My father would have been 81 today. Last August, I flew home to Newfoundland to watch him die. After a year of battling prostate cancer, it was time for him to continue on his journey.
As his disease took its toll during his last week with us, what I remember the most of that emotional time are his hands. His strong hands, indicative of a quiet strength that he possessed. Symbolic of a father who was always there. Quietly yet steadfastly standing by his family to his very end.
His hands were the last to show the ravage of disease. And as I spent many hours beside him at the hospice, cared for by the amazing physicians and nurses who dedicate their lives to this end, these hands were for me a conduit for memories. Memories of a father who carted me to countless hockey games and practices with unwavering dedication, quietly providing reassurance and support by simply being there. A father who saw it as his duty to teach, not through words, but through example; through his actions. I remember those strong hands as we spent time together on our regular trips to the woods to cut the year’s firewood, as he deftly maneuvered the chainsaw or effortlessly heaved logs onto his shoulder. I remember his hand on the steering wheel of our old 1976 Ford pick-up, reaching across from the passenger seat as I struggled to learn to drive my first standard. No words. Just his hand, placed there to reassure while he allowed me to make my mistakes.
This was Dad’s way. And while I wish now that I could have spoken with him more, could’ve connected with him on a level that only words allow, I feel blessed to have had him as a father. As a guide and as an example to emulate in many ways.
Dad, you should know that you will never be forgotten and that you will always hold that special place for me. And when I think of you, which is often, you need to know that your lessons were well taught and that the man I am today is in large part due to you.
While this is the year in which we strive for austerity of emotion, this is one set of emotions that I will cherish forever.
Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you. I miss you.