The time has come that I have spent nearly my entire life afraid of – my father died. I write this not for an ounce of sympathy. I am the lucky one. I have lived a full life with the presence of my father. And, Parkinson’s Disease can be very cruel in its final stages. We were able to keep Dad at home with the incredible spirit and support of my sister and her loving daughter. If you have gone through the hospice experience, you know what my sister and niece had to do in terms of supporting Dad.
Now, just a few hours after the mortuary service has left with my father’s body, I sit in a patio room staring at oak trees in the back and the golden perennial grasses that dance lightly from a fall breeze. And, I think, what is it all about, this thing we call life?
Because of the slow physical deterioration process of Parkinson’s, I think I had the opportunity to learn a couple of things through my father’s struggle. You see, my father, and exactly like myself and probably exactly like you too, lived most of his life with passion. This passion came out in all sorts of ways, mostly good, very good ways in fact, but some not so good. I have done the exact same thing in my life. I had strong opinions, strong values, strong spirit. Perhaps this is exactly what is required from us during our younger days – part of the survival of the fittest thing.
However, I noticed in my father, and lately in myself, that his passions developed further into what I would now describe as compassions. It no longer mattered who or what was right; what matters is that we all suffer, we all suffer from our passions and from the passions of others. Compassion, however, says. “I will suffer with you. I will not judge you or your passions.”
My father was always on the road to compassion. Oh, so many people he helped out along the way. He literally emptied his pockets of any financial security in order to help others. His mother planted the seeds of compassion early in his life, during the Great Depression, and they sprouted and grew over time, especially over the last 30 years of his life. Eventually, compassion became the only flower in his dense emotional and spiritual garden.
As I now enter the early stages of the sunset of my own life, I hope my children will say someday, “Dad replaced his personal passions with compassions.” Isn’t this really one of the core messages of Jesus’ life? I don’t know. I don’t really know shit actually. But, as I stare out at the oak trees and the dried summer grass and search for my father’s spirit, his essence, his true self, it seems as good of an answer as any…and best of all, it makes sense to me. Thank you father for another wonderful lesson. I will keep it close to my heart with you.