Dad

He was my first ‘follower’.

When, after thinking and talking about it for ages, I finally started this blog as a way of writing about some of the things that I deem important, my Dad was the first one to subscribe to colemining.  Even though the blogging world was a bit of a terra incognita to him.

He always encouraged us- me and my two sisters, and pretty much anyone else who came into his charismatic sphere and stayed for any length of time- and he knew that I had things to say that needed to be said.

He was my biggest fan.

Always.

We were so very fortunate- growing up and now, as adults- to have been raised by parents (and an extended family of grandparents and aunts and uncles- biological and otherwise) who encouraged us to find our own way in the world and pursue those things that most resonated with us, personally.

You see, they knew that they had raised us to be concerned about things larger than just us, that they had instilled in us the reality that we are part of a community.  They trusted us- and they trusted themselves- enough to know that they had created three responsible, independent and thinking citizens of the world.  Individuals who learned the most important lessons that can be taught- and who will hold firm to the mandate that shaped both their lives: that we are all required to do our best to leave this world a better place than we found it.

Our own paths- guided by intelligence (both inherited and nurtured) and kindness- perhaps kindness above all else- are the legacy of two wonderful people that anyone who ever met them feels privileged to have known.  Being supremely lucky, I got to have them as my parents.

When Mum was diagnosed with a form of early-onset dementia, Dad became her constant and always-doting companion and care-giver.  We often forget that our parents were people before they became our parents, but, through Mum’s long illness until her eventual death, we got to witness the playing out of a love story that Hollywood couldn’t come close to imagining.

One of their oldest, dearest friends sent this memory to me- all the way from Australia:

It is always so sad to lose one’s parents, regardless of their age or yours. It is the end of an era. Take comfort in the fact that he had a great, happy, long and useful life. When we were young and used to go out together, it was such a joy to see your parents — a couple so very much in love — I think your Dad beamed from ear to ear during the whole of their wedding ceremony! It was also the very first time that they had ever met or even heard of (her boyfriend at the time, now husband of many decades) as I was otherwise engaged, so the invitation did not include his name. Whilst other friends heartily dispproved, when I contacted your parents, they graciously said, “whoever you choose and want to bring to our wedding is alright by us. We want you to be happy and you both will always be welcome in our house” and they certainly stood by their word and the rest is history. We have never forgotten their kindness and generosity over the years.’

And this:

 ‘How time flies — it seems like yesterday when your Mum would call home to see if Rick had written and if there was a letter, she’d fly home during lunch hour to get it. So all of us knew that it HAD to be serious! Your paternal grandmother said she KNEW it WAS, as she didn’t think that your Dad was capable of holding a pen in his hand, let alone producing a letter as he had never ever written to HER when he was away so Betty HAD to be very special to get even one line from him!’

That last bit was news to me and is so veryvery ironic, I can’t even tell you.  It has become a running joke- in our family and beyond- that Dad must be on the no-fly lists of a whole bunch of countries- starting with our own.  He LOVED to write letters.  To politicians, especially.  And had NO problem AT ALL spelling out exactly where they are falling short of his expectations of them- and the responsibilities of the job to which they were elected.  (See?  I come by it honestly.)  I guess all those love letters he wrote Mum served to loosen his pen…

I lost my Dad this week.

We lost my Dad this week.  My sisters and I, and everyone who knew him.  The condolences and memories that are flooding in a constant stream into inboxes and voicemailboxes are markers of the impact that this man had on his world.

You may not be aware of it, but those of you who are kind enough to spend some of your precious time hanging with me here in the WordPress World also lost him.

All the words I write, all the truths I seek to discover and all the stories I try to tell, they all have a kernel- and sometimes a great deal more than a kernel- of my Dad at their heart.

Another of his lovely friends wrote this in an email to me today:

‘When I think of your dad I always think of him as a seeker of knowledge and truth.   I see him with his beloved books reading passages to us that he thought needed to be read aloud and discussed.

I think of him in the middle of many and varied lively conversations holding us accountable for our opinions…

I don’t need to tell you how proud he was of the three of you. He wanted you all to find your own path and pursue it with zest. He would tell us all about what was going on in your lives. (Don’t worry he didn’t divulge any of your secrets).  He loved to read your “colemining” blog and was especially touched when you wrote about your grandfather.’

Yes.  I definitely come by it honestly.  I am my father’s child.  Of that, there is no doubt.

He was proud of us.  There is, truly, no higher praise.

I was proud of him.  All my life.  The person he was filled me with constant pride and amazement.  His ethical conscience and concern with social justice was unmatched.  His life was spent in service to others- to ideals that are bigger than any one person, certainly, yet, somehow, seemed summed up in his very being.

He led by example, instilling in us the reality that boundaries- of race, religion, socioeconomic situation- are human creations– and, as such, subject to constant examination and re-evaluation.  Prejudice- of any kind- is unacceptable.  Unexamined beliefs have no place in rational discourse.  People matter.  Outdated ideologies do not.  Except as cautionary tales and reminders of how far we have evolved and developed as civilizations.

The Shuffle Daemon hit me hard, on the way home this evening.  It does that, sometimes.  Picks up on what I’m thinking and figures out just what I need to hear.

This is that morning
It’s waiting for you
The face of destiny
Standing before you

This is zero hour
Now is for you
Can you feel that power
Inside of you?

Through this priceless moment
In your possession
Answers to mysteries
Stand in succession

This is zero hour
And there’s no way back
Can you feel that power?
In its arms you’re wrapped

All through the night-time
‘Til the sun comes in
Now heaven’s open
Just to fly right in

Now you stand in that garden
This is that vision
Out on the world’s edge
It’s your baptism

This is zero hour
And your hands are free
Can you feel that power?
It’s ecstasy…

There is irony, I realize, in including a song called Heaven’s Open (the version isn’t the best quality, TBH, but it’s the only one I could find) in a post dedicated to my father.  Dad didn’t believe in heaven.  He was all about the importance of this world– and about living a life that positively affected this world.  If he believed at all in destiny– it was about the need to create and fulfill one’s own goals- schooled in experience and education and awareness and engagement with the world around him.

You gotta know that I don’t believe in heaven.  But, as I wrote in the post I reblogged yesterday, the idea of heaven, as a metaphor, or archetype, drawn from our shared mythology as a means of dealing with loss and pain, is beautiful, and so very human in its hopefulness.   So that, along with the evocative power of the lyrics of that song…

The Shuffle Daemon knows.

Mike (or, in this case, Michael) wrote the song in 1991 as part of the final album he was contractually obligated to provide for Virgin Records- with whom he had something of a contentious relationship (after he pretty much ensured the success of the label for that Branson guy with the success of Tubular Bells).  It’s a kiss off.  A lovely and elegant kiss off, but a kiss off all the same.  It’s about new beginnings- and it’s about finding the power within oneself to move past the things that have kept you stagnating.  Or imprisoned.  Or confined in any way at all.

I love Mike Oldfield.  He is a musical master.  And an interesting character.

I love my Dad.  Dad loved music.  It was a significant part of his life and he made sure that it was a significant part of ours.  He was also an interesting character.

He spent much of the last few months imprisoned by his own body, laid low by various infections that the doctors couldn’t quite seem to get a handle on controlling.

He’s not imprisoned any longer.

Thank you for giving us the tools to create our destinies, Dad.  Wrapped in the arms of the power you gave us, we will try to live up to your example.  We will leave the world a better place than the one we inherited.  Just as soon as we figure out how to navigate a world without you in it.  Which we will.  Eventually.  You taught us well.

Heaven’s Open, Dad.  Fly right in.

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59 comments on “Dad

  1. Oh. I am so sorry. What a wonderful father. Now that I’m a parent who’s also lost a parent, I’ve discovered that your parents are always with you. And that is evident from your writing and the special person you are. Healing hugs from Ottawa.

  2. This is the most beautiful post you’ve written. I am so so so sorry for your loss of your father. I can see him reading your post and beaming with pride. You have already made the world a far, far better place. And can rest in peace knowing that ~ Farah ❤

  3. I feel for you. This hits hard. I’m celebrating my father’s 80th birthday this weekend. I know he doesn’t have too many left. I know we’ve made our last fishing trip together.

    Celebrate him, don’t mourn him.

    • colemining says:

      Thank you- for the lovely comment and for your visit. Doing my best to take your advice. It’s all been rather sudden- and a big part of me really felt that he’d be with us always. Finding the balance.

  4. Luanne says:

    I’m so sorry about your father. I don’t want to say you’ve lost him because I can tell by this post that he lives on in your heart.

    • colemining says:

      Thank you, Luanne. He will live on- in his great works, in his vast army of friends and, most especially, in his children who will always love and honour him.

  5. Rick says:

    I am sorry for your loss. He must have been a great man.

  6. I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine the pain of losing such a great parent. But then he lives on in you. The world is thankful for that.

    Peace and strength your way.

  7. quiall says:

    This reminded me so much of my parents. Their love was so strong that it seemed to envelope the world. I will grieve with you for your loss as I celebrate your father’s life, as I did with my parents. As long as you remember him your father will always be close.

  8. bethbyrnes says:

    Cole, I just saw this (had jury duty — long hours on Thursday). This is so touching and deeply felt. Your admiration for your Dad is poignant and resounding. To have a parent (or parents) who instill a sense of duty, love, responsibility and thinking beyond one’s own boundaries, of others, is so rare. I like to believe that we could and should all be taught to be parents like this, but some people have this insight and connection with others, naturally. Your Dad seemed to be such a special person. Luckily our parents and grandparents do live on in us and you can continue writing to, for, and about them for the rest of your life so we never forget them. Personally, I would love to hear more of the lessons or examples or anecdotes that you have in your storehouse, so I can understand the world as your Dad saw it too. I can now better understand why you are the deeply thinking and feeling, empathic and analytical as well as instructive person that you are. Hugs.

    • colemining says:

      Beth- Jury Duty? Good for you being a responsible citizen. My Dad would have approved. Believe me, there are likely to be more anecdotes to come- he had a life full of wisdom and insight that he generously passed on to us and that needs to be shared. This post was really just my immediate thoughts- that I had to get on paper as a way of trying to make it real. Thank you for your lovely thoughts, as always.

  9. Grumble Girl says:

    What lovely words here… gosh. I send all my love and uplifting vibes your way, my friend. xoxoxoxoxox

  10. What a great loss. You’ve made me weep with the beauty of this post. I can only take pleasure in a life lived so well. You’ve done a fine job at demonstrating how he’s still with you. Take care.

  11. My condolences, Cole. This exceptional and moving post is clearly a fitting tribute to a wonderful and devoted father.

  12. Kathleen Goldhar says:

    Wonderful. All of it. Although making me cry at work isn’t cool! Love to you and your sisters.

  13. Nicole Davies says:

    This post tells a remarkable story of a husband, father, friend and leader who I wish I had met in person. It sounds like your dad truly made the most of his life here and wanted others to as well. I am so taken by the values he clearly espoused and that moved him to take action. I can tell so very much by the way in which you remember your dad that he was a committed philanthropist and extraordinary human being. As someone here said, take heart in the impression he left in this world and celebrate the person who he was. From all of you written, I can see clearly that you do.

  14. Even though I write for a living I realize there are no words to soothe the pain and loss you’re going through. You have written a wonderful tribute to your father, one that tells the world what a special man he was. I believe that people live on in the lives of those they touched, and undoubtedly both your parents’ goodness with continue on through you, your sisters and extended family. In that I can think of no better tribute. Thank you for letting me in on the life of a special person and know that you’re in my thoughts.

  15. Susan Armstrong says:

    Spent many wonderful times with both of your parents.
    I know all of you will miss him greatly, as will all of his school friends.
    Susan Armstrong

  16. Intelligence, kindness, and music are among the greatest gifts parents can give their children. This is such a lovely tribute to both your parents, especially to your father.

    Although I don’t really know either of you, when I got to the part about his letter-writing, I thought to myself that you inherited that passion (and compassion). 🙂

    Thank you for this portrait of a great soul and another glimpse into your own. And, again, I am sorry for your loss.

    • colemining says:

      Agree totally, HC. He was a great soul, and both my parents instilled things of great import and value in their children- and pretty much everyone they met. I certainly have my Dad’s passion- I can only hope I have his compassion. Thank you for your lovely words and support, as always.

  17. Oh, Cole, I’m so sorry for your loss. I know that place.
    Every word you wrote is penned with love.
    My heartfelt sympathy to you and all your family.x

  18. ChgoJohn says:

    A tough week, indeed. Truly sorry, Cole, to read of the loss of your dear Father. By all accounts he was a wonderful and special man. This tribute you penned is a beautiful piece, your words telling of the admiration and love you felt for him. Please accept my sincere condolences.

  19. I am sorry to hear of this, but happy to read your heartfelt post about your Dad.

  20. Jami says:

    Goodbye, dad of colemining. Thank you for inspiring your children, especially colemining, whose thoughts and words inspire many others, like me. To colemining- I send love during this time of transition in your life. I can only imagine how much you will miss your father. ❤

    • colemining says:

      Thank you, Jami. Struggling with the missing of him at the moment, but the transition will come and we will keep moving onward with all the things he taught us. I appreciate your thoughts- and thoughtfulness.

  21. […] In addition to the song I wrote about the other day- and included in the post I wrote about Dad, which I managed to read at the celebration yesterday- two others keep popping up, both featuring […]

  22. Such a beautiful tribute to your father. Certainly he lives on through you.
    Gentle hug.

    • colemining says:

      Thank you, Grace. He does live on- in all the many lives he touched over a wonderful life of contributing to his community and trying to make the world a better place. xo

  23. Michael says:

    You spoke so well on Monday. Your dad would have been so proud. Wanted to send you and your sisters a card but have no contact info for you. We are thinking of you. With love Debby & Michael.

    • colemining says:

      Well hello there- thank you for visiting! And thank you both again for coming- and to Debby for her lovely words at the service. I had to mention her in today’s post- her tribute has stayed with me in a very big way. I’ll send you a PM with a mailing address, but no card is necessary. xo

  24. […] mail), administrative stuff and the ongoing sorting through of ephemera and memories as we settle Dad’s affairs, keeping on top of the learning curve in this great new job of mine, checking in with […]

  25. Patti Hall says:

    This was beautiful and I’m still crying. Will visit and write more later.
    Warm Hugs, P

  26. […] the compromise.  Dad, wonderful man that he was, opted to get us tickets and take me to see the band.  It.  Was.  […]

  27. […] wasn’t my favourite year of all time. 2014 started with Dad in the hospital- and we lost him a few, very long, months later. I’m not sure I’ve […]

  28. […] marks one year since we lost Dad. Hard to believe it’s been 12 months. I miss him. All the time. But especially when something […]

  29. […] And I say that as someone who is pretty ‘old stock’ (4th generation Torontonian, on Dad‘s […]

  30. […] the memories are there. My grandfather, in particular, and then my parents after him, made sure that we saw a lot of the city when we were kids. They ensured that we visited […]

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