Recently my step-father passed after a sudden diagnosis of advanced Leukemia. He lived just about a month after finding out. I guess that is one of those “blessings” you hear about after someone passes. He had time to say things of importance to his loved ones, he was able to make peace with not only his coming death, but his life. And he really didn’t have prolonged pain and suffering.
A local pastor asked my step-fathers adult children to meet and discuss their thoughts and memories of him so that the eulogy would be as personal as possible. I joined my mother with them to share our thoughts and feelings. It occurred quickly to me that any handful of people may have varying ideas and memories about the same person and about the same events shared in their own lives. We each view the world through a particular lens that is defined by our own circumstances and our unique perspectives on events. I won’t share their personal recollections but I wanted to consciously choose the manner in which I would remember my step-father.
To me, he was always very pleasant and supportive. He was a nice guy with a pretty good sense of humor, and he obviously cared for my mother and my brothers and sisters and their families. That’s always a plus. He and I did discuss once that it was a LOT easier to be a Grandfather or Uncle that it was to be a parent. As I have no kids of my own, I do appreciate that.
His appearance brings to mind the phrase “weathered” as he spent a lot of time in the sun. He was an avid golfer and outdoors type of guy for sure. First impressions may make you think of him as gruff as he maintained the bearing of a retired Air Force veteran. But the memory I chose of him showed a different aspect.
He loved so sit outside and enjoy the day. He especially loved the birds that can be found here in the sandhills area. He maintained several bird feeders in the yard and was especially fond of the hummingbirds that came every summer. He would comment and remark on them practically every day during the summer before they migrated back to Central and South American. It is his love and admiration for these small creatures that informs my idea of him.
Once, last summer, while mowing the yard and maintaining the flower beds, he found s small dead hummingbird. He made a mention of it with a slight edge of what I would now call sadness. Not overwhelming, not obvious, but that slight change in a persons voice that they might get when discussing a sad childhood memory. A tinge of wistfulness edged with sorrow. Contrary to what one might think of a man like him, he didn’t just pick it up with a shovel and throw it into the garbage can. He actually made a small hole in the ground in one of his tended flower beds and gave this small creature a proper burial. It was a small act of honor for these birds that brought him such pleasure. The idea of it lodged in my mind and was awakened by the exercise of choosing the memories we would have of him.
I didn’t share that memory at our meeting with the pastor. Something about it seemed almost too personal to mention at the time. I was using the opportunity of his passing to evaluate my own life in a way which I think is natural and necessary. It allowed me to give gratitude for all that he had done for me and my family. I share it now because of a conversation I had with a friend just yesterday.
We were discussing how to fully open ourselves up to our talents and why its important to live a life that allows our true individual gifts to be brought forth. I think that its important to choose everyday to consciously live your life with the intent to try and nudge the world even just a fraction closer to Heaven. It isn’t easy but not being able to do it every day is not a reason to not try.
However much time I have left myself on this Earth, or in this particular life is not known to me. I do realize that I have much to be thankful for. But should anyone have the opportunity to choose a memory of me at this point. I hope I have done something that is worthy of a good thought. If not, let me know. I will do better.