The Sun is coming over the hills as I write ~ the light of a beautiful new day. There is something so beautiful about sunrise, and its message of life and hope and possibility. Three white-tailed rabbits are playing in the frosty field outside my writing room. My heart feels light and happy.
Three years ago, at sunrise, I received the phone call from my sister, Ramona, that you’d been killed in a car accident. Oh how I cried. I’d never experienced such heart-wrenching grief in my whole life. I thought my body would fall apart from the pain which seared through me.
I have had a lot of time to reflect on your death, but also on your life and especially the gifts having you as a father brought me. As you know, I spent a lot of my life being angry that you worked overseas for most of my childhood. I just wanted a dad who was at home. That’s all any child wants.
But I understand now. I understand your need to earn large sums of money, and I understand your ambition and desire to succeed and be confident in this material world. I really get it now. I also see the bigger picture, too.
Your death has taught me a lot. I’ve changed in so many ways, though they’d be imperceptible to most people. Standing next to your lifeless body as you lay in the coffin was a defining moment in my life. You see, in many ways, I was quite like you. I wanted the success. I wanted the wealth. I wanted the luxurious houses. I wanted the adventure of foreign travel.
I held your cold and lifeless hand and thanked you with a depth of gratitude I’d never known. I thanked you for the incredible childhood I was able to have because of your life. How many kids get to grow up on a 700-acre horse stud? I had this because of YOU. The strictness of being raised by my German parents was outweighed by the freedom I had on that land. Living as a child of Nature gave me the best possible training ground for life. Far more than any school education ever could have. Thank you for that.
As I stood, weeping, and holding your hand, a light bulb went on inside my head. I’d always understood the wisdom of ‘you can’t take it with you when you go’, but now I REALLY understood it. All that ambition, all that work, all the money ~ and for what? None of that was going with you. What was the point of any of it? I stood there feeling an impotence of incredible magnitude. I wanted to petition the gods! It was wrong. So wrong.
Often a person’s life is judged by their successes, and those achievements of yours were certainly mentioned as we gathered to say our farewell to you. But for me, your life is measured in other ways. Ways that are meaningful to me. Like how you taught me to ride a bike. That image of the day I rode without training wheels, with you there clapping me on, is as vivid as the sunrise before me. As is the day you taught me to swim, granted it wasn’t a conventional way! Not at all. You told me to climb on the high diving board and that if I jumped you’d catch me. I jumped. Oh God it was a long way down. I still remember it all, in slow motion. I remember it because you swam away. I jumped in the deep end and you didn’t catch me! Crap! Needless to say I am a confident swimmer!
I remember how you tried so hard to make me laugh when Mum was in hospital having Ramona. I really missed her, but you went out of your way to be a clown and eat raw lemons and pull funny faces. I can’t see a lemon without thinking of you.
I also learnt from you the harsh reality that Santa is NOT real. I peeped through the window to see you putting out the presents. I was horrified. It took me over three decades to come to terms with that betrayal and to forgive you. Silly, I know…
Dad, you taught me that we each make our own music. That we walk to our own drum beat.
You didn’t believe in God. You believed in yourself. I believe in both, and that has shaped me enormously. Thank you.
You didn’t teach me to ride a horse, but a bit like swimming, I just got on with it. I learnt to hold on for dear life. You taught me that I could do anything if I wanted to.
Seeing you in the coffin has deflated my ambitions and desire for success. For some people, it might have had the opposite effect. For me, it has taught me something else. Something far more valuable. I’ve learnt to slow down. I’ve realised, finally, nothing is worth stressing over. There are no important deadlines or other man-made rules of success to follow. My only true goal now is to live a life of pleasure and fun. If you had known how it would all end ~ that a teenage kid would end up ploughing into your car on a rainy morning three years ago ~ I bet you’d be giving me the same advice: slow down, and have fun.
And dad, that’s what I’m doing. My life is filled with all the things that bring me joy: music, gardening, sunshine (not Aussie style, though), family, friendships, laughter, Nature and making good food. I love you, dad. I always have, and I always will. You might not have acknowledged the spiritual realm while you were alive, but I feel your presence more strongly than ever. I know you’re nearby.