On behalf of my sisters and brothers, I’m deeply saddened to announce the death of our father James Joseph Dolan. He passed away peacefully on February 11th in Dallas surrounded by his family. He was 85 years old.
My father was a participant of life, soaking in experiences, words and emotions and inviting others to join with him in the adventure. He loved Flannery O’Connor, Neil Diamond and the Clancy Brothers. He knew about philosophy and history and science. He’d zip into New York for the afternoon to see a show, buy a good tie or try a new restaurant. He started running in the 70s and never stopped moving. He saw the Taj Mahal at sunset and sailed to Europe many times. He appeared on stage at the Metropolitan Opera in Aida with Leontyne Price. (As he would say, ‘”True story.”) He was in the chorus and she was the star, but they both had their names in the program on Opening Night.
My father was storyteller of great skill and enthusiasm, playing fast and loose with the facts for the sake of a great punch line or a dramatic moment. My father never would have succeeded half so well in this age of instant fact-check and Google on every Smartphone. His tales of Glen Miller playing at his high school prom, running into Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller shopping on Christmas Eve and seeing The Beatles in Berlin before their appearance on Ed Sullivan benefitted from hyperbole and a few outright lies. But we didn’t care; we simply enjoyed the stories.
More than anything, though, my father lived his life with a generosity of spirit. Family and friends knew of his unquestioning loyalty, warmth and kindness. So did others who benefitted from his work on various organizations and boards, from the Boys and Girls Club to the Rotary Club. He was devoted to his church, serving many years as a lecture with his booming voice and to his alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross. But mainly, he was devoted to people, his people. As my cousin wrote to me this morning, “Your father was a real gentleman.
For many years, my father had a quote up in his study from W.B. Yeats:
We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.
Still water. Beings gather. Fiercer life. I must have read it hundreds of times, trying to understand its meaning fully, but I think I might now. As any family who has been through Alzheimer’s knows, it’s a dark, twisted and terrifying journey for both the patient and the family with a mind working at million miles an hour but in all the wrong ways.
But yesterday was different, my sister Julie tells me. He was quiet. Still. No doubt beings gathered.
What a gift. And a fitting way to end his fierce life.