This blog-website is dedicated to the eternal presence of my father:
Celebrating my Father
I have been involved with end of life caregiving over the last 13 years and all of those encounters with clients in their last months only serve you up to a point. They cannot prepare you for the intensity felt around your own father’s passing.
Though the family was going through a lot around my father’s illness, dad was always making sure we were okay. He surrendered to the dying process. I remember right after hospice was set up. I was sitting at the feet of dad’s reclining chair, as I often did that last year, soaking in the vibrations. Suddenly, the phone rang. Dad glanced at me with a mischievous grin and non-chalantly said:
“It must be the death people.” We began to laugh together. It was beautiful, light-hearted moment which epitomized the attitude he held.
My dad’s own father died when he was six years old of congestive heart failure. My father’s main memory of his dad was that of an old man sitting in a chair gasping for his next breath. My dad had no tools passed down from father to son, no playbook about what it meant to be a father. He didn’t need one. He relied mainly on one inherent aspect – his heart.
When dad smiled at you, touched your shoulder, shook your hand, or was speaking to you—always the residue of the exchange stayed with you.
When I was eleven, I use to walk into the garage and watch my father work. I had no idea about mechanical things, but dad would explain the intricacies of this and that.
“Dad, who is this for?” I would ask pointing at the TV he was working on.
“Oh, it’s for Danny. He just started at IBM and mentioned that his TV was broken, so I told him I would fix it for him.”
For several years before TV’s advanced away from tube technology, many evenings, dad would be tinkering on televisions in the garage. It’s funny the things you remember; with dad, it was always related to helping others. When I was younger, I didn’t particularly care to go help someone pour a new cement sidewalk at 7:00 am on Saturday morning but dad showed me how great it felt to help others.
After working hard all day on these projects, it was about more than seeing the finished result; dad loved witnessing the light shining in the hearts of all those involved.
The morning after my dad passed on, I was drawn to the forest; Land of the Medicine Buddha (which borders the Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos)- it is a Tibetan Buddhist Retreat Center with nature trails. After a two mile hike down the trail, suddenly this energy inside me was so strong that I had to run, not jog-RUN, Flat out! I started to find a breathing rhythm. It was an urgent call to find a new pathway of connection with my father.
“Where are you dad?!” was like an inner mantra exploding inside of me. As I ran, right at my maximum capability, this mantra:
‘Where are you dad?!’- kept thumping inside with an increasing urgency. All of a sudden about a mile down the forest trail, a faint yet unmistakable sound, the voice of my father lit up the forest:
“I’m right here!” I knew it was true and started to smile, then laugh with tears streaming down my cheeks; I was running with my father again.
How appropriate that this assurance of spirit everlasting happened in a Tibetan Buddhist Forest, as the The Dalai Lama, the spiritual head of Tibet, once proclaimed:
‘My religion is kindness’. My father, not religious, always lived this particular spiritual ideal: KINDNESS. Many spiritual practitioners cultivate kindness for decades; my father lived it naturally. It was an essential part of who he is.
That kindness was not touched throughout the dying process. I kept waiting for dad to lose his temper, mistreat others or begin complaining.
It didn’t happen. Instead the same dutiful and loving family man kept emerging, day after day. And he had some tough days physically. He could vomit and then immediately look up, smile, tell a joke, then go get ready to play tennis with his friend and long time playing partner: Don Field.
And ultimately in watching my father move through the dying process, I was able to see that the heart is always bubbling forth with the simple, yet subtle pointer to the natural state. And a loved one dying is a springboard which can enable us to see this more clearly. We usually don’t pay attention to the heart promptings and instead bring awareness to thoughts which can only create a distressing web of possibilities.
As my father moved through the dying process, his magnificent heart was – like a lure, or receiving antennae -transmitting an even stronger signal. The formless dimension of life was less veiled and I found my real father, the never ending soul-quality of him, bursting forth like a current of electricity calling me home.
So I was not afraid of his body passing, because who would be afraid of going home?! Instead of being afraid, I was in awe.
‘I’m going home with my father.’ This wasn’t a thought but my direct experience.
We truly die with our loved ones but not in the way the mind thinks. It’s a beautiful death because the essence remains untouched. The filler elements slough off, all the stuff we don’t need. Tears still come. These tears are not about fear of impending loss, they are a celebration of what was found.
My father, riddled with cancer throughout his form, the body a vestige of his former self, and yet right before my eyes was this divine personage shining a luminous light which grew more alive every minute. To sit with him in the dying process, the form-shedding, was to be with the greatest part of myself.
Dad, I truly know you are here, alive in the hearts of all those who tune into presence. Thanks for showing me that you never go away- only become more inspiring, more delightful, and more real. There’s nothing I need to remember about you dad because you are imbedded so deeply in me that I’ll never forget.