Sunday, March 04, 2007
Daddy Minx, R.I.P.
My father died last Monday as many of you know. Thank you for all your kind e-mails and thoughts my friends in blogland...and aren't these flowers incredible? This is one of the prettiest arrangements I've ever seen and it contains two of my very favourite flowers, thanks to Mister Anchovy and Tuffy P for these beautiful flowers.
I used to publish and write a zine in the early 90's and a couple of times I included some of my dads photos in the zine and I always credited him with "Daddy Minx" which delighted him and gave him quite the chuckle. He was a jock, a military man through and through, enjoyed a bit of travel and time on the squash court or the golf course. He loved The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Louis Jordan and the Tippany Five and jazz, rock and blues in general. He was an active man and his developing symptoms of ALS challenged him but he did not go gently into that good night. I could write a lot of things about him...but again, I am working on his obituary but it is not my intention to publish his obituary here...instead, here is an e-mail I recieved and later, my response...
No, I didn't know. Sorry Candy. But from what I've read of that disease, I'd think coming to the end and shedding the body would be a desire, and a blessing.
The biggest thing when one of ours dies, is what we didn't finish, wind up, mend, or say. Took me 4-5 years to come to good terms with with dad after he died very quickly one day. I was 21, and I'd spent most of my life in contention with him. It was like leaning against something, then when it disappears, you fall over. It can all be fixed though, I know that.
Good luck through that Candy. For the first few days, he's still close, nearby, and wants to make it all better.
Oh K, I am so sorry your dad died when you were so young. I can imagine that is quite a burden. It was really wonderful and kind of you to write and share your insight with me. You know, I have a few friends who were young when thier parent died and they had a similar feeling of guilt over contentions and differences of opinons with their parents. My god, who as a teen or young adult hasn't butted heads with their parents ideologies and morals? The way I see it, is that the soul of the deceased parent knows this energy of youth and of a rigorous mind and that is not held against them in a higher court.
I guess I am lucky, in that there weren't any loose strings between my dad and I. And listen K, I know how it feels to have contentions with a father. My dad and I often disagreed about Canadian politics, spirituality, duties...and more...it's tough when ones core moral beliefs are different than ones parents. But, even when my dad and I disagreed...we had taken the time to talk it all out. I grew up with a lot of therapy and soul searching which made me a very open person with my emotions and morals and ethics...and my parents were of the "me decade" so right away it was natural for us to be at odds...most of the time we could laugh it off...or agree to disagree. My dad was in the military...and there is a stereotype that kids in military families are rebelious and what not. It's not actually true, we are very submisive to our parents and tend to follow the "norm" of behaviour in society. You could say it was drilled into us ha ha. My dad and I were very close and quite similar in nature and we knew exactly how each other felt about each other and exactly where we parted in ideas. It's true that my father began pulling away from the family and family activities in the last five-ten years...none of us understood it, and he said things that hurt terribly in these years, but luckily...we at least talked about those things. Sometimes, looking back I wonder if his change in behaviour or attitude to the family was related to his oncoming symptoms of ALS?
I guess you didn't know K, I was just with my dad a couple of weeks ago and we had many late evening conversations. Near the end of his life my father had reverted to his night owl ways of his youth and I saw him all night long in his hospital room. When we were a young family, my father attended university and I used to stay up late making his instant coffee while he played records and studied. Those memories came alive recently in the hospital room. He was very happy to see me and very energetic and wanting to talk. I never had any loose ends with my dad ( well you know how I am in e-mails, my blog, my bookclubs, I'm the same in person, heh heh I talk about my feelings and ideas-maybe too much!)...and if anything...it was my father who had unresolved issues in his last days...but we were able to talk them out. Oh plus K...he loved me so much...he was so happy to see me.
Like you say, because of his condition with the symptoms of ALS, he knew the end was close...for him I believe this self knowledge was a blessing. My father was not a believing man or a spiritual man. He was a hard core atheist in fact...and ironically his last weeks were in a hospital with crucifixes above his bed facing him. When I first got to the hospital room...and called out dad and came close to him...the look in his eyes was one that we don't often see much...it was pure...and cut right to my soul with a pure love. It was a fathers love right out of the pages of The Road I am blessed to tell you. I've never had any doubt of the love between my parents and I...but this was a look I've hoped for in my fathers eyes all my life as I am a Buddhist and a deep believer in the power of love and compassion...and all of us long to experience an unconditional love from each other, no?
Yes, it was sad that my father had to face death to reach that emotional depth...a very pure state he was in...it was beautiful to be able to be with him and visit and listen to him. Yes, he only had an alphabet card but he was quite energetic and adept at talking through it.
My dad had a great life and he always was able to do many of things he wanted to...and I also know he found a peace near the end with many of his own regrets. I think I was lucky to be able to share that with him. As you say, he wanted to make things better in these last few days close to his departure, you're correct: only he was able to do it while he was still alive. He was a lucky man in that feeling, and accomplishment.
Your words were very profound to me, and I sense you believe in a soul, and perhaps a soul that stays near us after death...even if its only a few days. I find that a fascinating perspective and one I have felt this week in my grief. I was very close to his second wife. Although I have always called her by her first name, she has been my step mom and remained so even after their twenty year marriage ended. I have spent many incredible hours talking to her this week and she has been a rock for me though my grief, and a bridge to processing the feeling that my father was nearby.
Basically, what was a challenge for me this week was that my father apparently did not want a funeral or service, related to his atheism and disinterest in family gatherings I have to assume, and being the traditional person I am I lean on rituals and family gatherings and this was hard for me this week. So I phoned a couple of his college buddies that I also have stayed in touch with over the years, and talked to them and my step mom, that has been a godsend. Some people have described ALS as eating away the body and destroying the person. My father 's bravery and courage was completely life-affirming to me. I could not see him as weak or compromised, in fact, I would say it is the strongest my dad ever seemed to me. I was very proud of him, and told him so, over and over.
I woke up just now in the middle of the night and have made a cup of tea...and was very pleased to read your thoughtful e-mail in these quiet hours and I thank you for taking the time.
If any thing, maybe I was able to give my dad a gift at the end and I was able to help him with some of his needs too, our roles reversed from my childhood...and I believe in cycles and holistic emotions and poetry, and I felt so lucky to maybe make his last days a bit more comfortable.
For some things K there is no resolution found in words alone. There is only resolution found in acts of kindness and in love. Sharing love, showing people we love them and allowing them to have a voice whether we agree or disagree with each other...in the end it is our company and gestures that are the movements of love.
Thank you and best wishes,