My dad passed away early this morning. He was 91 and had Alzheimer’s. He and my mother were married for 58 wonderful years, having raised two loving sons with three wonderful grandchildren.
I know most eulogies start with a biography, but what I believe is far more important than where Arthur Lane grew up (New York City) and what he did for a living (stock broker) is the impact he had on those around him.
You see, my dad was one of the four “Lane boys” brothers. That term doesn’t mean much to most of you, but to my grandmother, mother, and three aunts, it meant the world. And that was because the “Lane boys” (and their father, my Grandpa Moe Lane), were the sweetest, most honest, loving, decent and dedicated men you could ever hope to meet.
You’ve probably heard some folks described as “absolutely the nicest person in the world.” In the case of my father and his three brothers and their father, that was almost an understatement! These five amazing men were all incredible husbands, loving and supportive fathers, and stand-out role models for their sons and daughters.
I know that some folks on Facebook try very hard to paint Jonathan as somehow nefarious or [insert random insult here]. Welcome to modern life. But those in the fan community who know me even a little are solidly aware that I am generous, supportive, encouraging, courteous, and always willing to help if I can. And let me assure you all: I got that from my father (and Mom, too!). I am a “Lane boy,” too…as is my brother David and all of my cousins, both male and female. We’re equally dedicated to our wives and children (and in a few cases, grandchildren), to helping friends, and just generally being nice and pleasant to people.
I thank my dad (and mom) for making me who I am today—and for making me in the first place! Dad showed me through a beautiful example, day after day of my entire life, how to be a wonderful father and husband…and ultimately a grandfather, too.
There’s an autobiographical song by the late singer/songwriter HARRY CHAPIN titled Shooting Star, and the chorus starts off with these two lines…
“Oh, he was the sun, burning bright and brittle,
And she was the moon, shining back his light a little.”
My dad wasn’t the sun. He didn’t burn bright. But those around him did. My mother, who studied to become a reading and phonics specialist and helped teach hundreds of learning disabled children to read (she still tutors several children via Skype even now at the age of 82!)…she burned brightly. My brother David, who started a small business with me in 1993 that went on to win over 70 industry awards, who had two daughters and coached each of their softball teams with obsessive gusto for countless seasons…he burned brightly. And Jonathan, who graduated from Cornell University, won the first-ever advertising CLIO award given to an interactive multimedia project, traveled to Antarctica, worked for Willy Wonka, wrote two professionally published books, wrote and produced a short independent film, and even became a professional Star Trek fan working for Paramount licensing…I burned brightly.
And all the time, my dad was the moon, shining back all of our light a little.
He was always—ALWAYS!—there for each of us, through triumph and tragedy, successes and failures, struggle and achievement. He cheered us on, celebrated our accomplishments, mourned our losses with us, and always made certain that we all knew how special we were and how much we were loved. He was in the stands cheering when my brother and (later) his daughters would compete on the baseball diamond. He went to every one of my (many!) high school plays and musicals with his video camera in hand…never missing even one. He displayed my artwork and photos around his home. He read my Being Santa Claus book multiple times and keep it proudly and prominently on his shelf to show to friends when they visited, “showing off” his son, the author.
And with Mom, when her dozens and dozens (and dozens!) of students were still coming to my parents’ home in Boulder, CO for tutoring sessions, Dad would play with the younger siblings in the living room so their parents didn’t have to worry about finding childcare during the tutoring appointments. Everyone loved Arthur, both young and old. Kids without siblings wanted my dad to sit with them while they read, showing off all they’d learned. And Dad never once complained about hearing the same books read aloud over and over and over again, year after year after year after year. Dad would just sit there, smiling, listening, giving praise, and even sharing some of the out-loud reading himself. I can’t begin to count the number of children who overcame illiteracy to become accomplished readers while my father gently cheered each one on…just as he had for my brother, my mother, and me.
Dad was the moon for all of us, shining back our light with a beautiful reflective glow of his own. And even when he wasn’t there in the stands or the audience or at the tutoring table, we still felt his presence, just like the moon when it’s not lit by the sun, or when there’s only a slender silver crescent. The moon is still there, it is still felt, its gravity and mavity lifting the tides even from far away.
And that is how I will remember my father.
I will remember all the smiles, the laughter, the encouraging words, the gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) nagging. I will remember all of the “I love you’s” and “I love you, too’s” that ended nearly every phone call and punctuated each goodbye. I will remember the hugs and kisses, both from the man who held me in his arms while I was learning to swim, and the man who wished me luck just before driving away as I began a new life adventure at college.
I will remember the man who believed in and comforted me after every broken heart. I will remember the man who could dance like Arthur Murray (he almost taught there!) and spun my mother on the dance floor at my wedding. I will remember the man who held our infant son Jayden in his arms just like he held me, and celebrated every amazing thing Jayden ever did, even from 900 miles away in Boulder.
But most of all, I will remember my last hug with my father.
On Saturday, November 18, my father was rushed to the hospital when he’d entered a delirium and became unresponsive. Worried that he’d had a stroke, it turned out to be COVID…which is not good for a 91-year-old with heart issues and growing dementia.
Mom also tested positive, but (coincidentally) I’d contracted COVID for the first time two weeks earlier and was now enjoying 2-3 months of practical immunity. With my brother and his family, who also live in Boulder, out of town for the week visiting my brother’s in-laws for Thanksgiving, I quickly flew from L.A. to Denver to spend the week helping my parents.
Dad’s baseline condition had dropped significantly, and he was barely eating and instead just sleeping most of the time while he was in the hospital. The following Saturday, he was discharged to a nearby rehab facility. By this point, David and his family were flying back, and I was about to return to Los Angeles.
With Mom staying home due to her testing positive for COVID, I headed to the rehab center with some clothes and other personal items for Dad. While the nurses got everything packed away in Dad’s new room, I spent the next 75 minutes filling out what felt like endless paperwork, with Dad asleep and me just outside the door.
It was frustrating to be so close to my father and yet so far, and as the minutes ticked by and reminders started to appear on my phone of my scheduled rental car return. I began to accept that I wouldn’t get much time to be with Dad before having to make the 50-minute drive from Boulder to the Denver Airport.
As we finally finished up, I looked at my watch and realized that I only had enough time left to say a quick good-bye. I entered Dad’s room to find him asleep, lying on his back. I kneeled down at his bedside, putting my hands on his shoulders. The unexpected touch led him to wake up a little. With Dad opening his eyes to look at me, I leaned in close and said, “Hey there, Dad. I need to leave for the airport now. David is back, and he’ll be in to see you tomorrow, and Mom will come as soon as she tests negative for COVID.” Honestly, I don’t know whether he understood any of that, but I told him anyway.
“So I need to go,” I said as I reached my hands gently around both of his shoulders to touch his back. “But I love you, Dad.”
Suddenly, I felt Dad’s left hand reach up around my shoulder to hug me back. “I love you, too,” he said weakly.
It was the first full sentence I’d heard him complete since I’d arrived six days earlier. I kissed his stubble-covered cheek, thinking, “I really hope they give him a shave. Dad isn’t Dad if he’s not clean-shaven.” And then I thought, “This could be the last time I see my father alive,” and I stopped thinking about prickly whiskers. I kissed him again and slowly let go. And so did he.
The next week back in Los Angeles was a little surreal, receiving updates on Dad’s condition and course of treatment from my brother and Mom…and they weren’t encouraging. At the end of life, many Alzheimer’s patients stop eating. It might be the body’s way of saying, “It’s time, let me go…” and malnutrition is the only way the body can hasten its end. Whatever the case, Dad had stopped eating, and we decided not to try to keep him alive with an IV drip or other life-extending measures. It was a tough decision, but my brother said that Dad’s awareness had faded into almost nothing, and he was now barely even opening his eyes. By the following Saturday, hospice personnel had been called in.
Dad passed away peacefully in his sleep sometime between midnight and 2am Colorado. I’ll be flying back tomorrow morning.
I don’t regret not being there for my father’s final breath. None of us were. Somehow, I think my father was too considerate to make any of family go through that, so he left in the middle of the night. But I had my Thanksgiving week visits with him in the hospital and, of course, our final hug.
I also have 56 years of having Dad in my world in such a significant and important way. While his loss hurts us all deeply, those feelings of sadness came only at the end of a life filled with love, happiness, kindness, compassion, and the wholeness of family.
My father is gone now, and so I can no longer see the moon right now. But somehow, I know it is still up there, circling, waiting for its next chance to shine back the light it reflects upon me. And maybe, every so often, I’ll look up toward the night sky and say, “I love you, too, Dad. I love you, too.”