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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Dad

‎"...when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance." - from The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran.
After a few days of cold rain and harsh winds, we were blessed with warm sunshine and a cool breeze on October 16, the day we chose to bury Dad’s ashes. The sun shone through yellow leaves onto the black tombstone that Mom had so carefully chosen to mark Dad’s final resting place. It has been engraved with a waterside scene of two Adirondack chairs on a dock, with two loons floating near the shore. Dad was happiest near the water.
For the past two and a half years, Dad’s resting place has been various locations of prominence in the house where he spent the last 24 years of his life. It became a bit of a game for me, every time I dropped in at the house on Beach Road, to find Dad. Mom liked to move him around once in a while and I couldn’t settle in until I found him. When I discovered the polished mahogany box I always put my hand on it and whispered, “There you are. I love you.”
Dad’s pancreatic cancer revealed itself as more than just a persistent back pain in August of 2007. By September 11, despite surgery, it had spread and he was diagnosed terminal. We lost him just four months later, on January 14, 2008. Maybe we held onto his ashes for another two and a half years because we weren’t ready to say goodbye yet.
Reverend Lynda from the United Church did a wonderful job choosing the perfect verses from the Bible and writings by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Dad was never much of a church-goer, but he had formed a friendship with Lynda at our farm wedding and during his illness. She knew the type of ceremony he would want: nothing too formal.
Anastasia read the lyrics from a country song, “I’m already there: take a look around, I’m the sunshine in your hair, I’m the shadow on the ground...” and she almost got through it without crying. Wish I could say the same for me. Reverend Lynda helped me out by starting the reading on Death from The Prophet, but I barely made it through my four lines. The last two, “‎"...when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance,” were delivered in a falsetto, I’m afraid. Those words are so perfect for Dad, who loved so much to dance.
Milena read an email in which she detailed a dream she had about her grandfather. A few of us have had really vivid dreams about him, and they have been similar in their tone and very, very comforting.
After the urn was placed into the ground, we each took turns putting a rose on the grave. I touched the velvet bag holding Dad’s remains one last time, and allowed myself one more good cry. I’m sure he would prefer we suck it up, but I’ve never been one to hold back emotions. Must be the Black Irish in me. Anyway, no need to hire professional wailers at our funeral (as is the custom in Asia). We do our own wailing here, thank you.
After the ceremony, Mom explained that when she told Dad she had chosen a spot for them to be buried together in Oxford Mills, his reply was, “Oh. I thought you were going to keep me.” Well, I guess she did both. She couldn’t keep him forever – what if something happened to the ashes? His remains are in a much safer place now, and we all have a place to visit.
I live right around the corner from Dad’s resting place, and although I’m sure I’ll check on it every once in a while, I don’t imagine I will feel closest to Dad there. I feel his presence when I am enjoying the breeze coming off the water, or admiring the fresh beauty of the first snowfall. I can almost hear him when I’m facing a personal challenge or even when something strikes me as incredibly funny. He has instilled in me a love of nature, a sense of humour, a belief in myself and, hopefully, strength of character.
Thanks, Dad, for everything. You will always be remembered.

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