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Today is a day that I acknowledge and recognize another true miracle that occurred in my life, one that changed me forever, and brought me to a place that resides far beyond my wildest dreams earlier in life. This is the day that my Dad made his transition, and left the physical plane of existence for parts unknown. The miracle was that we had become such close friends before he left. No one saw that coming! And then, in the short period of time that we had as such good friends, he taught me so much about how to live, and then he taught me so much about how to die. He died the way I hope to die. Joyfully. Sharing of himself, of his grief for his own health, of his questions and of his discoveries, with any and all who would be a part of his end of life process. He continued, and continues, to live on in so many, because he chose to not die alone. Just as he chose to not live alone.
He was a thinker – I saw myself as a man of action. I liked to do. He lived a very thoughtful life, a life of much reflection and intention. I dove headlong into life, seemingly fearless of consequences, following my passions until I’d get so burnt by life, and so burnt-out by my lifestyle, that I would find myself immobile, or stuck in neutral, hating myself and hating life for being so fickle. He’d always be there, reflecting his observations to me, and I hated him for it. Just shut the fuck up, you old coot! You don’t know me – you don’t know what I’m capable of. You haven’t a clue what I’m about, no feel for who I am. But, I was wrong, at least partially so. He knew a lot more than I realized, than I allowed for.
(My sister Juli created this print on commission by my father, for his memorial. He trusted her to represent him in a way she saw fit, and this is what she came up with. I love this.)
That we ever got past our differences to discover our common ground was one of the great gifts, one of the delightful mysteries of life that have turned me into a believer of the divine intelligence of the universe, whatever its source is. I don’t worry too much about that part (the source). I just celebrate the power of it, recognize its capacity to transcend all manner of disillusion and disbelief, to break down any walls, no matter how high or how formidable.
Our battles, when I was fully feeling my oats and he was struggling with his own ethical dilemmas as he’d finally made it to the pinnacle of a career, only to discover a disgust for the men in power positions, for their moral vaccuum, were epic and legendary. Those were followed by many years of a cold détente between us, in which we tried to reach out to each other, but always seemed to miss a solid connection, both with expectations of each other that neither could possibly fill. I would engage in battles in my own mind with who he had been, and who he still represented, but the reality always was, he was no longer that person. He continued to learn and grow, to move past the judgemental, self-righteous man he had been. He’d learned humility, and how to be there for another person, to be there for me. In my very darkest of hours, he was right there. Teaching me. Showing me. Without judgement. Loving me. What a gift this was.
As I learned to be more thoughtful, more intentional, more reflective, less reactionary, in how I lived my life, I learned how much of him I actually had in me. We were much more alike than I had ever realized. Most of those traits that I hated about myself, those things that I denied and tried to be something else instead of being who I was, were those traits that were similar to him. As I learned to accept myself for who I was, acknowledge my own fears and my own softer side, I came to accept him, as well.
None of this journey of discovery of self, and to that point of common ground with my father, was easy. This was one of the most difficult of journeys I ever embarked upon. But, I will tell you, the reward for the struggle was so well worth that effort. So much of what is in my life today – so much of what I enjoy today, of the way I live my life, of my having transcended my own fear of death, are gifts received as a result of that place where we found ourselves together, best friends, both amazed that we’d found each other there.
While I still do grieve, deeply, the loss of my dearest friend and father on this day – something that he taught me is o.k. to do – my memory of him, and of his passing on this date, is also one that is filled with joy and gratitude. I am always reminded, on this day, of what is possible in life, no matter how bad something looks at any given moment. Life is worth the struggle it takes, sometimes, to move past what we think we know, to what is true. As they say, the truth will set you free. It did, me.
I miss you, Dad. Thanks for everything!