original music that celebrates fun, inspiring, and uplifting messages that focus on love, hope, and happiness.



The Gary James Show w/ Benji | All rights reserved worldwide.


While performing solo one night at the Colonial Hotel in Bangor, PA, Gary was told that “he must sing with this server” who has “an incredible voice.” Family and friends of Gary’s were there in attendance, and the evening crowd was abuzz. He did not know who this person was, but he thought he’d take a chance. After continued encouragement, the server, named Linda, was invited onto the small stage. Linda and Gary talked, trying to figure out what possible song they could sing together (and fully remember the lyrics under the pressure).


The atmosphere of the room settled as Gary began to play the opening notes of “Endless Love,” the hit classic of Lional Ritchie and Diana Ross. Gary began singing with the opening lyrics: “My love, there’s only you in my life; the only thing that’s right…” Then, Linda entered the song, “My first love, you’re every breath that I take; you’re every step I make…”

It was in that moment that both the music and love stories of Gary James & Linda Norris were launched in tandem with each other. Following that performance to a rousing crowd, Gary followed Linda home after her shift - apparently, a not so strange moment back in 1987 for these two individuals - along the windy backroads of Northeastern PA to ask about her voice, background, and willingness to work together to as a performing duo. Linda agreed; thus, the musical duo Norris & James came into existence.

In the following years, Gary & Linda worked together to produce original music, shows, and performances across the nation, spreading messages of celebration, love, family, faith, and hope in their music. Pushing through numerous adversities and struggles, Gary & Linda cultivated a 30 year career through music, serving audiences, performers, and music-lovers alike in various ways.



The Journey of Norris & James | All rights reserved worldwide.


Now, please allow me to introduce to you: our family.


Us: Family First

Gary always put family first throughout his life. He often provided support, both direct and indirect, to his closest loved ones, striving to sustainably uphold family values.


In 1988, Gary remained married to his first wife, who then had a son that summer with Gary. Cultivating a professional relationship with Linda came first before a romantic relationship with her, and Gary always strived to be the man of integrity that was modeled by his grandfather. In turn, the relationship with Gary & Linda turned romantic following separation from his, now, former wife. Fortunately, the split was amicable and amiable; both he and his former wife knew the direction was best for both of them, and they agreed to keep the families close due, in part, to their son and, in part, to the strength of the family as a whole.


In 1992, Gary and Linda married each other. With the loving support of one big family, they continued their love story in performing together across the local area and different spots across the nation. Gary wrote a commemorative song to celebrate Bethlehem’s 250th anniversary while continually working to serve audiences as Norris & James.


Then, in 1995, Gary and Linda became Dad and Mom to their first full-haired, blue-eyed “Gerber Baby” (as my sister so lovingly puts it). That’s right. Christopher George John Fiegel became a part of the family. Two years afterward, that same loving sister was brought into the family. Moreover, Gary’s former wife had another son (my older half-brother’s brother) just 16 days apart from my birth with her then-husband; in turn, our family was bigger.


And this is the part where we start to get more personal…

- - - -


Over the course of my childhood, Dad was undoubtedly there for us. As a husband, father, and prominent figure of the household, he stepped up; somehow, through sheer strength of will (or at least that’s how it felt growing up), both of my parents worked relentlessly to (1) be there for critical childhood moments, (2) support our freedom to grow and develop healthily, protecting us from real evil while being honest with us about hardship and tragedy, (3) perform regularly for the fanbase of Norris & James, (4) produce opportunities for young artists and their families through non-profit work based on both talent/artist development and the cultivation of healthy, hopeful family values in entrepreneurial ventures such as the Family Success Network, Lehigh Valley Idol, 4 The Art of It, Singstrong, Genuine Caring, and others, and (5) contribute to the community-at-large, supporting, organizing and facilitating programs through First Night Bethlehem - Celebration of the New Year, Every 15 Minutes - A Drunk/Distracted Driving Diversion Program for High School Students, and various schools and community organizations locally.



The Big Brass | All rights reserved worldwide.


Throughout this time, Norris & James continually wrote and performed for their audience while maintaining their family. If you’re interested in listening to features of their catalog of music, please visit norrisandjames.com.


Dad speaks kid. Not only does he often think as an 8-year old would think - some might call that juvenile-thinking, but he just calls it having fun - but he frequently picks up on an uncanny connection with kids of any age, affording them the respect, space, and courtesy to use their minds, imagine possibilities, have fun, and do good. As with his own children, he was able to impact countless lives with his ability to understand the world from the perspective of a kid - and do something about it . “The Daddy Song,” an original song by Dad himself, which features the young voice of his first son (my half-brother), explicitly drives home the importance of what fatherhood - and being there - means to both father and child.


To us, Dad gave the gifts of discipline, fortitude, adventure, imagination, exploration, problem-solving, ingenuity, vision, decency, modesty, humility, introspection, wisdom, warmth, awareness, discernment, choice, freedom, safety, trust, truth, motivation, self-efficacy, support, aspiration, respect, honor, ethics, morals, values, passion, observation, presence, power, responsibility, accountability, accessibility, vulnerability, connection, character, confidence, goodness, healing, hurt, empathy, compassion, home, hope, and love.


Somehow, against all odds, Dad gave us the childhood he never had.


Please allow me to briefly state my gratitude for having such a father:

Dad, thank you.

For all that you did, do, and will ever do for our lives. Your love, light, and your life is cherished. Thank you for everything. It means more than you’ll ever know.

With love, your son,

Chris


I humble myself with an understanding that, as mentioned before, not everyone has this kind of father. I count myself fortunate. There are countless stories of relationships marred by heartache, distrust, addiction, pain, trauma, tragedy, and other adverse realities. It is in knowing this that I share the depths of my gratitude even further, with the hope that such humility and gratitude - and the story of Dad - may have a positive impact on the lives of those who know the deepest darkness in addition to those who’ve experienced the brightest light in these connections.




Living Legacies | All rights reserved worldwide.

The Heart and Mind

Join me, won’t you? We are taking a brief but important trip down the road of Dad’s heart and brain health in order to understand where we are in the current day. Ready? Let’s begin.

In July of 2001, Dad sustained a traumatic brain injury that involved at least 4-6 months of intensive cognitive recovery. Two months later, September 11th shook the world, including our own. One month following 9/11, our beloved house caught fire, forcing us to salvage what was possible and move into an apartment together. In turn, Dad wrote an anthem that would be shared among communities across the nation called “We Will Stand,” which focused on the promise of unity, justice, and brotherhood among all in the aftermath of one of the most devastating events in American history.

In the mid-2000s, Dad underwent his first catheterization for his heart, opening up a clogged artery. In 2012, Dad’s body reached its first limit, wherein he received a triple-bypass open heart surgery and the diagnosis of familial hypercholesterolemia; he was given a prognosis of about 3 more years of life based on the progression of the disease.


In 2016, follow-ups revealed that Dad’s capillaries around his body were deteriorating significantly. Attempts to mitigate and arrest the progression of this deterioration were often not successful, knowing that, based on his medical and genetic profile, there was very little chance of reversing the course of the disease. Even though he had surpassed the three-year mark, the outlook was not incredibly positive. Yet, each step was maintained by some semblance of hope.

Between 2012 and 2021, Dad suffered 3 asymptomatic strokes in his brain, resulting in dead brain tissue that affects some cognitive abilities, including working memory, attention, and information processing. In some ways, the damage was unnoticeable, remaining clear-headed and present in various situations, but, in others, the effects were apparent. That being said, he never stopped being Dad.

Then, in 2021, the perfect storm arrived: a diagnosis of congestive heart failure, a near-lethal heart attack, and a triple catheterization to his heart, all amid the equally challenging health crisis of his daughter/my sister in the same timeframe of the year.


Despite some unbelievable health challenges and, inevitably, financial distress, Dad’s spirits in hope, faith, and love were never fully extinguished. With the support of an unwavering partner in Mom, he overcame. He persevered to do the next right thing for the right reasons because it was the right thing to do, no matter the opposition. He believed in the good of people: the good of the heart, mind, and soul. In understanding his triumphs and setbacks with his health, it’s clear to see: the strengths of the heart and mind are not found in the opinions of others; rather, these strengths are reflected by the truth and serenity of who we are in the eyes within ourselves, our loved ones, and our Higher Power as we understand.



Dad & My Sister in 2021 | All rights reserved worldwide.


With love, The Gatekeeper

Almost 8 years ago, Dad prompted me to read his short story, entitled “The Gatekeeper.” Curious, I read his work. At the time, I didn’t have enough experience to truly grasp the significance of the title and the main point of the story. Now, I think I can explain it, and I hope to do it justice.

In brief and if my recollection doesn’t fail me, the story follows an individual who struggles to understand his place at the gates of eternal joy, happiness, love, peace, and tranquility. He wants to enter the gates, but they are locked. In his quest for the keys, this individual asks many questions, traveling to many people and places trying to find answers from all around him. Upon exhausting his efforts in the outside world, he comes to find that he was holding the keys to the gates the entire time, but his youth and inexperience did not afford him the opportunity to identify them until he matured through his experience.

However clever or cliché, this story offers a message of hope and wisdom to those searching for healing and happiness in their own life: look within, as we are the Gatekeepers, holding the keys to our own futures.

Over the years, Dad has shared various axioms and lessons of his life with us, touting the significance and importance of applying such principles to life. The following are some of the most notable ones for me:

1.) Believe it, and you can.

2.) Love is love is love is love.

3.) Hope is everything.

4.) I’m your father, and I’m always right, except when I’m wrong.

5.) To simply leave each day a little better than how we found it, through life, through love, through music.

6.) If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

7.) If you focus on the positive, then I believe your life becomes positive.

8.) In the past 30 years, we’ve done a lot of traveling, meeting a lot of wonderful people, but, in talking with them, there’s one thing these people all have in common: that’s that they hold that little bit of hope and that little bit of joy in their lives.

9.) When you find yourself unsure of what to do next, start by serving others.

10.) The stakes are real now. Make it count.

11.) Prove it.

12.) Thank you.

13.) I love you.


Truth, hope, kindness, self-respect, faith, integrity, decency, and love were - and are - at the forefront of his life. He acknowledged his imperfections, knowing that his shortcomings were ever present. Still, his work and actions reflected the man of character I know and love. He never runs out of “I’m sorry” when necessary. He speaks truth to power when able. He gives second chances in spite of hardship. He loves loyally with all his heart.


There aren’t enough words to describe the life of stories given by my father, though I am eternally grateful for the ones I’ve received early in my own path. Recently, in a featured episode of Abstract: The Art of Design on Netflix, I heard the world-class photographer, Platon, whose work spans across world leaders, cultural icons, and the human condition for decades, express his realization that “the hero is the person that inspires us to think again about our own moral compass and our own responsibility as global citizens.”


My Dad: an imperfectly perfect hero.


Dad, in happiness | All rights reserved worldwide.

 

From the song by Dan Fogelberg, “Leader of the Band”:


And he gave to me a gift, I know,

I never can repay.


For whatever the outcomes are today, I know that my Dad truly gave me a gift I can’t ever repay.


Turning a moral imperative into a meaningful song seemed to be Dad’s specialty over the years. If I may be so bold, I’d like to ask you for one more focused moment of your time to listen and read the lasting words of Dad’s original song, “Travel On,” which can be listened to here.


- - -


I watch you sleeping, thinking about the times we had

and thinking about the love we share.

Moments of our lives when we started thinking:

maybe a house - a family is the way that we could learn to grow,

make something of our lives.

And we create the future, and we learn to love.

We’re given so much love to share


with our family, and who is really family

but the ones who come into our lives, share a common bond.

In the name of heaven, we are here to serve and show

that there’s a kingdom on the earth, sent from up above.


So, when someone is hurting,

it’s an easy thing to help them travel on.


We all are given a spirit to discern the

thoughts and feelings that we have on earth:

the spirit in our hearts that can help us choose the right thing,

never knowing all the pain we missed,

and giving us the strength we need - courage to go on


so that when someone is hurting,

we can stop and pray, show the way


to their heavenly calling, something showing them

the way to peace, showing them the way to truth,

to life and to forgive.

In this eternal planning, we are really here a short time,

so, then, while we’re here, why shouldn’t we

help others travel on?


So, I’ll go now, not knowing what’s ahead of me,

but knowing in the hands of God, all is for my good,

and the good of my family, and you are in my family,

so remember what you heard today: help others travel on.

- - -

What do you think? For me, this message of hope, truth, and love knows no bounds. Whether it’s the lyrics, story, people, art, faith, sound, or journey, I believe that we are most impacted by those moments that make us pause for the better.

Dad’s story is Dad’s story. My story is my story. In my eyes, he’s our “leader of the band”: someone who was willing to be there. I am fortunate enough to capture his story in this form. His story had a beginning, and it will have an end. I am hopeful that today is not the end of his life here with us, but, in any case, I know it is not the end of his legacy. That, my friends, is love persevering.

In turn, I encourage you to take your time today. Consider your place. You may be caught up in the demands of your world, and I understand this demand. Don’t worry too much. Take a leap of faith. Be kind to yourself and others. If by chance you are here with me, please give yourself a chance at a deep breath. I believe it’s going to be okay. You are good enough. You are you, and that’s always enough. I learned that from a very special person.

Then, pause. Lean in to your love. Listen to what it means to you.


And, then, if you’re moved, please share your gratitude and tell someone, “I love you.”


Until next time, my deepest thanks for your time and consideration of this story. Be yourself.


With love,





P.S. After writing Dad’s story, I decided it would be apropos to include a list of some of Dad’s role models throughout life. This list is not exhaustive by any means, and many names are left out of this list at the moment, but it is some of the notables along his journey:

  1. Jesus Christ

  2. Dr. Wayne Dyer - Wisdom of the Ages (1975)

  3. Randy Pausch - The Last Lecture

  4. Mother Theresa

  5. Anthony Robbins

  6. Elvis Presley

  7. 1972 Miami Dolphins

  8. U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy & Gerald Ford

  9. Batman & Robin (Adam West & Burt Ward)

  10. NASA & Apollo missions - Eugene Kranz & Jim Lovell

  11. Gary’s grandmother & grandfather

  12. His kids and all the children through life

Again, thank you, each and every one of you.

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