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Rest In Peace, Dad

NOTE: THIS IS FROM FEBRUARY, BUT GIVEN IT IS FATHER'S DAY, AND THE FIRST WITHOUT MY DAD, I FIGURED I WOULD BUMP THIS BACK UP TO THE TOP. I HAVE RECEIVED A TON OF MESSAGES OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS THAT THIS BLOG ENCOURAGED PEOPLE TO CALL THEIR DAD, VISIT THEM, ETC. HOPEFULLY, THAT CAN CONTINUE TO HAPPEN. TODAY, AND EVERY DAY, MAKE SURE TO CHERISH EVERY MOMENT WITH YOUR FAMILY AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.

LOVE YOU DAD, AND MISS YOU.

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NOTE: I can only go through this in one pass, there may be some typos, and while nothing in here is gruesome, it is a sad story, but I promise you it ends in triumph on behalf of my dad. This will be long, but I hope all who read it get a nice picture of the great man that was my dad, David Mark Lowe.

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My world is currently upside down as I type this. It's 6:30a in Austin, Texas on the day of my dad's funeral. My dad of 30 years, 10 months, and eight days passed away last Tuesday on the evening of February 8th, 2022. I was in a hotel in Los Angeles on the phone with my mom and sister, who were at his bedside, as he moved on to a better, pain-free place.

Things were not great in the days leading up to his passing, as he had been sick for well over a month, but there was really no thought this would be the end for my dad until the final hour of his life. The tragic and sudden turn was not expected, and I still haven't come close to wrapping even 1% of my mind around the situation.

You see, my dad never complained about his health, something he had to battle and deal with every day since before I was born. Whether it was his daily fight, or needing a kidney… twice. My mom (who is going to be so pleased to see me already awake, as she does not trust I will get ready this morning in under an hour) gave my dad one of her kidneys back in 2010. New life for a man you'd never know had health struggles, even if you asked. Unfortunately, not long ago, that kidney failed, and he needed a new one. In hindsight, it's sort of crazy we never thought about "the end" for my dad given his, at the time, pressing situation. It wasn't as easy finding him another kidney again, which was frustrating given that need, along with his other health issues. But, again, the man never complained, so it never even crossed our minds. He lived with the hand life dealt him, loved his family, his life, and everything in between. Plans after life, funeral ideas, and all of those details? Never discussed them. As my mom said, they just discussed living, nothing after the fact.

There was hope he was going to get another kidney transplant. After that, they were both going to retire, first my mom in early-2022, then my dad not long after. They'd move to a golf community (my family has lived in over 18 houses or condos in my lifetime, in only three cities… that is not relevant to this piece I am writing, but it is too insane to not share) where we'd celebrate holidays and enjoy life.

Then he got sick not long after I left Austin to return to New York City at the end of 2021, and things were just never the same.

A few weeks ago I was waiting to be seated at a restaurant and I received a call from my dad. He had meant to call my mom but accidentally tapped my name on his favorites list. He knew who he was talking to, but he was out of breath, the sounds of the hospital in the background, and when I asked how he was doing, he replied, "not great." I thought nothing of it then, but looking back on it, that was probably the first time in my life I heard him utter something truly negative about his health. But that was my dad, health issues were no match for him, it was only a matter of time before he was better.

That never happened, and I sit here typing this, with a piece of my heart gone forever.

It will take me forever to even begin to move forward, but the thing I am struggling with the most is knowing how much pain he was in during his final hours. I won't go into details, but to be on the phone and hear everything play out, it is something that has broken my fucking heart every hour of the day since it happened. It's not fair, he didn't deserve to go out that way, and I wish on everything it could have ended differently.

But you know what my dad is thinking right now? He wants me to stop the negativity. To him, nothing was "unfair," it was just life. So that's what I'll do, I will talk about all the good. Because with my dad, born on September 11th, 1960, raised in Aurora, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland, an attendee of THE Ohio State University, avid golfer, a fan of the Browns, Indians (now Guardians), and Cavaliers, husband to Nancy, and father to Jeffrey & Stephanie, there are truly so many positive things I can say.

I was born into my dad's life on March 15th, 1991 in New Britain, Connecticut, and (until the birth of my sister a few years later) was his world. He made me a Cleveland sports fan right away (yeah, thanks for that one dad), had a golf club in my hand before I could walk, and believed in me no matter what I did.

My dreams have always been ambitious. Whether it was attending an expensive out-of-state school, making my main goal of college to work at the 2012 London Olympics, moving to New York City with only a part-time job at Major League Baseball, or leaving my sturdy Emmy Award-winning job at Good Morning America to start over and co-create a fucking podcast, there was never just approval from my dad, but the push to go make all of that happen.

The most scared I've ever been to tell my dad something was when I told him I wanted to quit varsity golf after my sophomore year of high school to pursue our broadcast program instead. What a fool I was, because he didn't care, all he said was that he wanted to make sure I did whatever made me happy. He was in golf for 40 years, competing on the amateur level, as an assistant pro, and in the golf industry for over three of those decades. I thought I'd be letting him down by leaving behind the thing that fueled his passion, but that never mattered to him, just my happiness and success. That moment will never leave my mind, I even remember the spot of my house in Cedar Park, Texas that I was standing in when I told him. Back then, in 2007, I was a stubborn high schooler, but I remember that moment as a stepping-stone to a greater appreciation for my dad.

Last week, I was presented with a decision to make that you only think can play out in movies. It was a nightmare that no one should have to live through. I was about to host and co-produce the first-ever in-person version of The Dozen: Trivia Competition. As I got news of my dad's rapidly-declining health, everyone at work told me to not worry about the event, and to head home and be with my family (a gracious move I will forever be grateful for to have been offered). But, on the flip side, my mom told me to stay there and finish my work, as that's what my dad would want. He had asked for weeks, non-stop about how California was going, or if it had happened yet. My dad knew I never got to attend the Oscars in Hollywood when I was at Good Morning America, and that I really wanted to work a Super Bowl week. So for me to host a live event from Hollywood Boulevard, a few blocks from where they host the Oscars, during Super Bowl week, meant the world to him. He told my mom that, no matter what happened, she needed to make sure I finished my job.

Should I stay and do what my dad wanted to see? Should I leave and be at my family's side in a dark moment? It was an impossible decision, only solved by his passing. In the end, as many reading this know, we completed our live event, a great success dedicated to my dad, and I know he is as proud as he's ever been. My dad would never want to see me quit something, and while it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life, it might have also been the most rewarding, and I know he was watching down giving me a push to get through it all.

He was always proud of my work, but he was especially in love with everything I've done at Barstool, because I think he really saw my creativity and passions explode more than ever. It didn't matter who it was, my dad talked about Lights Camera Barstool, he shared our movie website MovieRankings.net with every person imaginable, told people about The Dozen, and bragged as much as he could about my job. It's something he really deserved to do, because, honestly, without his encouragement and belief in me, none of that shit would have ever happened.

The fact that my last phone call with my dad, where I heard his voice, was discussing a great career achievement and my, at the time, upcoming California trip, does make all of this just a little bit easier to stomach. We ended on the best terms, with the maximum about of happiness as father and son.

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We shared so many great memories together over the years.

We attended countless sporting events, from the legendary 1999 Ryder Cup to the Masters, Spring Training, Big East Tournaments, and everything in between. A tour of over half-a-dozen Major League Baseball stadiums in the summer of 2002 was the highlight of our sports adventures, including an incredible white water rafting experience in Pennsylvania.

When it comes to my love for movies, television, and music, I have my dad to thank. Our last movie together was 'Spider-Man: No Way Home' in December, but he was by my side for so many countless classics on the big screen. He took me to see Star Wars for the first time in 1997 when the Special Editions were released in theaters, he was there for 'The Lion King', 'Toy Story', 'Ocean's Eleven', 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy, and more. It was my dad who showed me 'Back to the Future' and 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' for the first time. My dad got me into 'Seinfeld', and, for some bizarre reason, had me watching 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' when I was only nine years old. Also, trust me when I tell you that the first person to ever fall in love with 'Arrested Development' was in fact, my dad. My love for Bruce Springsteen, a concert I had the pleasure of attending with him, was from my dad, and the first CD I owned was "Born to Run," purchased from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

From coaching tee-ball and Little League to our hundreds of rounds of golf together, I could go on, and on. There are so many more things I wish he could see, or moments we could share together, but I will hold the ones I do have close to my heart.

Do I have regrets? Sure I do.

I wish I had been more open with my dad over my mental health struggles. He always seemed disappointed I didn't share more because all he wanted to do was help me. Nothing scared him off, only his love for his son mattered, and he really wanted to see me get better over the years. While I wish I had done more to involve him in that part of my life, I can rest knowing that he was happy to hear I was actively seeking out the proper help and ways to manage what I deal with.

The only other thing I regret happened in the fall of 2019 when I decided I had too much going on to attend a Browns game in Cleveland with him. Back then I was not properly managing my stress, and the thought of travel amidst a few busy weeks scared me off from going to our first ever game at Cleveland Browns Stadium. We had been to Browns games before, but having only lived with him in Connecticut, Texas, and (briefly) California, we never really had a chance to go to a game in Cleveland.

…also they typically sucked ass, so it was tough to justify the trip. It was the only thing in life I really took for granted with him, which I guess can be viewed as a good thing. I always thought, "Hey, we will have another chance to attend a game!" Now I will have to live with that decision for the rest of my life, and it hurts a little extra right now.

But, in an attempt to keep this positive, my dad did get to go to the game with his childhood friend, Doug. That is something I know made him happy, because…

…this man loved the Cleveland Browns.

I'm happy I was never old enough to see his reaction when the Browns moved out of Cleveland in 1995. But the Cleveland sports memories began to form not long after, as, in fitting Cleveland sports fandom fashion, the first real memory of sports that I have is the Indians losing Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.

Look, we don't have many great sports memories together, and that shouldn't shock anyone who knows anything about Cleveland sports. He has some Buckeyes moments, and he did adopt UConn basketball with me (my only hometown team growing up), so there were some titles enjoyed in the Lowe-household.

But Cleveland sports, man. We got to watch some really terrible teams together, and even worse heartbreak.

Though, the greatest moment we shared together as Cleveland sports fans was obviously the 2016 NBA Finals. I was in tears as Mo Speights shot clanged off the rim and the Cavaliers broke the title drought in Cleveland. When we FaceTimed each other, it was my mom who answered as she showed my dad out on their balcony in Dana Point, California just yelling nonsense in excitement. We didn't get to share the moment in person, but I am thankful I got to see his celebration and pure joy as years of sadness were finally gone.

SIDE STORY: My mom, while not giving a shit about any sports teams outside of UConn basketball, lived through The Drive, The Fumble, and dozens of Cleveland sports heartbreaks. So, her awareness of "the moment," good or bad, when it came to our teams was as sharp as anything. As bitter and petty as this sounds, my mom never told my dad the Bengals made the Super Bowl, and I am happy to know that is information he didn't leave this Earth with (good for you though, Bengals fans). The last football game he actually got to see was the Bills vs. Chiefs in the Divisional Round, an all-time classic from a sport my dad loved so dearly.

Funny enough, we actually did get a chance to share a possible Cleveland sports Championship together only a few months later in the fall of 2016 when we watched Games 6 & 7 of the Indians vs. Cubs World Series together.

While the Rajai Davis game-tying home run was cool to watch together in Hoboken, New Jersey, Cleveland, obviously, fucking blew a 3-1 series lead and we got to watch them lose together. It's impossible to not look back on that situation now and just laugh. Honestly, if I added up the amount of Cleveland games we've watched together over the last five years, even with the Browns' mild success, the Cavs title, and the Indians being relatively good, I am pretty sure we have seen almost zero victories.

It makes me deeply sad that I'll never get to text my dad during Browns games again. From kickoff, until the clock hit zero, we would talk about the game, followed up by a short phone call recapping our thoughts on the team's direction. To not have the chance to experience that again is one of the worst pains I am currently dealing with because those little things are what I know I will miss the most.

But, those are memories I will still never forget.

Just like I won't ever forget all the time we had on the golf course together.

Outside of family, there was nothing more important in my dad's life than golf.

He caddied and cleaned clubs at Walden Country Club in the 1970s, before becoming an assistant pro at clubs in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Evansville, Indiana. He won the 1991 Connecticut State Public Links Championship as my mom carried my fat infant ass on her back. He worked for Spalding Sports and Ben Hogan during the company's golden age, with their golfers such as Justin Leonard, Mark O'Meara, Jim Furyk, Hal Sutton, and others winning Major Tournaments and Ryder Cups. From the Strata Tour Ace golf ball to Bettinardi putters (the Baby Ben!), it was always so damn cool seeing products my dad had a hand in making, help win pro golfers big tournaments. He then moved on to work for Golfsmith in Austin, Texas for over a decade, followed by Worldwide Golf Enterprises in Southern California, then ending his career in Austin, Texas with Octagon Sports and Sqairz.

My dad went to every tournament under the sun, met the greats of the game, had a few hole in ones, and shared many rounds with my mom, my sister, and myself. Health struggles derailed the top-tier abilities of his golf game, but he always, no matter what, fought through them all and managed to play great golf his entire life. When he was on, even in my best days with a club in my hands, I had no chance of beating him on the golf course.

It was always assumed that I would be "the golfer" of the family. But I didn't ever quite catch the bug, or the drive, to truly pursue that as my passion. In a surprise, and something that I know my dad forever viewed as one of his proudest achievements, it was my sister who became "the golfer" of the family…

I won't say too much on behalf of my sister, or my mom, because those are their words and memories, but I will share a story for each of them, the two most important women in my dad's life.

My sister always "played" golf, but never at the level where you'd expect her to compete in the sport, let alone just finish nine holes. She was into other hobbies, and sports, such as volleyball, especially in her early days of high school. But in 10th grade, she made a decision to give golf a try. My dad would coach her up and begin to help her shape her game beyond her basic, mid-level skills.

Here's the thing: she stunk. She was a bad golfer! She was barely a golfer, to begin with.

But her determination, and my dad's encouragement, shaped her into, quite possibly, the best all-around golfer in the family. After barely getting the ball off the ground, and three-putting if she was lucky early on in 2010, my sister left high school in Cedar Park, Texas in 2013 to go play Division-I golf at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. They worked hard at her game, not taking for granted her scholarship and opportunity. She was still improving as she arrived on campus, and it took some time for her to reach her peak. But the crowning moment, one of my proudest as her brother, and one that made my dad smile for eternity was getting to watch her and her team's live reaction on the Golf Channel to their placement in the 2017 Women's Golf NCAA Tournament.

She went from worm burners off the first tee, to playing in the highest level of collegiate golf in just a few years. I never really asked my dad how happy it made him to see her success, his golf passions embraced by her, but I know it lifted him up to unimaginable levels of joy.

As much as it pains me to admit it, with my dad no longer here, it’s my sister, her and her 250+ yard missiles off the tee, who is the best golfer in the family.

The other most important woman in my dad’s life? My beautiful mother.

The story of my mom and dad is one of selfless love.

I already mentioned it in my opening lines about my dad’s health, but over a decade ago, faced with his most serious crisis, my mother gave my dad a kidney. She gave new life to her husband, and to their marriage.

For love to be that strong, to risk your life for one another, for your kids, I can only hope to one day find that happiness for myself.

My mom is a strong women. She sits next to me, fighting back tears, as we drive to the funeral home. But her and my dad were even stronger together, and I’m endlessly thankful that I was raised by them together.

I got to talk to my dad in his final moments, and I told him that I would take care of both my mom and sister. But I know it’s my mom, and her selfless love, that will keep our small family, and my dad’s spirit, going for as long as she can.

Because in the end, that’s who we have to lean on right now, through this nightmare.

Can we just stop for a second and note how much my grandfather, my mom’s stepdad, Bob looks like Paul Newman? What an absolute stud.

My family will only have to grow stronger now. We will have to hit new levels of trust, openness, and love.

We will be fueled by our great memories. The small ones, such as simply watching Family Feud or Shark Tank together (not the show America Says on Games Show Network, he hated that shit and would want everyone to know). We took incredible family trips to Lake Tahoe, Washington D.C. (where my sister broke a small mirror in the White House), Orange County, Disney World, Disneyland (for a family that only went three times together over my life, we have a criminal amount of photos from there).

Our Christmas weeks and mornings are times together I will always hold close to my heart. The yearly watching of the ‘Home Alone’ movies, tossing on Bad Santa on Christmas Eve, and opening gifts from 7:00a, all the way through 2:00p, one by one every Christmas with my grandmother and grandfather. (I always gave my dad one stupid ass gift, typically food, where he’d look at me and just go, “what the hell is this?”)

It’s going to be hard to move through life without him, but every instance I get sad, I’ll do my best to hear my dad’s voice, a man who never wanted to see us cry, and remind myself of all the unbelievable times we had together.

Including, in the final few years of his life, getting to add our first dogs to the family with Lola and Mimosa.

I am not sure what to do now.

Life has been at a standstill since the moment he passed.

David Mark Lowe was a great man, and a better father & husband. I’m sad now. Destroyed over a loss so heavy I can barely move. But his strength and love will not only find a way to keep me going, but help me grow into a better person, and live a better life.

Thank you, dad.

Rest easy, dad.

I love you, dad.

Here is my mom’s obituary, including his page on the website of the funeral home.

https://www.beckchapels.com/obituary/david-lowe

 

 

I want to note the message at end about where to donate in lieu of flowers. I told you golf was important to him…

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the First Tee. The Greater Austin First Tee (FTGA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit youth development organization. The First Tee's purpose is to give young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to develop, through golf and character education, life-enhancing values such as honesty, integrity and sportsmanship.

https://firstteeaustin.org/donate/