Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Those of you who know me personally know that I've been away dealing with the passing of my father, Dr. Wisdom Franchot Coleman, Jr. Of the several stages of grief, I think I have gone through denial, reflection, anger, and reconstruction. You've probably already read the obituary. If not, click here. I believe that my father deserves a tribute on this page, and I also feel the great desire to tell more of the story which is not so flattering.
To all of you who don't know me as well but knew my father, please know that our family is so lifted by your expressions of love and stories about how Dad was a father, brother, or friend to you or just that he made you laugh or made you feel special. There was no one like Wisdom F. Coleman, Jr.
My father was 66 years old when he died on July 29, 2010.
66 years old.
The first and most popular question people ask is - how?
So, after debating whether or not to share more of this story, I believe I will try to honor my father by being honest and hopefully this information will benefit you in your own life. Here are the 4 pieces of "wisdom" I've learned from my father's illness and subsequent passing
1. MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR PARENTS
My grandfather died when he was 47 years old.
47 years old.
Unfortunately, he and my father had an argument before he passed that they never resolved. The pride both men felt also kept them from expressing affection towards each other, and when grandpa died from Diabetes/High Blood pressure complications, my father was left stranded in time.
Stranded to spend the rest of his life regretting the lack of communication and the unresolved argument. I can't tell you how many times my father shared this story with me, or how many times I was told "I love you" from my father because he never wanted me to go through life questioning this fact.
He didn't want history to repeat itself.
On June 20 of this year, Father's Day and my dad's birthday simultaneously, I called my father and told him "thank you" for being my father, for loving me, for providing for me, for encouraging and supporting me, and for being a great grandfather. Despite my father's mistakes, I would not be who or where I am today without him, and I felt a strong desire to tell him on that day.
I take comfort in knowing that I was able to share my appreciation with him before he passed. It was probably more for me than for him, but I sit here today with no baggage concerning my dad, and that is probably one of the greatest gifts I was able to give myself.
The VERY NEXT DAY, on June 21, my father was admitted to the hospital to begin the longest and last 5 weeks of his life. He suffered kidney failure and heart failure due to complications with Diabetes/High Blood pressure - just like his dad.
Well, at least not all history repeats itself.
However, I believe the medical issues were only manifestations of a larger issue.
2. DEPRESSION AFFECTS THE BODY
We all deal with depression - whether mild or severe. It is the most elusive of diseases because it lives in our brain, and with enough practice, we can fool the entire world into believing that our disposition is one of joy and contentment, when in truth, we are crying and screaming inside. My father was very good at showing people the joyful, humorous side of his personality. This was not fake - he really did have joy and was very funny. However, like most of us, we allow people to see what we want them to see.
I'm not here to judge my father. He had many blessings to count, but he also had many emotional storms to weather. And without listing all of them here for privacy's sake, please know that depression was the most significant challenge in his life. Every member of my family tried in our own way to help him navigate these storms, but the disease was persistent.
It is my personal belief that the mental and emotional strain of the depression began to manifest itself in his physical body - his eyesight, his ability to walk, his weight, and of course, his heart. In the end, after all of the struggle and the pain, he is finally at rest, at true peace.
3. BREAK THE CURSE
Why am I able to write about all of these things with such clarity? Well . . .
I have diabetes.
I have high blood pressure.
I suffer from depression.
I am my father's son. I am my grandfather's grandson.
While my whole life I knew my grandfather passed at a young age, I didn't know the exact reasons until recently. In 2006, I learned of the medical history of my grandfather, and comparing it to my father's and my own, I saw the obvious pattern. Was this all coincidence? Three generations of diabetes and high blood pressure? But, also knowing about the personal battles my grandfather and father faced, I also had the "wisdom" to believe that something greater was at work.
I believed there was a curse on my family. The curse is NOT diabetes and high blood pressure. The curse is the inability or lack of desire to communicate with others about our health and ultimately to be responsible for the maintenance of our care. In other words, DOING IT ALONE does not seem to work.
However, let me recap my recent life to you:
- In 2007, with a thought-out food plan and exercise, I lost 140 lbs. and have kept it off for over 2 years. Both my diabetes and high blood pressure are subdued - I'm medication free. I did not do this alone - I had and still have lots of help from friends, doctors, and loved ones.
- Yes, I have depression but DEPRESSION DOES NOT HAVE ME. I make a daily prayer to have the joy of the Lord be my strength. It's WORKING.
- I continue to tell my daughter I love her everyday. Thank you for that lesson, Dad.
But the only way I can do all of these things is the daily surrender that I am NOT in control. This surrender is the secret to my success. When I try to do it alone, I fall.
However, the life and death of Dr. Wisdom F. Coleman, Jr. can not be summed up in "he was depressed, sick, and eventually it caught up with him." That would be a crime. My father was an amazing person - and there are thousands of testimonies from the lives he touched to confirm this. You may have your many reasons to remember Wisdom F. Coleman fondly. Here are some of mine.
4. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
When I was a kid, some of my fondest memories are sitting around the breakfast table with my father for hours listening to him tell stories of his days in college and as a youth. I have never laughed so hard in my life. My dad was Superman.
My father taught me to respect every woman as if she were my sister, even though we had none.
My father taught me to pay special attention to those who often get ignored for whatever reason.
My father, rather than be concerned with the unpredictable life of an artist/musician, not only paid for every piano lesson, but ENCOURAGED me to become a musician - all because he knew that's what made me happy.
My father flew up to Boston at least 2 times a year to see me in concert, and later even more to see my daughter in plays and for birthday parties.
My father always wanted a daughter, but got 3 boys. When I got married and then had a daughter, he then had 2 - and he spoiled them rotten.
My father allowed me to walk in a freedom so that I could literally go anywhere, meet anyone, and do anything. I could go on forever.
I recently wrote a song called "Superman" which I dedicated to my father. Click here to listen.
There is no rhyme or reason why we are allowed to live or why and when we stop living on this earth. We are left to wonder why, and all of this writing is part of my own acceptance of what has happened. And because I also deal with the health and depression concerns one day at a time, I pray that I will be allowed to see my daughter grow up, get married, and have children and grandchildren. As for the so-called curse on my family, I rebuke it.
It was an honor to be called his son. It was an honor to serve and sing at his funeral. I will continue to honor my grandfather and my father by living life to its fullest and declare that . . .
The curse is broken.
Rest in peace, Dad.
- Funkyman, aka David F. Coleman "my father's son"
P.S. - By the way, he was an amazing dentist. :-)