Gilbert “Gil” Wayne Griffith

11/26/31 – 4/30/09

Gilbert quote: “When the light turns green, you put your foot on the gas and go.”

Dad and Mom, 1951

That’s how Dad taught us four kids to drive. It is the analogy for how he taught us to live our lives as well. When you pick a direction you want to go in; you go the whole way to the end before you ever think of turning around and trying a new one.

When you commit to something; you do it; you follow through. You adapt to the challenges you face. Each time ALS would take another ability away from Dad, he would find a way to adapt to it. He never said, I can’t and gave up. He would say, I can’t do it that way anymore. Anyone who spent time with Dad in the last thirteen months had to have learned the lessons of perseverance and adaptability and humor.

And he fully maintained his humor throughout everything he went through.

Half-way never existed for Dad.

I think it’s why we kids know how to laugh with full-throated, out-loud, crazy enthusiasm. Laugh until you cry. Dad always got us going and didn’t let up when he saw us smiling. He kept going until we hurt from the laughter.

When Dad was diagnosed with ALS, I asked him if he would make a list of things he wanted to do before the disease kept him from doing them. He never made a list and at some point last summer I realized that what Dad wanted was just to keep living the life he’d made. That Dad was content to have his friends and his family visit him; to watch a movie that made him chuckle, to search YouTube for videos that made us laugh; to use Harry (his so-named speaking machine) to convey humor to everyone…all of this was Dad’s life.

The first time I told Dad that he was the best person I have ever known, he looked at me with utter amazement and disbelief. Of course, when I said it to him subsequent times, he rolled his eyes at me and laughed.

But he was. Dad was always the kindest, most genuinely-generous, easy-going and quick-to-laugh person I’ve ever met. He was infectious. As one of my coworkers, who met Dad only briefly at Mom’s funeral said: Your father is irrepressible.

What a great word to sum up the man. Irrepressible.

I bought him post-it-notes once that had a character sitting in a spaceship with the caption: “Rocket out of control.” That’s how his brothers always described his driving. But Dad always had control. He was always the strong one, the one to reassure, the one in quiet and easy command. He was always the driver in our family.

Although Dad hadn’t driven in a very long time, he remained the one with his foot on the gas pedal, making us all go. He was still the one pushing us to get through the obstacles in front of us, to face the trials ahead, to keep the path clear so that we could see through to the other side.

Terrible things like ALS happen and you never know the reasons. Dad’s ALS taught us to find the best in people and the best in every day. He taught us to adapt to everything that gets thrown at you and to accept kindness with graciousness and love. We thank everyone who took the time to be with Dad; it meant everything to him.


Read: The Idiot Grin