I still can’t believe Pat is gone

I am Sarah…..married to Joe, Nancy’s brother.  I thought I’d properly identify myself here since I forgot to do so when I shared a little bit about Pat at the reception after his funeral.  I think I felt pressed for time there and only ended up telling a story of paddling with him, and a few other things that quickly came to mind.  In fact, I had papers filled with stories and thoughts on Pat, and Pat and Nancy, but they were not cohesive as a sharing.  So, although I’m still not thinking clearly after shopping at WalMart with my 4 kids for back-to-school supplies just now,  I’d like to put a few more things down, and maybe add more as the days pass.  

The thing is, I’m stilled stunned by Pat’s death.  Pat’s picture is blown up and stuck on our refrigerator.  I am in the kitchen a lot–and still, every time I see his picture, there is a sinking disbelief.  Gone?  Kind, empowering, encouraging, capable, competitive, humble, thankful, forthright, leading, approachable, non-judgmental & non-conformist, fun.  I thought he was full of himself and had an attitude when I first met him.  

Pat was the kind of guy, I realize, who was sort of like your back pocket—one of those people that you subconsciously know is always with you.  I mean “with you” as in behind you (like your back pocket), and literally would also be with you physically if you needed him to be.  

There was the time  Pat saved Julia’s life.  Why did I forget to share that?  We were all taking a hike together in Montana?  There was talk of bears and what to do if…  Joe was plowing ahead and nowhere in sight…I tried to account for our 4 kids….Julia was on my right.  I could have touched her.  (She should have been on my left–away from the side of the mountain.)  And then, in an instant she tripped and fell–down the side of the mountain.  I screamed and there was commotion, while Pat reacted immediately and lurched and caught her by the ankle…I grabbed Pat.  With his strength (and in a compromised position) he pulled her back.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating.  He might have been wearing a cape.  No really,  I was shaking, and the aunts and I cried on the way back thinking what might have happened.

Pat wasn’t always exactly like a super hero for me though.  He could be a bugger too.  In the olden days he mercilessly teased me for wearing the wrong kind of shoes all the time.  I’m short so I like to wear a bit of a heel.  I’d be tripping along a path in Colorado or Arizona, or even around the block in South Bend, and he’d say something like “nice shoes for the occasion”.   I have to say it caused me to do some soul-searching about my need for heels, and I came to realize that it was good of Pat to keep making fun of me. I was silly. Honestly, I had a mini-melt-down packing for Pat’s funeral because I could not find my other comfortable, practical black shoe (small heel).  I screamed to the kids and Joe–please help me find it in the attic because I will not have Pat looking on me in pain, laughing at me in my too-high-heels.

Another thing.  Perhaps many of us got coached by Pat at one time or another whether we asked to be or not? I remember being mildly overwhelmed by Pat’s enthusiastic coaching of me as I was preparing to run a half marathon.  He spoke of interval training, and splits and heart rate, etc.  I didn’t want to hear it really, as I thought I was doing OK coaching myself.  But I absorbed what he said, and I poured it on as I approached every traffic light, and then recovered, and then did it again just as he had talked to me about–and I know I ran a better race because of it.  Really, I looked forward to Fink gatherings knowing I would get a chance to share with Pat my upcoming goals or training or next race.  He was so good about asking and being interested.  It was so nice to have this in common.

In the past year or so that Pat was working and studying so hard for school, I sincerely missed him at family gatherings.  I was disappointed when he was not there.  I will miss standing around the kitchen counter…talking… chopping vegetables or fruit…eating things with dip…Pat’s platefuls of food mounded high, eaten slow… push-up contests in the Hall’s living room (we must keep this up)… giving teenagers and pre-teens a hard time…taking the time with teenagers and each kid…being interested…even asking about guitar or piano…

  Pat saw the needs of others.  He was a servant.  How many times was he there to help all of us in our moves from house to house?  Anyone need anything?  From the kitchen? To my brother Eddie years ago when he was doing masonry, “I saw your mailbox was falling down, I could build you a new one (stone?  why didn’t you take him up on that, Eddie?)  Doing things without being asked.

I realize I looked forward to growing with him in the family.   I don’t use my back pocket all of the time, but I know it is there if I need it to hold a list or a cell phone or my keys or just to put my hand in.  I took for granted that Pat was always going to be there and I could tap him whenever for whatever.   As you have heard, he was the leader.   My kids loved Pat.   I knew I could count on Pat even as a confidante.    He was a good listener.  He balanced humility and gratitude with confidence and gumption.    He was hard-working without self-pity.  He knew his faults because he was admirably self-reflective and honest, but he was not stopped by them.  Pat was straight up with you.   I had the utmost respect for him.

 He and Nancy were going to continue to present me with challenges to lifestyle and priorities (not by saying anything, but by being themselves). They were working through their pasts and their future together. I deeply admired how they worked to be patient and understand and care for each other.  Even though they had their difficulties, Pat used to slowly and lovingly brush Nancy’s hair when we would sit around in the living room.  Who does that?

A person like Pat with a love for a person like Nancy, only makes the world a better place by what he has given and left behind.  I am thinking of Danny, Joey, Tommy and Laura in addition to all of the great stories.  Two of my most beautiful memories are of being on the sparkling water–fear, thrill, then accomplishment, thanks to Pat.  I call on those feelings in the move forward.

More later of music and lyrics.