It doesn’t hurt much anymore.

The memories that used to bring pain are now cause for smiles and happy recollections.

I don’t know what I expected. When my dad died almost 5 years ago, his 76-year life ended after one month of rapidly declining health.

Before that month, he worked hard both in his janitorial business and for the charities he supported financially and with sweat equity. During that horrible month, there were days when his death seemed imminent and other days where recovery seemed weeks or even only days away.

Before, he mowed lawns, cleaned offices, helped feed the homeless and made sure everyone had a little something to take home when the soup kitchen closed. Over the course of his final month, he fell, fell again, lost the ability to walk, lost the use of his left arm and then faced life in a nursing home with his ability to speak and understand waning and only very limited use of his right hand.

A few days after arriving in the nursing home, it was over.

I’ll never forget sitting on the side of my mother’s bed early that Sunday morning and telling her that her husband of more than 55 years had died before I could get back to the nursing home to feed him his breakfast.

I don’t often show emotion. You can tell when I’m nervous or happy and sometimes when you make me really mad. Otherwise, I don’t waste a lot of time expressing emotion.

I cried that day.

It wasn’t like I was some kid who needed his daddy to finish raising him. I was a 41-year old man who was in charge of a multi-million dollar business. I just missed my dad because he was a great man and I wasn’t ready to let him go.

I still haven’t.

There are so many little things that are specific to my dad that keep him alive in my memory. As a newspaper guy, I do a lot of business in quarters. Not once have I seen a bicentennial quarter that I didn’t think of my dad.

Dad collected things.

Bicentennial quarters, $2 bills, interesting ink pens, you name it. Don’t even get me started on the attic full of Mason jars that he bought at a garage sale when I was young. I still remember my mother’s stunned reaction that day as he was happily unloading his pickup truck and taking box after box of glassware up into our attic. The jars stayed there until after he died. I’m not sure if anyone ever went back into the attic in the three decades after dad filled it with glass. I think it always made my dad happy to know those jars were up there.

I’m not a collector, but I’m glad my dad was. Now when I see a bicentennial quarter, $2 bill or even a Mason jar it gives me a chance to remember him.

I will never be the man my father was. Much like the horizon, that finish line is simply unreachable.

But everything I do to try to be more like him makes the world a better place.

I don’t think I will ever get used to my dad being gone. But I am glad he left behind little pieces of himself to remind me of the man he was to the rest of the world and the father he was to me.

— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at kent.bush@news-star.com.