I lost my Dad on February 9, 1997, at the age of 77, and I expressed what most people do when losing a parent– shock, anger, sadness, blaming, and so on, but eventually, a new awareness came to me. That awareness is what I gained from my Dad's life and what he gained from his death.
Woody had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and Alzheimer's weeks preceding his death. So you can imagine the quality of life he was experiencing and the impact on my family, especially my mom and brother, who live in South Carolina where Dad died. As I had the opportunity to be with Dad for four days the week before his death, I was able to sense a feeling of oneness and closure between God and us.
It was very warm yet sad, and I believe that was the beginning of my letting go and giving Dad to God.
Woody was a carpenter, a master craftsman, who believed and showed a very intense work ethic and possessed the ability to start, build, complete, and perfect whatever the project. Woody was a deacon and a man who went with his kids to church, who helped build and help the church any way he could. Dad loved the Lord.
Woody served in World War II in a MASH Unit as a medic. Two of his Army buddies attended the funeral and said Dad was the best medic they ever worked with. Dad was loyal.
Woody had three sons: Ronald [writer], Larry, four years my senior, and Eugene, seven years my senior. We lost Eugene in 1955; he was hit by a car when riding his bike. Dad loved his boys, and he knew pain.
Woody married my mom on May 22, 1942. Dad was not much on sharing feelings, patience with us, washing, and cooking, but he loved mom with every ounce of this being, and they were truly soul mates.
Woody had fourteen siblings, lost his Dad while away at war, and had a 7th-grade education. However, he knew the value of a family, became a man early, and relied on hard work instead of formal education.
Dad was extremely proud of my educational accomplishments. Still, one thing I hope he knew was the knowledge he and mom instilled in me about life, love, family, God, discipline, work ethic, faithfulness, friendship, honesty, and what it takes to make a home. I learned wisdom beyond any intellect I could ever hope to achieve, unconditional love from God and my family even when undeserved, and Hope for the future for me, my family, and mankind.
I have come to believe that Hope stands for: H- Honesty O- Openness P- Persistence E- Example.
My daughter Carmen is eighteen, and her path has been laid. My son Justin will be two on June 16, and I also have another child due June 10. My Hope and prayer are that Carmen, Justin, and our newborn will be able to say a few of these things about me when I'm gone.
I love and miss you, Dad, and tell Eugene hello.
Love Your Son,
Ronald L. Key, Ph.D.
Founder of Woody's Home for Veterans