I want to tell you about my Dad.
He spent 57 years on this planet and has been gone for 5.
Yes, he fought a brave and determined battle for his life, which he lost after cancer invaded too much of his body. But there is more to the story than death and it’s surrounding battle, however heroic. There is life.
I want to tell you about my Dad’s life.
He worked hard and loved hard. He found the parts of life he connected with and grabbed hold of them tightly. He sometimes wore emotions on his sleeve and sometimes this resulted in more stress between us than I would have liked, but I long ago recognized this tendency in myself as well. He also didn’t wait for anyone to give him permission to pursue the life he wanted. I believe “you are what you love”, and he was very clear about what that was for him.
Ours was a relationship I both desired and feared. Loving someone will do that to you – make you simultaneously hellbent on pursuing and terrified of losing the very thing you hope for. It took until I was about 24 before I could manage to deal with my own emotions and experiences enough to connect well with his. (*I must say that if you ever have the opportunity to connect in this way with someone you love, it is absolutely worth every bit of risk and effort. Do not wait. It’s never too late… until it is.)
For the next three years I had the most beautiful and horrifying experience of growing closer and closer with him while he suffered more and more intensely… until it was all over. During that time, I observed not only strength of will in action but an unmistakable love which was carefully cultivated for his family, his work and the other parts of his life that he was able to enjoy in the short time he had left. When faced with the end, Dad refused to regret and chose love over fear, over and over again saying: “when it’s my time to die, nothing and no one is going to stop that from happening. Until then, I’m busy… and I’ve got work to do.” And he focused on the things he could control – like running his business (which he loved) and building positive memories with the people he loved.
Here are some of the many reasons I am grateful he did this:
- Jamming at the Country bar
- Office sandwiches
- Mispronounced words
- Garage hang outs
- Motorcycle rides
- Pool games
- Popcorn, peanuts & other snacks
- Beer (& wings / nachos) on patios
- Dim sum / hot & sour soup / Dai dop voy / lots of cool cultural food
- A sip of wine at the store after close (in plastic cups)
- Cribbage games
- Seeing him in the audience at shows
- Turkey, stuffing, brussel sprouts, potatoes, asparagus (ass grass) & other home cooked deliciousness, made as only Dad could
- A hockey game with the Moose
- Ribs at the Norwood / wing night
- Business cards, posters, flyers, press kits & other promotional “stuff” printed at his UPS Store franchise
- Guitar playing in the kitchen
- The gift of his Yamaki acoustic guitar
- Movies on the couch
- Father’s Day brunch
- Rides to and from appointments when the most incredible conversations took place
- Discussions around the dinner table where all of the worlds problems were, in fact, solved (*except for the bees, they hadn’t yet begun to die)
- Tears in his arms
- GRAVY… as I’ve never again tasted
- Helping my roommate & I clean our apartment on moving day
- Orders for contact lenses, computer cases etc. arriving at his business
- Seeing Doctors and Specialists laugh with him, impressed at his positive attitude AND acceptance of reality
- Having my mailing address at his business create so many opportunities for me to come by and ‘check the mail’ that resulted in wonderful, valuable moments
- A demonstrated willingness to express frustration openly without complaining
- Vulnerably in admitting: “I had probably the hardest day ever [health wise], at the store and was not honest with you about how I really felt [ I was really hurting ] ….. please forgive me for not telling you how I was really feeling but I just cannot talk about it freely sometimes as it just makes me feel worse !!”
- Reciprocating with: “I don’t know how to do this” and other painful admissions
- Finding my way to: “We are in the truth business Dad. No faking allowed. I value your honesty… it makes you a Renegade.”
- The opportunity to observe an unexplainable ability to inject humour into frightening and painful situations like chemotherapy and brain surgery
- A seemingly natural, increasingly developing tendency to focus on what he (we) loved and turn away from what he (we) didn’t love
- Experiencing the brightest light and the thickest darkness, simultaneously convening around my heart
- So many other moments that are mine to cherish
- Songs I had the honour of writing that deal with grief, depression, loss, fear, worth, illness, responsibility, honesty and painful authenticity.
- Songs I have deeply enjoyed writing about love and leaving and moving on. About magnets and giving and receiving and becoming myself and loving others.
He believed: “If you have the will to win, you have achieved half your success. If you don’t, you have achieved half your failure.” (David Ambrose)
He told me: “I know you have what it takes to be anything , anything at all that your heart desires. YOU have the gift to MAKE things happen… choose carefully then run as fast and hard as you can dear little Linz …. it will be YOURS!”
… He taught me:
Sometimes the most proactive thing we can do is just smile.
Happiness , like unhappiness , is a proactive choice. – Stephen R. Covey
… He wrote me:
“In the little moments , alone, we cherish the gentle touch of yesterday …. in the rush of tomorrow we yearn to know that the love is real and unfettered………. your touch gives wings to my heart and lifts the spirit to see the very top of even mountains …….. the roar of the city pales in its own glory next to real love …… in the little moments ……….. I love you.”
(James “Jim” W. White / Dad 06/23/52 – 07/11/09)
He was a Renegade.