Sunday, January 13, 2013

James B. M, 4/13/28 - 1/11/13

My dad died on Friday.

It was expected, but also a huge surprise, because what he died of, a cardiac event, wasn't a condition he'd had.  He had Parkinson's, which is a hideous, joy-sucking disease, and I know he didn't want to keep going, so it's a good thing.  But strangely surprising.

We all know, from the time we figure out how this journey ends, that if all goes well, our parents will die first.  And then when they get sick with something that is a one-way street to death, well, it pretty much clinches it.  But still.

My father was an exceptional man.  He was remarkable in that he had no ego in the race, no need to compete.   He had the ability to marvel and be impressed by those around him, and never needed to show off, or remind anyone of his own considerable accomplishments or talents.

He was really quiet and calm, and didn't say anything at all unless he had something to say.  He would let silences extend indefinitely.  For people new to this style, it could be unnerving, but it was peaceful, and you knew to listen if he opened his mouth.  He had integrity and humility and an amazing, hilarious, and completely understated sense of humor, and I'll miss him.

When I was in college, he used to write letters to me occasionally, and they were just like his conversations -- brief, to the point, interesting, funny.  I remember one that said,
Dear Bets,
I just learned that there are more Catholics in Rochester, NY than there are Unitarians world-wide.  I don't know whether to be smug or alarmed.
Love,
Dad 
He was always calm and unruffled.  When I was about 16 and growing pot in my bedroom, upon discovering it, he said, "Wow, we really admire your interest in botany.  Would you be willing to grow plants that are legal?"

It was the perfect response, and I often tried to summon that moment in my own parenting.  To find the underlying good in the presenting behavior, and to appreciate my kids for their essential goodness rather than getting distracted by their behavior.

My dad was a pediatrician and devoted his life to supporting families and children by giving calm advice, putting in long hours, and doing house calls well after most physicians had stopped doing that.  He was a reassuring presence in the lives of many families.

He believed that when you die, that's it.  Any after-life occurs in the way you endure in the memories of the people you've touched, and the ways that people change based on encountering you.  He will live for a long time through the grace, gentleness, humility, humor, and integrity he brought into the world.

Namaste.






26 comments:

  1. Thinking of you Betts - I remember your dad.. what a wonderful man! *Hugs* Jamie

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    1. Thanks Jamie! Hope you're well. xoxo

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  2. I get an amazingly calm and loving feeling from what you've written about your dad. And in saying that, I realize that I am telling you that you must have inherited quite a bit from him.
    I'm sorry for your loss because it is a loss but I am glad that he's been cut free from a horrible disease. Which does not decrease the loss one bit for you and those who love him.

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    1. Oh, you are sweet, Ms. Moon. I hope things get easier for you too. xo

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  3. I am so sorry for your loss of this incredible man.

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  4. Oh Betsy, I am so sorry for the loss of your Dad. He sounds amazing, and you wrote a lovely tribute to him. Why did reading about him make me thing of James Thurber and Jimmy Stewart? I know how hard it is to miss a truly great man, and the men who raised them. I come from a long line of wonderful men. I know you'll think of him often and warmly. It gets a little better with time. Not a lot, but enough.
    hugs to you

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    1. Thank you Mel. Yeah that's not too far off -- Thurber & Stewart... Catch up with you soon.

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  5. I am so sorry, Besty. Your dad sounds like he was a marvelous man with a great sense of humor. My thoughts are with you all.

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    1. Thanks for Reading, Marianne! And for your kind wishes.

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  6. Betsy: I'm so sorry for your loss. I wish I could have met your father. But I'm glad that your path has crossed my life. And somehow In you, I know a little bit of him. Peace to you.
    Marisa

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    1. Oh, thank you, Marisa, name-giver of my eldest. :-) I hope all is well with you and yours. xoxoo

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  7. My loving thoughts are with you and your sweet family, Betsy. What a beautful homage for what sounds like an exceptional man. He obviously passed on many of his wonderful qualities to you and your children. <3

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    1. Thank you! How sweet you are. (It's also funny how we all know that less than three means heart, right? What will the people in the future think? "I wonder if he left fewer than three qualities on?")

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  8. My condolences. Thanks to your wonderful tribute, I feel like I knew your father. He obviously was a remarkable man.

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    1. Thank you PC! Kind of you to comment.

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  9. I'm so happy you had such a good father and that you have good memories that you can visit. Losing parents is hard, it leaves a hole in your heart. You wrote a beautiful tribute to him.

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  10. your post is very comforting - and as Bob Hope was known to say now and again ... "Thanks for the memories"

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  11. I'm so sorry that your father is gone...you have written a wonderful Tribute to him, Betsy. You look so much like him in the picture and your description of him sounds a lot like you, especially "his amazing hilarious and completely understated sense of humor" That definitely sounds like you. I still miss my mom after 8 years, but as everyone points out, it will get better.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Issy. And thanks for everything else.

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  12. Thank you for sharing your memories of your father here. A good and kind father is a most wonderful thing.

    So sorry for your aching heart, my dear.

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  13. And so what I recall that dad said regarding that beautiful plant was "your curiosity is commendable". I didn't realize it was the start of an interest in plant biology.
    XXOO
    Kathy

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