Just came across this sharing written back in 2003. Don’t know if it was ever posted here, but just in case, here is my very emotional and insightful tribute to this gift from my father, also named “James Michael” . . .

My dad, James Michael Gleason, Sr.

As a young boy/man, I had grown up with a sense of “real men don’t cry” and prided myself on controlling my emotions, never showing any tears.  Even falling in love and getting married with a growing family didn’t change this stoicism.  It was the way of the strong man, or so I believed.

My father was a beautifully “simple” man in a very positive sense, simple in the sense of how he approached people and life in general.  “He never met a stranger…” would be a good description of his outgoing nature, also something he passed along to me. He interacted with anybody, always with spirited conversation and a sense of everybody was good and deserving of respect.  I can never remember his raising his voice in anger, toward me or anybody in our family of 5 growing children.  He always had time to share with everybody his many interests and they were engaging times when he did. 

When dad died of heart failure in 1969, I was the oldest male (26 years of age) in the family and supported my mother in making the funeral arrangements.  Even in this new experience my sense of pride in having no feelings continued.  There were no tears despite this loss.  Dad was 50 at the time of his death.  I had been at his hospital bedside just hours before he passed, feeding him and shaving him, seeing for the first time his vulnerability.  He had always been very self-sufficient, showing us all a healthy, vibrant life style of “can do” in everything he did.  He enjoyed the emotions of being truly human and wasn’t afraid to show that side of himself, although in retrospect, I can’t recall being hugged or told, “I love you.”  This was a generation that  didn’t express themselves in that way, but rather in many other ways.

On the morning of dad’s funeral, I was equally stoic, feeling a sense of manhood in being there for mom during such a trying moment without showing tears or emotions.  As the religious burial service drew to a close in the old church, I led the procession with mom on my arm, as we slowly preceded dad’s coffin down the aisle. 

It was at that moment that dad’s greatest gift was bestowed on his son (and I find my eyes tearing up even as I write these words, 33 years later..) as the moment welled up from deep inside, emotions of sorrow never acknowledged before.  Tears came to my eyes and for the first time in my life I accepted them without restraint, letting the drops run down my cheeks and fall to the church floor.  A very strong sense of pride came with those tears and I found myself holding my head up higher than I had ever done before, with mom on my arm, making no attempt to wipe away or hide those tears.

Clearly this was dad’s legacy to his son.  From that day on I have found great joy in both feeling and sharing my human emotions, yes, even the tears – tears of sorrow, tears of joy, tears of uncontrolled laughter.  I have come to see the sharing of tears as one of the greatest gifts two humans can give each other.  Every time such emotions are now accepted in my life, I offer silent prayers of gratitude to a father who gave this gift at his own death. 

My life has never been the same since, and that is a very good thing.  Today as I celebrate my heart transplant’s 9th anniversary, I openly share tears of gratitude for my donor family and tears of joy for the life I now lead as a result of both their gift and that of my dad.  In dad’s case it was too early to have been given that same chance since heart transplants were not yet available.  In my case, dying with the same heart condition dad had, my mother pointed out the fact that in my case we had a choice, while in his we hadn’t.  Yes, that thought fills me with emotions too, every time I recall it.

To download (a PDF document) and read a full testimonial to my dad, go to https://www.rjwitte.com/changeofheart/GiftFromTheHeart/Section2/chp-33b-Memories-of-My-Dad.pdf