Good Leaders: What makes your heart swell?

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My father died Tuesday, January 5, 2016. He was honored with the proper tribute by the angels at the VA hospital in Sioux Falls, SD.

My father died last week. He was honored with the proper tribute by the angels at the VA hospital in Sioux Falls, SD.

This weekend we said goodbye to my father, Ronald Arlis Batz. He died in the gentle arms of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“Pops” was a charming, intense and ornery man who put his full heart into everything he did. His impending death, cremation, and funeral made for a really hard week. Awesome and grueling all at once. Now, several days removed, my heart swells with love, appreciation and relief.

He shaped his legacy as a gentle, innovative veterinarian who took care of pets in their homes via Batz Mobile Pet Clinic. He was a diagnostic wizard with calm and steady hands. He loved his family, music, beer, parties, working with his hands and laughing at his own jokes. All three of his children are entrepreneurs and his grandchildren are all ornery, too.

Finally at rest

“It’s complicated,” was the theme of the memorial service, as beautifully reported by my youngest sister, Liesl. For many years we all walked on eggshells, trying to keep the family together through my father’s mental illness. Liesl was his faithful, mentally tough legal guardian.

“He was cursed by the triple-whammy,” my sister Heidi said with tearful courage. Dad lived with severe Bi-Polar Disorder, and coped with chronic pain from a spine-damaging automobile accident he suffered in his twenties. And, as a veterinarian, he believed he could diagnose his own aches and pains better than any of his physicians. With a lifetime of continuous experimentation, it’s no wonder his medications were never quite right.

Celebration and relief

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This is my favorite photo: My dad, with me and my son Ben - who oddly enough played "The Coroner" in the Pirates of Penzance in 2005.

This is my favorite photo: my dad, with me and my son Ben – who oddly enough played “The Coroner” in the Gilbert and Sullivan musical Pirates of Penzance in 2005.

My sisters assembled a group of professional musicians who showered mourners with Dixieland jazz and a soulful/country mix. A choir of his kids and grandkids sang as best we could with lumps in our throats.

Everyone who loved my dad secretly hoped he would mellow with age. But sometimes Mother Nature is cruel. With each passing day he became more and more frustrated with the injustice of his disease. He knew no other way than to freely express his anger, which pushed away friends and family. He found very little joy in everyday living.

But none of that mattered as we prayerfully absorbed the most poignant moment: the trumpet played Taps, as is done in all military funerals. And I stood in honor as retired officer Tom, from the VFW, presented me with the United States flag that was my father’s final suit of honor.

Goodness ahead

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Receiving and holding my father's finaly suit of honor was the awesome moment in his funeral.

Receiving and holding my father’s final suit of honor was the awesome moment for me at his funeral.

So now, I’m working through the exhaustion that comes from the healing waters of our tears. I am resilient; after all, I received his whole-heartedness and intensity. I am following his example as an entrepreneur…I love music, parties and beer. I love my family without anger, and I pledged in that moment to honor the Batz family name with goodness.

Good leaders let go of the pain and heartache from injustice to find the goodness in everything. And they let their hearts swell with love and pride for goodness sake.

If you are moved to action, we established a memorial fund for Ronald Arlis Batz:

Volunteer Services of the Sioux Falls Veterans Administration Hospital: PO BOX 5046, Sioux Falls, SD 57117-5046.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

1 Comment

  1. Karen Wittnam on January 12, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Paul, your mom shared the eulogy you wrote for your dad with me. I don’t know if you remember me, but we were your neighbors to the east in Hampton, Ia, when you were a young boy. What an articulate, heart-warming and authentic tribute you communicated! Indeed, your dad was a “mixed bag”! I don’t if your mom shared with you what I had recently told her about my husband, Don’s, rekindled friendship with your dad via phone. I’m not even sure how they originally connected. The conversations were sometimes encouraging, sometimes frustrating; but Don hung in there in the relationship. My Don passed away suddenly in August, shocking since he worked-out daily nearly up until the day pneumonia struck. I let Ron know so that he wouldn’t think he had been abandoned by his phone friend. Soon, thereafter, I received a precious card and note. Ron had the local librarian research the internet for our address. I communicated to him how much that meant to me and that was the last of our communcations . So I was shocked to learn that he had followed Don less than 5 months later on his journey to “heavenly places”. I believe they are both whole now and talking their heads off–about what I’m not sure since there is nothing to complain about or change for the better. :>) And, oh by the way, he was very proud of your accomplishments as he well should have been. And, yes, I can see how you have used your inherited intensity, dynamic personality, and desire to help and improve from both your father and your mother for good.



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