Heroes are people that we look up to, who made imprints on our lives, and who have done amazing things with their own lives. One of the biggest inspirations in my life was my grandfather. I was a lucky child because I grew up with one of my many heroes in my house. My grandfather was a man of few words, but when you were being a dumb ass he would sure tell you and then not talk to you for a few days until you figured it out.
His name was John A. Feola. He lived in Cooperstown, New York during the depression where his mother died when he was eleven years old. His brothers and sister were split into foster homes, and his younger brother (Frances), older brother (Anthony), and him were left with their abusive alcoholic father. He and Anthony were forced to drop out of school at eighth grade to help with bills.
He was a soldier in the 25th Infantry Division stationed in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Guadocanal December 1942-January 1943 launching an attacking and defeating strong Japanese forces, participated in extended combat into other Solomon Islands, which led to the Philippines in January 1945. The 25th Infantry Division held a record of 165 consecutive days in combat fighting. That line seems simple. Just another line in a history book, but for the people who lived it, they got to see the best and worst sides of man kind. My grandfather was discharged before the war ended. He married and created a family – two daughters, two sons, and a third son who was his nephew that he adopted (his sister’s son who she had out of wedlock – a scandal back in those days). He had a life full of loss and hardships, but his family meant everything to him, and he was willing to sacrifice anything for them. Whether it was working three jobs when he was married to make ends meet, to helping his father keep the rest of his siblings together.
On this day, eighteen years, ago my family lost him very suddenly in the afternoon to a heart attack. That image will be forever ingrained in my mind as I heard a loud thud hit the ground. Chaos ensued as ten year old me and my six year old brother grabbed our parents who did everything they could to save him till the ambulance got there. In this world you never know what is going to happen one minute to the next. Right before my grandfather had the heart attack he was sneaking around corners scarring me and my brother. He was a healthy man who still drove (well), had no health problems besides slight diabetes, which he controlled by his diet, and then suddenly he was gone.
Music can be a great healing power when we are sad or happy. I am a big fan of Dane Schmidt (Jamestown Story). He has an acoustic sound with heartfelt lyrics from poems that make memories flood back as you are listening to his music. With Jamestown Story you can get lost in your own thought and start crying or laughing for no reason other then a memory. The song “Don’t Say Goodbye” has been on my mind lately and I know it sounds more like a break up song, but all music is up for interpretation, and to me this song is really made for anyone who has ever loved someone and lost them. It can be hard to let someone go once they gone because it seems like a piece of you is missing. I know as a child, I started acting out a lot right after I lost my grandfather. I flipped out on my cousin after she asked why I wasn’t crying at the funeral. I almost failed a grade because I wasn’t doing my school work and the only reason the instructor pushed me through was because of “social necessity.”
Everyone deals with grief differently. For me listening to music or being in a dance studio getting lost in movement are my ways of letting go of that pain. Just like my grandfather, family to me is more important then anything in the world. Those people that you think will always be there can be gone in a blink of an eye. You need to cherish everyday you have with them because you don’t know when it is going to be your last. We in society need to learn to cherish people not things, not celebrity, not status. We need fight for those who love us and those we love. So, I leave you with this thought: Loss is apart of life, but if we make love the stronger part of our lives family can get you through anything. John A. Feola was the most selfless person I have ever had the privilege of knowing. He is a hero in ever sense of the word, and I know I will never truly need to say goodbye because he is forever apart of my life. I hope someday I can be half as selfless as this man who forever change my life.