October 7, 2012
Today, you would have turned 90 had you not passed away a mere six weeks’ short of your strongly-intended goal to see the celebration of this milestone.
I hope you are not too disappointed that God decided to take you in advance. Indeed, you will forever be recognized as having attained your 90th year. Born October 7, 1922. “Died” on August 26, 2012.
I, for one, am intensely relieved over the Lord’s mercy in releasing you from your hospital misery sooner than later. We both know your final five weeks on Earth were anathema to your personality. Enduring the constancy of poking and prodding by oft- unconscious and sometimes officious bureaucrats (but for one very special physician who was an Angel in disguise) was absolutely NOT representative of how you had independently and adamantly lived until that fateful but necessary call I placed to Emergency Medical Services on July 23rd.
I remain sorrowful that you were not able to transition more quietly in your cherished home lovingly built almost 50 years’ ago in 1963. That was your ultimate wish. You almost made it, though. I pray you are granted eternal tranquility in that regard.
For my part, I unequivocally gained peace from knowing we saw one another through to the “end”. Yes, after Mommy passed away on April 17, 2010 we performed nothing short of yeoman’s service – individually plus together.
Valuing our father-daughter relationship as we did, we supported one another in ways we were each able. You helped me and I helped you. We gardened and grocery-shopped. I cleaned and cooked you precisely 18 hard-boiled eggs on each visit. You provided tangible paternal assistance that safe-guarded your only child from more than one jam.
Above and beyond rewarding conversations across the past decade or so, we shared particularly meaningful exchanges during your final 27 months. Thank goodness I had the foresight to save some of your phone messages; I re-listen to them every two weeks and find a measure of comfort in yet hearing your voice. What a blessing to still have you here in this way.
On Father’s Day, I seized the opportunity to publicly share my “Top 10 Gratitudes” based on 54 years of being your “pride and joy” daughter. They were posted on Braiden Rex-Johnson’s website, where he generously offers people a forum to express to loved ones what they would have wanted to, had they five more minutes to do so. Luckily, I did this while you were alive (and on more than one occasion). Here goes my personal list – meant to inspire others:
- I am so glad to profoundly internalize that you and Mommy fully wanted me. I’m well aware many unfortunate children cannot say they were cherished by their parents as I was. It is clear you both loved me right from birth.
- Despite the fact that funds were tight for a number of years, you demonstrated a sense of honour second-to-none in always trying to make things nice for me growing up. You provided. This is again something not all fathers can claim; many shirk their responsibility. Not you!
- I fondly recall the many special events and projects you each created. Putting out your back building my sandbox is forever etched in my consciousness. Mommy’s creativity as evidenced by puppet show is also memorable. Remember how often we played Frisbees, shot basketballs into the hoop and played baseball catch?
- Besides which, celebrations like birthdays and Christmas were amongst our happiest times as a family. It is healing to think the house in which I spent my formative years is imbued with those qualities and not just the more challenging aspects that characterized our triangular unit.
- The trips we took – big and small – were quite amazing in retrospect. I recently pulled my photo albums off my child’s bedroom shelves and relished the pictures particularly from eastern Canada and the southern United States.
- Something I REALLY respect was standing at the side of your hospital bed as you wrested yourself back from death’s doorstep in 1984 – 28 years ago. My goodness. The strength and determination that took! You have my un-ending admiration for your sheer grit.
- I will never be able to thank you enough for the turning-point dialogue we shared about how difficult were my growing-up years. You took ownership like a man for the damaging impact that anguished time generated upon me. I have long ago realized many of the factors that led up to that despaired period for you and Mommy. I assure you, I am complete with it as you go to your grave.
- Although the extremely-long period leading up to Mommy’s passing was gruelling on you especially, I hope the ways in which I have since “been there” for you have provided closure on any sense of resentment you bore toward going it alone (in your mind) during that decade.
- Then, we come to the countless conversations in which you have amply demonstrated you “get it”. You have imparted your lessons well. Your stewardship of integrity, principle (not principal!), courage and excellence shall reside permanently
within until my own 112-milestone. In other words, you have done your job well in bringing me up right!
- Last but not least, I have so often felt SEEN and HEARD by you as the person I Really Am that I have frankly lost track. To recognize someone in their Essence is quite possibly one of the greatest gifts you can accord.
The Sunday on which I scribe this most soulful letter of all is Thanksgiving. How fitting. Dissimilar from the unabashed festival our American counterparts enjoy in November, Canadians acknowledge the season’s foliage and harvest blessings in a more subdued manner – which reflects precisely how my spirit feels on this day.
I am indeed introspective – variously grateful and certainly sentimental plus emotional.
Unlike the day of your Memorial!
We laid you to rest on September 22nd. You were surrounded by a few dedicated cronies and a coterie of my contemporaries. I will never forget who was there – as well as who was not – literally plus figuratively. You know, you can surely tell who your true friends are at times like birth, marriage and death.
My fervent prayer is that we – and I – paid you justice on that Saturday predicted to be miserable but that instead became imbued with sunshine and summery temperatures across the afternoon into evening as you rejoined Mommy. People reported my eulogy “hit it out of the park”. Yeah!!! That was my deepest desire. For all you did and brought with this lifetime, you deserved it.
Nonetheless, I am your daughter through and through! And we obviously both attended The Frank Sinatra School of Thought.
Yes, we sang hymns you cherished. Yes, we held your service at the same chapel we gathered for Mommy’s. Yes, we had benefit of the same moving pastor who supported us on April 24, 2010.
Beyond that, the day was mine to craft as I chose. Do you permit me a smile over the fact that you had no say in how we dedicated your life? Oh yes, you hovered in Ghost-movie-like fashion during the intervening month after you passed. I heard every one of your comments! Yet, I Did It My Way.
Still, I believe it was a very appropriate tribute.
While assembling the myriad mementos that represented your 89 years, it never occurred to me that I was constructing a “school room” of sorts. Our intuitive minister commented on this image more than once. A dear friend earlier this week likened my loving efforts to a “museum” temporarily curated. How fascinating! Their analogies make sense.
What I know for sure is it was exceptionally easy to find objects representative of the “chapters” of your life’s “book” – teaching, husband and father, cars, sports, gardening, household projects, collecting, etc.
In those moments I located a word that would characterize your nine-score years on the planet: multi-faceted. Do you like it? I suspect so! You were a man of many interests.
As you would also find resonance with my response to the minister’s intriguing preparatory question: If there were only one quality you associate with your father, what would it be? Once more with speed, I responded. Loyalty and dedication…
At your highest and best, you yearned to make a profound difference with the next generation of society. What could be nobler than leaving a legacy through your chosen profession? Never mind that you “left behind” a daughter who shall carry the torch of your core values until her last breath.
No, I did not reinforce your WWII summer truck-driving days, delivering Lancaster Bomber engine mounts to a local factory. Not to ever denigrate your contributions while the world was at war! Rather, I felt myself FAR more impressed by acts like your singularity in defending the rights of that black Church League baseball player in an era where prejudice and segregation were rife. Your Warrior Woman “girl child” is so thrilled you told me that story before you departed.
I cannot lie. By the time you succumbed to mounting ailments six Sundays ago, I was fatigued to the hilt. My body was exhausted. My spirit was spent. If not for my indomitable toughness (learned at your and Mommy’s hands as well as those of our pioneering ancestors), I could have been crushed by the almost-insurmountable burden. ‘Twas only iron perseverance and uncompromising strength that saw me prevail.
Now that you have crossed over to The Other Side, you have reunited with your beloved Annie (Anneliese, a name whose renaissance I have curiously witnessed of late). For at the minimum 58 more years, you shall be watching over your treasured “baby”. Dumple to you and Poupi to Mommy…
I promise. I will hear, feel and perhaps even see you 24 X 7 – whenever you choose to make your presences known. You will come to me through music. You will arrive in the form of thoughts and feelings. You will lend your other-worldly powers to my own convicted intentions to leave Earth a better place than when I arrived through a transformed humanity – one interaction at a time, as is my life’s purpose.
So now, Daddy, it is time to bid you a warm adieu all over again on the occasion of your 90th Birthday. Many candles accompany you!
Thank you for agreeing to be my father. Yes, I am of the firm belief that we select our parents. I chose well in you, given my path for this lifetime.
May the Angels have guided you back to Home and the dearly-departed whom you miss so.
I love you very much, Daddy.
Your ever-lasting daughter,