Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Eulogy for Thomas Joseph Croghan, 26 May 1944 - 21 April 2008

Eulogy for Thomas Joseph Croghan, 26 May 1944 - 21 April 2008

(For his memorial service, 28 April 2008, in Clinton, NY)

I want to thank everybody for being here today. I’ve never had a moment’s doubt that a great many people loved and honored my Dad. But if I had, then the love, prayers, and all kinds of support that have poured into my family over the past few months would have put those doubts well and truly to rest.

Beloved family, dear friends, neighbors, co-workers - it seems like everybody who’s known my Dad and Mom have grown to love them, and have demonstrated that love in very real, very significant ways again and again in these weeks and months since we learned of Dad’s illness. From the bottom of my heart - to those who could be here today and to those who couldn’t - thank you.

I also want to admit something to you all. Over the past week, I’ve felt a great many strong emotions.

Enormous sadness, loss, and grief for the loss of my beloved Dad.

Deep gratitude and pride for the incredible blessing and privilege it has been to be raised, loved, and taught by this giving, humble, good man.

Overwhelming love, admiration, and concern for the incredibly strong, endlessly caring woman I’m proud to call Mom.

Loving affection for, and pride in, my brother Sean, who as his father’s son has served and loved his Dad and Mom with steadfast courage, humor, and tenderness.

Gratitude for the amazing woman who has had the remarkable good taste to fall in love with my brother, and who has juggled school, work, job interviews, and wedding planning with showering love and support on Sean, Dad, Mom and all of us - all with amazing grace. Anna, I’m so grateful that you’re in our lives.

Deep thankfulness for the amazing woman who had the…uh…remarkable taste to fall in love with me. Tina, I know this has been hard for you, and you’ve been a rock to me and to us. Again. I love you.

Amazed gratitude, as I already mentioned, for the love demonstrated for all of us by a host of dear family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

I’ve felt all of these things. But I need to admit to you all that I’ve felt something else this week, when I’ve thought about standing here in front of you today.

I’ve felt just a little bit scared and intimidated by the prospect of eulogizing Tom Croghan, my Dad. Not because it’s difficult to say good things about Dad - nothing could be further from the truth! But I’ve felt a little scared because I can’t imagine being able to do justice to his life. I don’t care if I stood up here and talked for six hours - you all might care about that, but I don’t, so make yourselves comfortable - but even if I took that long, I couldn’t begin to do justice to the life of this man, this giant.

Some people might look at Tom Croghan’s life and say it was a small life. In his nearly sixty-four years on this earth, Dad never had a lot of money. He came from humble beginnings in his Irish immigrant family in Utica, NY, and through a lifetime of hard work and dedication, provided everything his family needed to be happy and secure - and knew there was nothing more worth asking for.

He was never famous, unless you count the reputation that “the Croghan boys” had in certain pubs and taverns in Utica during a particular decade. Wait, there’s a different word for that, isn’t there? “Infamous.” That’s the one.

Dad never had authority over large numbers of people. He never had impressive belongings (though he took great care with what he had). He never earned the envy of those who value audacious wealth, status, and power. But he commanded the respect and admiration of anyone who knew him, and who knew what is truly valuable in this life.

You could call my Dad’s life small, but if you did, just don’t expect me to comprehend what the hell you’re talking about. Because I stand here in awe of the many ways in which this man - this man who mysteriously stood several inches shorter than it said on his Air Force papers - this man was a giant.

Tom Croghan was a devoted son. I’m sure his beloved brothers and sisters gathered here could say more than I can about that, but I know Dad used to go to the cemetery for hours to talk with his own dear father, the Grandpa Croghan I never met. And several of Dad’s siblings have remarked just in the past few weeks about the joy with which Grandma Croghan would greet the arrival of Dad’s red pickup truck for one of his frequent visits.

Tom was a devoted and well-loved brother. Every one of his dear sisters and brothers loved Dad dearly, as he loved them - and they showed it. Their children and grandchildren all had a special affection for Uncle Tom, and Dad, with his unfailing ability to relate to kids at their level - you know what I mean - returned that love. Dad would never hesitate a moment to go anywhere or do anything for his family.

My Dad was a dear friend to many, and I’ve been deeply touched many, many times during my life, by the fierce affection of Dad’s long-time buddies for him, and his for them. Dad was a man with strong, close friendships and lifelong friends. He was a man who would always, always be there for someone, and he inspired the same devotion in those blessed to call him friend.

Tom Croghan’s career was not one in which he rose through the ranks of management, but listen to the recent words of his boss’s boss:

I had the great pleasure of working with Tom for several years. I admired his work ethic, intelligence, and wicked sense of humor. He accompanied me to visit [an automotive supplier] once, and correctly showed a group of highly educated engineers that their drawings contained errors. They had previously stated that there was no way their drawings were incorrect, but Tom respectfully proved them wrong. I went to Tom often...to get his opinions on complicated drawings because I knew he was uniquely qualified to answer. I respected him so very much, and will miss him greatly.

Dad was not a man with impressive academic credentials or executive power. He was a consummate professional and a master of his craft. He was proud of his professional accomplishments, and rightly so. Many of his co-workers have expressed that they don’t know what they’ll do without him.

My Dad was probably the strongest man I ever met. In addition to all the other things he was in his lifetime, I want us to remember this, too: Tom Croghan was a drunk. There was a time before I met him that Dad was drinking so much, every day, that it could easily have killed him. My Mom recently mentioned, to the amazement of Sean, Tina, and me, that he first needed to get dentures when he got his teeth knocked out in one of many youthful drunken brawls.

But that’s not the man I ever knew. It’s not the man Sean ever knew, and it’s not the man Mom ever knew. The Tom Croghan we knew was the one who, by sheer force of will, cleaned himself up and remade himself into a gentle, humble, hard-working and responsible husband, father, and friend. Who gave up a heavy cigarette habit, quitting cold turkey and never going back. Who went to college at age 50, and proved what we always knew was true: that he had the drive and intelligence to get A’s while working full-time and continuing to be the attentive, devoted husband and father he always was.

Tom Croghan was the most loving, caring, committed husband I’ve ever met. He and Mom were lifemates, partners, best friends - in every way the most perfect example of a loving marriage relationship that I’ve ever encountered. Dad was the love of Mom’s life, and Mom was his. We, their children, are so, so blessed to have had their example of a powerful love relationship in our lives. As Mom has said many times, “We had the best.” Yes, we did. We did.

I don’t know if I can speak for Sean when I try to talk about what Dad means to us as a father. Actually, I know I can’t. Each of us has our own relationship with our Dad, and our own experience of who he was. But I know beyond doubt that he agrees with me when I say that Tom Croghan was the best father we could ever, ever imagine having.

Dad was never all that verbally expressive, but we never for one moment doubted that he loved us fiercely and unconditionally. He would do absolutely anything for his beloved family, and he did. Everything he did - a lifetime of dedication, hard work, and service, he did for us. With his natural, slightly bent sense of humor - so much a part of Dad - he was constantly making us laugh and making us happy, right up to the end. He was always there for us, always supported us, and always showed his love for us in so many ways.

A couple of weeks before Dad passed away, our Hospice chaplain, Michael, stopped by and talked with Mom, Dad, and me. At one point in the conversation, Dad said, “I hope…” and had difficulty finishing the sentence. Michael gave him some time, and then said, “Tom, that’s something I wanted to ask you about. What do you hope?” Dad paused, and then said, “I hope…the kids are happy.”

Later that day, I told Dad that I wanted him to know this, because it’s true. I am happy. But I want you all to know that I’m happy because I’m the man Dad raised me to be. When I think about it, I realize that so many of the aspects of who I am that people tell me they admire - they come from Dad.

Sometimes people say things to me like, “You’re such a servant.” Well, if I am, it’s because I was brought up by this man who devoted every moment of his life as a husband and father to humble and tireless service of the people in his life. It’s because I’m the son of Tom Croghan, a man whose effortless giving nature and utter selflessness I can never, ever hope to imitate, as hard as I may try.

I am happy, and it’s because I have a wife who loves me, and dear friends who love me. And they love me because I am a man raised by a giant - by a great man who led a great life. Thank you, Dad. I love you so much.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dad's obituary

Monroe, NC

Thomas Joseph Croghan

Mr. Croghan, 63, passed away peacefully with his beloved family by his side at home on Monday, April 21, 2008. A memorial service will take place on Monday, April 28, 2008 at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Clinton, NY, at 10:00 AM with Father John Croghan officiating.

Mr. Croghan was born on May 26, 1944 in Utica, NY, son of the late John and Catherine Doherty Croghan. He was a graduate of Notre Dame High School in Utica, NY. Tom's blessing in life was spending as much time as possible with his loving wife, Lynne and his sons Michael and Sean. Tom liked working in the garden, enjoying the beaches of North Carolina, and spending time with his family.

Survivors include his wife and best friend, Lynne Stedman Croghan, of Monroe, NC; sons Michael Croghan and wife, Tina Driskell, of Virginia; Sean Croghan and fiancée Anna Pliszka, of Winston-Salem, NC; siblings Mary Wilcox and husband Jim, of New Hartford, NY; Sister Catherine Joseph (Judy) Croghan, of Utica, NY; Edward Croghan and wife Linda, of Rome, NY; Sister Catherine Sean (Joan) Croghan, of Amsterdam, NY; and Father John Croghan, of Clinton, NY, and a host of extended family and friends.

The family would like to thank Hospice of Union County for their excellent care and assistance during this difficult time, and also Kevin and Michelle for their loving care and support shown not only to Tom but also to his family. In lieu of flowers the family asks that memorials be made to Hospice of Union County, 700 West Roosevelt Blvd., Monroe, NC 28110 or to a charity of one's choice.

Arrangements for the family have been entrusted to the care of Heritage Funeral & Cremation Service, Weddington Chapel. An online guestbook is available at www.heritagefuneral.net

Monday, April 21, 2008

Dad's passed away

Dear family and friends,

Dad passed away just before noon today. He was sleeping comfortably and peacefully in his bedroom, and we were all gathered around him with Mom holding his hand. Dad hadn't been fully conscious for about the last 24 hours, but when Mom took his hand just before the end, he wrapped his fingers around it. We all told him we loved him, kissed him, and hugged him, and then he passed away, as peaceful as any of us could imagine.

Dad continued to be alert and constantly cracking us up with his humor, until Saturday bedtime. As was the case all along, Dad's final couple of days were peaceful, free of pain or suffering, and surrounded by his beloved family.

It's with enormous grief and sadness that we share the loss of our husband, our Dad, our friend, but also with deep gratitude to have been loved and served and taught by this good man, who was completely himself his entire life - full of strength, humor, and caring for all of us.

We're more grateful than ever for your love, prayers, and support, dear friends.

Love to all of you.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Still very tired

Since our wonderful evening with Tom on Tuesday, and then a brief time out of bed for breakfast Wednesday morning, he has not had the strength to get out of bed as of this morning.

The Hospice nurse, Carole was here yesterday and drew more blood. As expected his counts were down and Dr. Traughtmann had to make a decision as how to proceed. His decision was not to put Tom through the ordeal of getting into the hospital to receive more platelets. He felt that the energy that Tom would expend would out weight the benefits that receiving the platelets would do.

Kim, the aide from Hospice, was here this morning and at Tom's request, shaved his face clean. He said that it was starting to get long and was bothering him. This is hard for us to get use to as he has had a mustache and goatee for years now, but we know that it is more comfortable for him.

We continue to enjoy the humor that is uniquely Tom's. It is these fantastic moments that we will cherish and remember. We are so very grateful that he is not in any pain and pray that this will continue to be the case. He is so tired that I think that he is surprised when he wakes up each morning. We on the other hand thank God that he has given us the privilege of another day to share with him.

The love and support that we have received from everyone is a bit overwhelming and we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

Tom & Lynne
Mike & Tina
Sean & Anna

UPDATE from Mike - Between when Mom wrote this and when I got in to proofread it, Dad woke up and decided to get up for a little breakfast/lunch. Mom made him scrambled egg, bacon, toast, and fresh pineapple, and he ate a little of each (actually quite a bit of pineapple), plus some Ensure. He was tired and didn't stay up for long, but it gave Mom a chance to put fresh sheets on the bed, and Dad a chance to zing us all a bit with his humor. :-) Dad's sleeping comfortably again now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Higher spirits, wisecracks, and a really good evening

It's Mike - we wanted to update you all - Dad's been in much higher spirits since Monday. He hasn't regained physical strength, but mentally and spiritually he's been much, much more positive and peaceful, and less frustrated and discouraged. Also, his sense of humor, which has been a constant (since the day he learned to talk, I would imagine) has been in rare form, and he's been cracking us up regularly whenever he's been awake.

Then, last night, Dad told Mom that he thought he'd like to get up for a bit and watch TV. We were amazed - that's the first time since this past Thursday that he's been awake enough in the evening to consider that - for the past several days, he'd been getting up for a small breakfast and staying awake for an hour or two for whatever morning regimen was scheduled (a visit from the nurse and/or home health aide or the like), and then sleeping the rest of the day and night, apart from brief wake-ups for Ensure, juice, meds, and bathroom breaks.

So we helped Dad sit up in bed, and he asked what was on TV. Mom said "Dancing With the Stars", and Dad groaned and made a face and made to lay back down again - there's that wicked sense of humor! :-) We helped him into the wheelchair and then onto the sofa, and we all watched TV together for about 2 1/2 hours! Dad was awake and alert the whole time (which is more than we could say for Mom), and then we helped Dad back to bed. It was a great evening, and Dad's spirits and energy - at least his mental energy, which counts for a lot, I'm learning - have continued to be high, which has been a blessing and a joy. We're really rejoicing in these happy times and laughter.

We're deeply grateful, as always, for your love, support, and prayers.

Tom & Lynne
Mike & Tina
Sean & Anna

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tom's strength continues to fade

The strength that we had hoped would return by discontinuing Tom's treatments does not seem to have happened so far. In the last week he has gone from being awake (with an occassional catnap) 12 hours a day to him sleeping about 21 hours each day. In the three hours that he is awake, that time is spent giving him medication, nurishment and attending to his personal hygiene. He is so very tired.

We continue to find joy in each accomplishment that he manages to complete. His finishing his scrambled egg this morning while sitting at the breakfast table was a task that took a great deal out of him. However when the job was completed Tom, Mike, Tina and I rejoiced. It took every bit of strength for him to do this and to us it just proved that he is still fighting!

Mike had planned to leave and go back to Virginia last Wednesday. However, he has not been comfortable leaving us at this time. Sean is coming back this afternoon and will stay with us at least through this week. Thank God that they have such wonderful employers that allow them both to work remotely from home and spend so much time with us. I do not know what Tom and I would begin to do without their love and support. Tina has not yet decided when she will return to Virginia, as her job is not quite as flexible. But for now she too is with us and continues to provide her love and support also. We miss Anna, but know that she is very busy trying to finish up her final semister in college so that she can graduate next month.

Again, we thank you all for your love, support, food and most of all your prayers.

Tom & Lynne
Mike & Tina
Sean & Anna

Friday, April 11, 2008

Long day, lots of love and support

(This is Mike, who was intending to remember to do this a bit earlier.)

It was a pretty long and tiring day for Dad today, but now (and actually, since about 5pm) he's in bed at home, sleeping comfortably. Dad's doctor asked our Hospice nurse, Carole, to take some blood yesterday for testing, because he was worried that Dad's platelet count might be low. The tests indicated that this was the case, so the doctor called us first thing this morning and asked us to bring Dad into the local hospital (10-15 minutes away) for another blood test and then, if the platelets were still low, a transfusion of platelets. After a little breakfast, and with the help of a Hospice home health care aide, Mom and I got Dad into the car and to the hospital, where they drew more blood. Tests indicated that his platelets were still low, and so were his white blood cells. The doctor (Dad's radiation oncologist, Dr. Traughtmann) consulted with Dad's primary/chemo oncologist, Dr. Brick, and they decided to have Dad stay at the local hospital today and get him some platelets, and then send him home with two prescriptions for antibiotics to counteract infections that might result from his low white blood cell count. Unfortunately, the platelets had to come via courier from Charlotte, so we were at the hospital most of he day, though Dad slept in his hospital bed most of that time. Finally, the platelets showed up, the mission was accomplished, and Mom and I (with the help of hospital staff) got Dad into the car, brought him home, and put him to bed.

Dad was really, really wiped out after the stressful day, but he had enough energy to sit up and say good-bye to his sister Judy, his sister Mary, and her husband Jim, who have been visiting for the past few days and are driving home to central New York very early tomorrow morning. We've all been grateful to have them here, shoring us up with love, humor, joyful stories, and lots of help and support both physical and spiritual. Our dear family friends Theresa (Ta-Ta), Chris, and Christopher drove all day today to join us tomorrow, and we look forward to seeing and hugging them very much.

Dad and Mom are very well-loved, and we're being supported soooo much, in so many ways, by so many family, friends, and neighbors, that I hesitate to name any names among so many. The list of people who have helped us just in very tangible ways within the last 24 hours alone is enormous. But I wanted to thank their dear friends Kevin and Michelle, who have been there for us constantly, in so many ways, for driving into downtown Charlotte tonight and bringing us my wonderful wife, whom I've missed terribly, from the train station. And also their next-door neighbor, Christy, who graciously and welcomingly opened her home to us. Tina's asleep right now in the bed in Christy's spare room, and I'm about to join her.

As always, we can't begin to express our gratitude for the love, prayer, and support and you all express toward us in so many ways.

Tom & Lynne
Mike & Tina
Sean & Anna