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Tribute to Papa Hank

Yesterday, December 22nd, marked the 8th anniversary of the passing of my dad, Henry. I still recall with grief the morning that I learned the news he passed away. It was so sudden and shocking, and truly, when I think about it too hard or for too long, his senseless death still shakes and angers me to my core. But as time has passed, the acute pain has lessened, and I’m able now to smile widely, rather than cry, when I call my memories of him, and us, to mind. Yesterday I couldn’t help but remember what an incredible man he really was. I truly mean this: incredible. He actually CHANGED people’s lives for the better.
He was the founder of a restaurant chain, yet all his employees, from busboys to janitorial staff to corporate workers, knew his office door was ALWAYS open should they need to chat. Since his death, so many people have told me of the ways he impacted their lives: one woman tells the story of how he came in on a Saturday to talk to her young son, and help him make the decision to stay in school and eventually graduate, another man tells me how my dad stopped in the restaurant one busy Sunday morning to check how things were going, and when he saw how swamped they were, he rolled up his sleeves, went into kitchen and started immediately washing dishes. “He just wasn’t above ANYBODY,” this man told me. “I couldn’t believe his kindness and warmth. He was really one-of-a-kind.”
It’s stories like those–and there are COUNTLESS more–that continue to warm and heal my heart in the years since his passing. People say we–his children–are his legacy, but I believe his CHARACTER is his legacy, and rightly so. People remember him for the generous, jovial, humble, compassionate, hardworking man he was. I want more than anything to pass THIS down to my children–this way of being in the world, and of being with others. I only hope that on most days I embody his values and kind characteristics. I don’t always feel I get this right, but it is my greatest desire. And when I see my little girl acting in similar manners, my cup truly does runneth over. Even though his grandchildren won’t know him physically–and for me, this is a damned travesty–I pray his character, his LEGACY, will always continue to live on through them. I know with utmost certainty that my dad would look at what his family has created, the people his children and grandchildren have become, and be exceptionally proud.

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