When Great Trees Fall
And when great souls die, / after a period, peace blooms, / slowly and always / irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of / soothing electric vibration. / Our senses, restored, never / to be the same, whisper to us. / They existed. They existed. / We can be. Be and be / better. For they existed. Maya Angelou
My father passed away yesterday. His frail body could no longer contain the tremendous soul within. He lived for early 35,000 days and over forty-eight million minutes, but he had been in my life every minute of every day – until today. He has now joined with the spirits of my mother, his brothers and sisters, my grandparents, and nearly everyone he knew as a boy. When my dad was born, my grandmother didn’t have any breast milk to offer him, and they didn’t have any milk of any kind. For the first two days of life, my father survived on well water alone. My old man was strong. I will love him all my life.
I went for a walk yesterday morning, to think about my dad. My brother had told me his condition was worsening. Half way down the beach, I saw something move in my peripheral vision. It was a hawk. I had never seen a hawk like that on the beach before. As I approached, the thought entered my head that this fierce bird was a spirit guide for my father, waiting there next to his beloved Pacific. I approached with reverence and from a distance took several photos. Unbeknownst to me until later, that was the exact time when my father passed away. As I turned to walk away, the stoic bird of prey, turned to glance at me; and in silhouette his profile resembled my father’s. My dad and I share the family characteristic noble beak of a nose. My father admired and respective Native American culture. The hawk was the messenger of the Universe. Hawks symbolize courage, wisdom and are protectors. These are characteristics of my father too, and I strive to share them.
You only live twice: Once when you are born And once when you look death in the face – Ian Fleming My dad often said he had died a dozen times, he would say – being dead or scared to death are the same. In World War Two he saw death daily and was nearly killed numerous times. But he survived, just as our ancestors had survived – by tenaciously struggling against and not surrendering to death. I am certain he faced death as he had lived – righteously. You mustn’t be afraid of death. You’re a deathless soul you can’t be kept in a dark grave you’re filled with God’s glow. – Rumi
This morning, as I reflected on my relationship with my dad, I found a quote from Umberto Eco, I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom. My dad seldom taught me directly. Instead he commented on what I did, or let me hover in the periphery while he worked on the car, or fixed things around the house. He built our home from cement blocks while working full-time at the factory, and part-time as a motorcycle mechanic. In that way he taught me the value of hard work. I will say a prayer for his spirit each day so that his soul may find everlasting peace. For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one. – Kahlil Gibran
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