“Death comes like a thief in the night.”
Those words have been etched in my brain for twenty-six and a half years, when my mother quietly uttered them following the unexpected death of my dad. And now, the thief has returned. My father-in-law, whom I have written about several times in this blog, passed away during the night. With his recently rapid decline in health, we knew Death would take him any day. No, it did not sneak in through a back door. Rather, it came as a welcome reprieve for a man who suffered much toward the end of his time on this earth. And, no, it is not a tragedy. He lived a long and full life. He grew up without knowing his father, having lost him to the thief at the tender age of two. He was not fatherless, however. He had uncles who lovingly served as father figures. He attended Marmion Military Academy, beginning what would become a seventy year dedication to the Monks of Marmion Abbey. At the terribly young age of nineteen, he experienced, simultaneously, both the brutality and merciful heroics of his fellow man when he suffered a life-threatening and, certainly, life-changing wound during the battle at Iwo Jima. Upon his return home, he attended college, eventually earning his Master’s degree from the University of Chicago. But, without question, among all his achievements, the title he most cherished was simply “Dad.”
He was a humble and faith-filled man who never considered himself a hero for his military service, uncomfortable with the label. He never thought himself above anyone. Ever. He was a man who witnessed good and evil in the world. He was a man who loved his family. And he was a man who loved God and took his faith very seriously. He lived his life in such a way that he never needed to worry about when the thief would come. So, while he will be missed by we who are left behind, his passing is not a tragedy. It is simply his final journey home.