By: Chris Dooley
I’ve written a lot of columns in this newspaper and I’ve said a lot of different things, but I want this one to be the best one I’ve done yet. On March 23rd of 2018, my life changed forever when my dad Charles passed away. It’s been three years this week and every year around this time my heart gets heavy and in my own way I mourn.
The memories that my dad and I shared are some of the best moments of my entire life. Sometimes in life you get in a comfort zone and you don’t really want to think of someone you love not being around anymore, but it happens to every family. I would imagine that almost everyone reading this column has experienced some kind of loss in their family and have felt the same broken heart that I have.
Cancer is a hard thing to watch someone go through. Because a lot of times in it’s advanced stages, it can be almost impossible to overcome. You can fight it and get treatment for it, but then you have to hang on and just pray & hope for the best.
And hope & prayer is what me and my family were fueled by around this time three years ago. Because there’s so much uncertainty when someone's life is hanging in the balance. You don’t sleep much, you’re too sick at your stomach to eat. You get run down yourself trying to be strong and you need support from those around you in order to make it.
The amount of people who came to the hospital the day he passed, to our home the days after and ultimately the funeral were staggering to me. I knew everyone loved my daddy, but I didn’t realize just how many lives he’d touched until I saw the line of people forming at the visitation. People were offering their hugs & prayers, while sharing stories of my dad with me. Some were things I didn’t even know about, because he never bragged on himself. They were things like someone’s mother had run out of gas to heat her home with once years back and a big snow storm was coming in. She was worried for her mom staying warm if the weather got bad, but she told me that Dad made a special trip working late the night before to take care of her. Dad wouldn’t ever tell you things like that, he didn’t want to be applauded for it, he just did it because he had a big heart & it was the right thing to do.
In the years since his passing, I find myself thinking of him more and more frequently. My mind wanders at the timing of everything that happened. If he were here now and still fighting his battle with cancer, with all of this covid-19 illness that has taken over our lives, I’d be worried to death about him having a weakened immune system. Sometimes, I find little pieces of memories with him in the things I see in life. The smell of musk cologne. The hats that snapped over the little dots in the back. There’s times I feel him in my soul so strongly it's overwhelming.
Last year, at Jackson Propane where he worked for years before his passing, they were so gracious to start a scholarship in his memory. The tribute that they gave to him in the write up to his scholarship was awesome. They were always so good to my dad down there, especially during his sickness. They loved him and he loved them in return and worked hard for them. You remember acts of kindness like that down the road. But last year, me and my mom got to go present the scholarships to the two winners down at Lee County high school. It made my heart happy to see that my dad’s memory would impact even more lives now, because the scholarship provides valuable money to seniors who are about to go to college. They’re doing it again this year, so please apply or tell someone to apply if they’re eligible.
That’s the kind of legacy he left behind here on earth, it’s one that I know I will be lucky to ever obtain. But in my life, I’ve aspired to try to have some of those same qualities that he did. Faith. Humbleness. Giving. Loving. If I can be half the man that Charles Dooley was, then my life will be considered a smashing success.
So this is my tribute, because it's something very special to me. I hope you all felt the passion I wrote with and I hope it touched your heart the way it did mine to write it. I love and miss you dad, I will always be proud to be your son.