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  • Writer's pictureAustin Facer

Austin: Thanks to Dad's boundless love, I can find peace in his death

It’s been a very unique last few days.

That’s putting it way too mildly. I’m positive that I’ve felt every possible emotion on the human spectrum over the last few days.

Shock. Denial. Sorrow. Anger. Joy. Gratitude. Indignation. Peace.

Rinse and repeat.

Right now though, I feel something that probably sounds quite odd. I feel lucky.

Kinda weird for someone who just lost their dad, best friend, and hero to say, huh?

But how could I not feel at least a little bit fortunate?

In case you’re unaware of what I’m talking about, my dad, who was a respected and beloved sports writer and friend to many, passed away on Wednesday. I had the responsibility of letting everyone know with a tweet I sent about 6 hours after he passed. I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I dropped the news; I figured there would be some reaction from the people who crossed paths with him at some point in life. I knew who my dad was, I knew at least a few people would care.

However, the response I’ve seen has been breathtaking and remarkable in ways I don’t think I could have ever imagined.

Compared to my dad, I’m a nobody. I have maybe 500 followers on Twitter. But my tweet with news of my dad’s passing spread like wildfire. Within a few hours, more than 100,000 people had seen my tweet. A little more than a day later, I’ve seen scores of people reach out to my family and me personally. I haven’t bothered to count exactly, but I’d guess that I’ve gotten hundreds of DMs and texts in the last 24 hours or so. My phone has been buzzing pretty consistently all day. I didn’t know that many people knew and cared about me. The support has been so wonderful and unexpected. It has been needed and appreciated.

But here’s the thing: it has absolutely nothing to do with me or who I am. I’m happily certain that the reason I’ve felt such a warm virtual embrace from so many is because of my father’s legacy of love and kindness. He set this in motion with a lifetime of generosity and decency. That’s why I feel so lucky right now while also being completely heartbroken. Lots of people lose their parents but I imagine very few get to feel the love of an entire community when it happens.

I’ve heard loving, heartfelt, and personal condolences from all kinds of people. Media colleagues of Dad, athletes he covered, and people I’ve only met maybe once, twice, or even not at all have reached out to me. It has been very overwhelming to go through all the messages (and if you’re one of those who has sent me something, I promise I’ll respond at some point). The outpouring of love, especially by those who made it a point to assure me of how Dad felt about me, has made all the difference in making the worst week of my life bearable.

I know Dad would be stunned at how much love has come pouring in for him. He was that humble. So far, he’s already had a handful of columns written about him, penned by some of the most talented people we know. His name has been discussed on the radio multiple times already.

I idolized my dad and the work he did. I wanted to be him so badly. He always encouraged me to write and work on my dream of being a great writer like him. He was always the first one to tell me how good I was getting at it - which I never believed because even after a few years of this, I still think I suck.

Now, I feel like I need to say/write something. But what can I say about my dad after reading beautiful tributes from our friends, Patrick Kinahan, Gordon Monson, Brad Rock, Amy Donaldson, and Dan Sorensen? What else can be said about my dad that hasn’t been shared already?

A few things come to mind because we got to see Dad in private. He was just as wonderful as a Dad as he was a friend to everyone else, maybe even more so. I think the most important story I can share relates to his final moments on earth.

After rushing Dad to the hospital on Monday and realizing we weren’t going to be able to take him home with us, postmortem organ donation was brought up. While I thought it was a noble idea, I’ll admit it wasn’t the biggest priority for me. Dad was hanging by a thread when we discussed the possibility of donating any viable organ he’d have left. We would be forced to extend the situation until the optimal conditions for the donation were met. But I couldn’t bear to see Dad the way he was, unresponsive, kept technically alive by machines, motionless on the hospital bed. We already knew we were going to have to say goodbye. I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. I wanted Dad to rest. Looking back, I think I just really wanted to get out of that nightmarish situation in the ICU.

But I came around thanks to my mom and sister and a reminder of who Dad was and why he has since received so much love and adoration after his death. He would have insisted on donation, I have zero doubt about that. After all, my dad had been working toward and dreaming of the day he could get the kidney transplant he needed. He had been diagnosed with total kidney failure and had been going to dialysis three times a week for over a year. I don't think many people knew that; he refused to let anyone feel sorry for him and didn't tell many of the people who knew and loved him. Honoring his wishes, I lied a lot when I was asked about him from time to time. Eventually, when things got rougher, I started telling the truth about his condition.

Poor Dad had so desperately craved the relief he would feel with a new kidney and a new lease on life. But when we entered the hospital on Monday, that door closed for our family. A life-saving transplant wasn’t going to happen for him or us.

However, it became one of Dad's finest moments in a lifetime full of terrific memories. While I wasn't very enthusiastic at first and wished for a quicker end to his suffering, I realized what he would have wanted and expected from us in his final hours. Dad loved people. He loved everyone. He would have moved heaven and earth to be the hero for someone else that we desperately needed. I’m certain of that. I’m sure the people who know him well would agree with me. The donation was a fitting gesture for the end of his life.

So we waited two agonizing nights in the ICU until the recipient was found and Dad’s body had reached the proper status for donation. It came together at 2:14 on Wednesday afternoon.

It was a horrible moment with lots of ugly crying and hyperventilating. The tears didn’t stop when we escorted Dad to the elevator down to the operating room, with a couple dozen or so hospital workers lining the hallway to give him an Honor Walk. That, however, was one of the most magnificent things I've ever seen.

“I wish Dad could see this,” I thought as I sobbed and held his hand. I was so proud of him, as I have always been. We are planning on draping a Donate Life flag on his casket at a gathering next week.

Moments like those have filled the last few days. I've been riding tidal waves of emotion.

Going to the Salt Lake Cemetery to pick out his gravesite on Thursday was another one of these moments. After seeing a couple of spots that didn’t seem to fit, we came across the spot that had been waiting for him. It’s perfectly placed, very close to my grandparents’ grave, and with a fantastic view of Rice-Eccles Stadium to the south. When I realized that the place where my dad, the Greatest Pressbox Comedian in Utah, had brought so much hard work and laughter was always going to be tied to his final resting place, I felt all of those feelings again.

And I wept.

There are so many people to thank for their love and support over the last little bit. As a family, we also want to thank the many healthcare workers who so lovingly cared for Dad for a very long time.

We are planning on hosting a celebration of life soon. If you would like to share a happy memory or story about Dad, please send it via email to

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