We are taught to believe that You are all forgiving. So forgive me, Father, for I am a sinner.
And I am sure I will continue to be a sinner. Especially since you took the man I feared the most on this planet away from me last Sunday.
As I am sure you know, God, Dad was a larger than life figure, not only at Old Forge High School and in the community, but at home as well. My fear of him wasn’t physical fear, it was a fear of disappointing the man I loved and respected more than anyone else I have come across in your world.
But as this week has worn on, God, I have come to the conclusion that Dad sensed I was ready to make him proud. That I had grown to be a man that could take care of my Mom - his high school sweetheart and best friend; to take care of his yard – only you know how much he loved it; and our pool – a pool I have damned for the past month because impatient Dad absolutely needed that pool to be open and ready by mid May.
(God, tell Dad the pool is open, and is only few days from being ready.)
God I am sure you have been paying attention to Dad - the Big Blue Devil to most – for most of his life, but if you haven’t paid attention to his legacy since his passing through your pearly gates, let me give you the run down.
The legacy Dad left to our tiny borough, school and corner of Pennsylvania was demonstrated on Wednesday night when his wake attracted more than 1,000 family, friends, co-workers, students, former students and even rivals to Ferri’s Funeral Home in Old Forge to pay their last respects.
I’m not exaggerating either. My sister-in-law Jen stopped counting the names in the registry book after she hit 1,000. And that number doesn’t include the numerous calls, texts and emails from people wishing to tell us how great a guy Dad was.
God, I obviously don’t need to tell you about the impact Dad made on the Old Forge educational and athletic communities. You obviously already know or you wouldn’t have taken him from us so soon.
You see, God, I was also taught to not ask, ‘Why?’ when someone special is taken. And I haven’t asked, ‘Why?’ because I know why you took him from us.
Not only did you need him more than we do – as evidenced by the fact it took him less than 24 hours to renew the Pitt-Penn State football rivalry as Heaven’s new athletic director - but I also know he deserved to be with You in Heaven.
Yes, he deserves to be with You.
Did we deserve to lose him? I don’t believe so. But life isn’t fair, and is not supposed to be about self. Dad taught me both those things.
Many have told us that Dad did not deserve such a fate – to die at the age of 64 after spending most of the last 40 years on this planet educating the youth of Old Forge as a math teacher, high school coach, club advisor, and Little League coach. He was supposed to now enjoy his life after working to provide for his family for most of it. He was supposed to play golf three times a week, travel the world with Mom, sit in the stands supporting the Blue Devils, and spend every Friday at the local “Coaches Corner” voicing his overstated opinions.
But I know better than that. I know some of the reasons he deserves to be with you, God.
First, Dad was the least sinful person I know. He was loving, supporting, loyal and treated others how he wished to be treated. We used to joke that he liked everyone – and he really did. Well except Tiger Woods. But that was only because Woods was not loyal to his wife and children as a husband and a father. Something Dad absolutely was.
Was Dad the perfect man? I am sure he wasn’t. No one is. But I am sure that he was as close as he possibly could be.
Secondly, Dad’s devotion to his family, his calling and to you, God, led him out of Hell and into Heaven. Yes Dad was in Hell. (We call it Earth.) For only an imperfect environment could lead to the downfall of a close-to-perfect person. And that is what this Earth did to my father.
Let’s face it, God, your teachings of Heaven and Hell should really be about teachings of Heaven and Earth, for I have come to believe that we – those of us not with you in Heaven – live in Hell.
Where other than Hell could a life like my father’s be cut short by a disease like cancer – a disease only Hell could spawn?
Where other than Hell could my mother now have to live without the person she did EVERYTHING with - the man who was the ONLY love of her life, and her best best friend?
Where other than Hell could three grown men turn into three weeping little boys as they saw their idol and role model reduced to a shell of the larger than life figure that they loved, respected and wanted to please more than no other?
And where other than Hell could the enjoyment of Dad’s first grandchild be taken away from him when he would have provided more love than any grandparent could give?
God, I hope I am not preaching too much, but let’s face it, I am my father’s child. And if he wasn’t preaching, teaching, coaching, embellishing, loving, learning, supporting or just plain talking, then he was usually sleeping.
On that note, God, let me conclude.
I will need your help during the rest of my life, because more than anything, Dad was not only my friend, but my advisor, my teacher, my coach, my sounding board, my discussion partner, my arguing partner, and most importantly my father.
Life will not be easy without him, but I know he is in a better place and is smiling down on us, dreaming about the day when you deem that we deserve to join him.
So, God, please give Dad this message for me.
Tell Dad I love him and always have and always will. Tell him I miss him. Tell him I will make him proud during my remaining days in Hell.
Oh, and God, tell him to let me sleep in on this Father’s Day, because I want to dream about him for as long as I can.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.
Note: The obituary of Richard P. Notari Sr. appears on page 62.