Sunday, December 21, 2014

When Sports Take a Back Seat to Life

This last week, we lost my Father-In-Law, John (Jack) W. Conlon at age 75 unexpectedly to a massive heart attack. It's the phone call that you always fear getting at 4AM as my Wife and I got last Tuesday morning. He was never ill, had never been hospitalized in his adult life, and so his sudden passing was a massive shock to us all.
Jack was a beautiful human being. I always knew that my relationship with my Wife's parents was beyond different than most In-Law relationships. We were close from the beginning, and Jack was always a warm and accepting person. He was my Father-In-Law, my friend, and a mentor. His loss is irreplaceable.
There are few people like Jack in this world. He believed in people. We humorously nicknamed him the "freak magnet", because he always seemed to gravitate to people who most didn't understand. He believed in people that many didn't, and became a father figure to many. His connections made are too many to completely acknowledge here, but will be done when I deliver his eulogy on January 2, which is when we will lay him to rest.
Of course, with his passing, I have only started writing again five days later, and with a heavy heart. It occurred to me today that we as a society spend far too much time idolizing athletes and celebrities, many of which who hardly deserve such attention and public love. They don't make posters and cards for amazing people, people who truly have an impact, and have given much to this world before departing. It's a stupid fascination we have, and we learn it from the earliest of ages.
People like Jack never get their public due. He certainly deserved adoration from the masses, even if you had never met him. He owned companies that created jobs, created goods that had an impact on our every day lives, and he led by shining example of what it is to be a man in this world. For every Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, etc., we only had our Jack. Jack taught us every day as to what it was necessary to be a man, to lead a family, to lead others, to give hope, love, and encouragement.
Jack wasn't a football fan. Hell, he hardly watched sports at all but to humor me and my ridiculous obsessions, but he supported me in everything I did. He supported his entire family. For all of our eccentricities, for all our quirkiness, he supported every bit of it.
He stayed married to his amazing Wife Joan for 51 years. He showed us all what it is to be a Husband, a head of house hold, and he did it right. He fathered six children, one who passed away as a baby to a congenital heart defect. Through his loss, he loved even deeper.
Through all his successes and failures, he was the same man. He provided for his family, and he loved us all fiercely. We can only hope that he knew how fiercely we all loved him in return.
When you go home tonight, turn off your TV. Hug your Wife. Hug your children. Tell them how much you love them, and how proud you are of them. If you are a man with a family of your own, love them and teach them, lead them to a better tomorrow because you are in it. If you are a woman reading this, do the same. Show your family unconditional love and reach out to those who need your encouragement. All of you go and change a life tonight, and if nothing more, do it for Jack.
RIP Jack. We love you, and will eternally miss you.

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