Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

One Last Thumbs-Up Offered Whole Family Relief from Dad's Pain

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

One Last Thumbs-Up Offered Whole Family Relief from Dad's Pain

Article excerpt

It was a rainy Christmas Eve day in 1991 when the doctor pulled me from my father's bedside to describe the stages of death.

I was angry and in denial. Why wasn't I seeing a rainbow? Was it raindrops or tears causing the blur, the inability to listen and understand the doctor? My head was spinning. My heart was pounding. This couldn't be the end for my dad. No, my dad was strong, he was resilient, he was a survivor.

My dad, William A. Faas Jr., grew up in Lawrenceville and raised his own family on Shields Street in Greenfield. He worked in the cold mill at Jones & Laughlin Steel on Second Avenue, where his friends called him "Wild Bill."

Dad would walk over pools of acid at the mill as he breathed the toxins into his lungs. When he got home, he gave a thumbs up, saying, "I had a great day!"

He worked triple shifts to put me through college. Upon my graduation he gave me the credit - a thumbs up saying, "Your hard work paid off!"

Dad could rebuild a motorcycle from pieces carried home from a buddy's house in a bushel basket. When he got that cycle running, he'd give a thumbs up and say, "Hop on for a ride!"

When his grandsons were born, he moved to Erie to be close to them. With a thumbs up, he said, "I'll teach them how to fish and play ball."

Those memories swirled around my head at the hospital as I listened to a clinical monologue about mortality containing heavy, hollow words that echoed through my soul and brain: Denial (I was there). Anger (You bet). Bargaining (Please - where was the rainbow, the sign? Just let him live for Christmas). Depression (It was upon me). Acceptance (No). Desolate, incomprehensible words befell me.

My dad had survived lung cancer in his 40s after a lung removal at West Penn Hospital. He survived a cancerous optical brain tumor with radiation treatment at St. Francis Hospital. He struggled with seizures receiving treatment at St. Vincent's Hospital in Erie, where he also had open-heart surgery at age 50. …

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