Last July, his body riddled with melanoma and given a prognosis of 3 to 6 months, my Father, championed by his three daughters, made a tough decision. Hearts heavy with uncertainty, the decision was made to stop focusing on his disease; the Dr’s appointments, the endless tests, the diverse opinions and well meaning recommendations. No longer would we allow the cancer that was consuming his body, to consume our lives as well. We shared eleven more months together -Celebrating Life! When my Father passed recently and joined our Mother, we mostly rejoiced -in gratitude and peace.
“Only when a tree has fallen can you take the measure of it.
It is the same with a man” ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh
How do you “take measure” of a tree? Or for that matter, of a man?
I learned as a girl that you can tell the age of a tree by counting the number of rings
displayed in its trunk. The tree’s core is tightly wound portraying the infancy of it’s Life. As the tree grows, it expresses itself, outwardly into the world, with each passing year. When I think of “taking measure of a man”, of my Father, fragments of his rings, bond together to span a lifetime of 87 years.
Through living his life, my Father taught me about honesty, persistence, justice, responsibility, integrity, generosity, discipline, commitment, loyalty & Love!
Several values I learned from him, float up to me now as cherished memories.
Whether it was taking out the trash, wiping down the kitchen counter, picking up litter, or raking leaves, doing a thorough and complete job was paramount. I remember watching my Dad mow the lawn in the back yard, shirtless and in bermudas. He skillfully trimmed the grass in a systematic pattern, then moved the sprinkler every few feet, his activity, synchronized to a science. ~the satisfaction of a job well done
Family trips were special times where we got to have all of him! He was more tolerant of our childish energy and even enjoyed our antics. He played games with us in the pool-short man/tall man, throwing us in the air- we flew like dolphins before disappearing under the water to come back around for our next turn. And those special dinners out with his “four girls", the adoration and devotion to my Mother, his soul mate of 62 years ~the joy of love & family
Teaching me to build the perfect fire in the fireplace of our family room- beginning with bringing in the right kindling and logs from the garage, wadding single sheets of newspaper into a ball, laying the fuel out like a log cabin, and with stick matches- lighting it back to front. And then the importance of tending the fire....oh, how I love the tending, even today. ~an advantageous, lifelong skill
Allowing me to join him on the roof of our house to help adjust the weather vane- I remember feeling bigger than life, exhilarated! Standing on top of the world, looking out over our neighborhood, I felt safe & special with my Dad.
~the elation of sharing a heightened perspective
Teaching me to Drive! To practice safely, he took me out on the dirt roads in the country (in those days, there were dirt roads and there was country) We were rambling along when he instructed me to turn right at the next intersection. I promptly did so, skidding on the gravel and ending up in the ditch facing the other direction. Whether I was more afraid of what had just happened or of what my Father was going to say, I don't know. Yet, in his deep, steady “learn this lesson” voice, he turned to me and said slowly, “Jani, in the future; you're going to want to slow down, before you turn!" ~the gift of appropriate feedback/instruction
The rings of a tree tell us only the number of years the tree lived. They share nothing of its character or the story of its journey. There are no words, no manner of expression, that can begin to convey the quality of a Life or the value of a man.
Certainly in my heart, my Father was,
and will always be ~
Take a moment to Breathe... and ask yourself:
Why do we hesitate in the present - to acknowledge the greatness of our loved ones?
What is it we wait for - before honoring and celebrating their unique contribution?
What if we decide - to express our love and gratitude today?
And what if we let go - of our reasons to wait?