My father passed on Monday, October 15, 2018 at 7:30 pm. It was devastating.
It was devastating partly because he was still very healthy and vital at 87. We had all just spent the day together laughing and enjoying each other’s company a week prior for Canadian Thanksgiving.
So it was a little unexpected.
It was also devastating because we all spent a very long night in the hospital room with him as he died.
He was in a coma. It was gut wrenching and it tore me up inside to see him like that.
I was there with Mary (my wife), my 2 younger sisters, a niece, 2 nephews, a brother-in-law and my mum.
I think I got the ball rolling a little by saying out loud to him
“I love you, dad! I love you so much. Thank you for everything you gave me. Thank you for adopting me as a baby and giving me a wonderful home.” I was sobbing with tears.
As the night turned into morning, everyone had engaged in the conversation of how my dad had been, or how he had touched their lives.
My mum was an excellent singer as a young woman and she suddenly said she was going to sing him his favourite song. I wish I could tell you what it was, but it sounded like an old folk song from England.
She somehow sang the song quite well despite her advanced age, lack of recent use of her singing voice, and sobbing and crying in grief.
Mary noticed it first, but nobody heard her. Then my sister Cathy noticed. Then my mum. Despite having had a massive aneurism and more than half his brain being soaked in blood, he had tears in his eyes.
My mum gently pushed up his eyelid and all you could see was that his eyes were filled with tears.
Oh my God!! That’s all I can really say. I still start to cry buckets when my mind replays that scene in memory.
I’m ok now on day 5. It’s getting easier. I’m still crying. It comes in waves. Certain reminders and memories of my dad.
But I can go out in public now and at least and nobody would be the wiser — unless I told them what had happened.
Writing A Song For My Dad
I started writing a sacred song as a tribute both to Life and to my dad.
Now let me tell you — those writing sessions are cathartic! Good thing I’m alone in my studio.
My Dad Had Many Friends
My dad joined the Air Force right out of high school. He had REALLY wanted to be a doctor, but growing up in the Great Depression in poverty as one of 5 boys made the Air Force an easier choice. Both his parents were deaf and did not speak. Dad was fluent in sign language.
He had told me that when he was a boy in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada (he was born in Windsor, Ontario in 1932) that there was a parade at the end of WWII with some of the airplanes.
He was really “lit up” by seeing the parade.
That is probably what helped him tip to the side of joining the Royal Canadian Air Force.
He went through officer and flight training and became a navigation officer.
We were stationed at various bases during my childhood, beginning in Winnipeg.
Then a brief stint in Germany while dad was in England getting set up for our arrival.
We then lived in England for 2 years, then in Ottawa, Canada for 4 years.
Dad taught advanced long range navigation to RAF navigation officers while we were in England.
After that, we moved to a small town in southern Ontario with one of Canada’s largest Air Force bases — Trenton.
While in Trenton, he started training and flying Hercules transport aircraft.
He was one of the commanding officers of SAR (search and rescue) and also ran many diplomatic missions. He was a Major by this time.
Unfortunately for me however, this was also when he was away from home a great deal.
As a teenager, I didn’t understand how difficult it must have been for him to be away so much.
Not to mention the high stress of his job.
But he was doing it to take care of his family. And in every other way, we were lacking for nothing.
My parents never showered us with toys, but we certainly weren’t short on them, either. We always had abundant clothing for all seasons in good repair (my mum also sewed some of our clothes) any necessary education including music, travel and museums.
He really wanted me to be a doctor because as he said, “doctors help people. What’s the point of anything if you don’t help others?”
I didn’t know that I particularly wanted to be a doctor. Until I was 14 or 15 I thought I wanted to be a pro hockey player in the NHL like my cousin Stewart.
That dream morphed into being a musician by the time I was 15 or 16.
Besides sports, arts and literature came easy for me. I could often get an A or even A plus without even doing much homework. And when I absolutely had to do English homework it didn’t feel so much like work — unlike math or sciences. I did well in them too, but only if I did the homework. And it felt like drudgery to me.
By high school I already was fairly accomplished as a musician. But then I began to think of it as a possible career.
With his not being home as much, my transition was more of an out and out rebellion.
We butted heads for a while and I ended up running away from home at age 17 in the middle of a snow blizzard.
I hopped a bus to Toronto, Canada’s target city 2 hours west along the Lake Ontario shoreline.
Unbeknownst to me, my dad and mum got in their car and raced after the bus as soon as they found out I’d run away.
They couldn’t catch me.
Within a few months, I started to reach out to my family (starting with my grandparents) and mend bridges.
I started visiting dad and mum several times each year. My two younger sisters still lived there.
By the time I was in my early twenties, everything was pretty good between us. All was forgiven.
As I got older, it just got better and better.
I still had my own personal issues to go through in life, but my relationship with my dad got closer as the years went by.
Note: My father and I had bonded very strongly when I was a baby. Through my childhood, I was my father’s shadow and “little helper” dressing like him and following him around.
He wasn’t necessarily like father’s of younger generations, but I could definitely feel his pride and love for me.
The past 15 years in particular I always felt a very warm glow in my heart whenever I thought of my dad, or visited with him.
Later on, I didn’t get to spend as much time visiting with my parents as I would’ve liked for many reasons.
Life as a self employed musician in Toronto is busy. My parents had also been spending winters at a retirement community in Florida for many years. Canadian Snowbirds.
Note: One of the “perks” of my dad’s service to his country (he rescued a lot of people out of danger and flew over hostile countries in order to deliver medical supplies, etc.).
was that he retired at age 45.
He worked another 5 years for the Air Force flying a “desk” on a contract.
This gave him plenty of time to pursue another of his passions, golf.
He Was An Excellent And Avid Golfer
My dad was an excellent golfer. So good, in fact, that in Florida he became the “golf pro” for the golf course at the community. It was a volunteer position, of course. He would also collect golf balls when back in Belleville, Canada for the summers and auction them off back in Florida to raise money for maintaining the golf course.
Update: I just found out that a few of his students in the Belleville, ON area who my dad had taught in the summers had gone on to become professional level golfers.
He apparently touched a lot of people’s lives down there. People were really gushing about my dad and how much he shone a little light into their lives.
The man who is going to be taking over his role as “golf teacher” called my mum from Newfoundland this week (where he lives in summer) and said my dad was an incredible mentor to him.
He also said that my dad always talked about my mother when he was giving golf lessons. He often said how she was the light in his life.
This was one of the things my dad could surprise you with. He had many accomplishments — including a few hole-in-ones — but although he could be quite chatty, he rarely talked about his good deeds or accomplishments.
As a matter of fact, it was only at our recent visit for Canadian Thanksgiving that it came out that my dad was an excellent dancer. Ballroom styles. He had taken lessons since his youth and loved it. He and my mother went often to the officer’s mess until they were in their early thirties or so.
My Dad Is Proud Of My Music
One time visiting my parents, I mentioned going golfing with him and he was genuinely concerned about any damage to my hands for playing guitar.
Another time, Van Halen had played a concert in Toronto and my dad always read the Toronto Star.
He asked me if I knew the band. There was an interview with Eddie Van Halen (if you didn’t know, many consider him one of the “great” rock guitar players).
I said, “yes. He’s one of the great rock players. Very innovative.”
And my dad very sincerely said, “too bad they’ve never heard you play. You’re probably even better.” My dad doesn’t talk like that in general, if at all.
I’m not going to weigh in on that, because anyone who knows me knows that I see through all that “best guitarist” nonsense, there’s no best or better. Although everyone, myself included, has their favourites. And by the way, Van Halen was one of many inspirations on guitar when I was younger.
While technique can be important with music, it’s much more about connecting with people and taking them on a brief journey. Virtuosity on an instrument – although exciting – isn’t necessary for that.
Music is a field of human endeavour and talent. We can all tap into it not only to various depths, but in different places and different ways.
There is only mastery. And even that is dynamic. Fame isn’t always in the equation.
My point is that it was an amazing and genuine compliment from my dad. A man who did not give compliments lightly. A compliment from my dad really meant a lot.
It said, “I love you, son. I’m proud of you.” What more can a son ask?
The Emperor Tarot Card
Mary did a one card tarot card reading for me the evening my dad passed.
It was The Emperor card. Her interpretation was that I am now healing and integrating all the masculine qualities within myself.
My father’s legacy will live and breathe through me.
I agree. I feel like my dad was an Emperor. He was definitely a guiding light for me here on earth.
And I feel like that Emperor power has been awakened within myself on a deep level.
I truly feel a new power. I definitely don’t care what people think.
A lot of people say that, but I think in most of those cases, it’s more like a “middle finger in the air” kind of not caring.
Which of course, is actually caring.
I mean absolute freedom from wanting approval.
There are probably still some layers of that laying around in my subconscious that will come up, but I know I’ll be able to dissolve them quickly.
Proof Of Heaven?
My sister Cathy had read a book last year called “Proof of Heaven” by Dr. Eben Alexander a neurosurgeon.
Dr. Alexander had been brain dead for 7 days and was definitely an agnostic with a scientific worldview beforehand.
He experienced an incredible journey while in the coma and wrote this book about it.
He is in a unique position to look at the context and understand it from the standpoint of how the brain works.
In his now revamped view, he was in heavenly realms with Angels and God (who he calls OM).
My sister had discussed the book with my dad.
Reading the book is helping me feel closer to my dad — even though spiritually speaking, I never doubt his presence close to me.
Note: I haven’t yet finished the book! I just seem to have been in a place in my life for about a year now where I’m not seeking. I know who I am in every meaning of that. It’s just growing deeper and integrating. I’d rather sit and just be and FEEL the answers than read any more books.
I at least don’t feel like I need a book to convince my left brain that there is a world beyond the one presented by our senses. I’m fairly established with that in my own intuitive knowing.
But it’s also still hard. It’s taking time for my body to catch up to my mind and spirit.
I love my dad so freakin” much! In my eyes, and the eyes of many other people, he was a great man. A beautiful person. He left a wonderful legacy that I will honour with every ounce of courage and Love I can muster.
Thank you, dad. I will see you in heaven. We’ll go golfing and shoot the breeze.