A few weeks ago our family lost our beloved Grandfather, my father’s dad Norlin. I had the incredibly sad but memorable honor of spending much of his last two days in his house, often by his bedside, with a number of our family members. By ‘a number’ I mean that many of his 13 grand children and 14 great grandchildren were around those days and nearly all of us were in attendance at his funeral the next weekend, a testament to his absolutely incredible legacy. He lived of a life full of hard work and also hardship- he was preceded in death by his youngest son and the love of his life, my grandmother Barbara.
His family legacy includes ministers, poets, artists, business owners, chefs, athletes, service members, non-profit managers, academics, animal lovers, musicians, loving parents, happy children, growing adolescents, young adults still trying to find themselves, and more. All this from a man without a high school diploma who worked his hardest alongside his wife to build a successful farm and ensure that their children could be educated to do whatever they wanted in life. What better gift in the end than to realize that their hard work paid off!
I kept a journal of his last days with my own thoughts on the entire process of dying as well as the power of family and legacy. This time was spent observing my father and his brother and sister make end of life decisions as they witnessed the deterioration of their only remaining parent. The loss of a parent is something I have not had to do, but my half sisters have experienced it as well as a number of very close friends. While in most of these cases these parents were lost far too young, the loss of a parent is a part of life, an extremely difficult inevitability for most people. On this father’s day I want to honor all those fathers and parents my family and friends have lost, whether too soon, or after a long and fulfilled life. But I also to write a few thoughts on living.
My grandfather had the opportunity to live a long and fulfilled life, (read this tribute by my cousin Joel for a powerful and concise mini-biography.) Having a fulfilled life is all I truly desire, and I imagine what most people desire. No matter the length I want to cultivate a fulfilled life full of family, friends, and memorable experiences. For me these experiences include diverse and interesting internships and jobs, continual learning and education, traveling the country and world, pushing my body physically, celebrating the great outdoors, appreciating art in all its forms, enjoying good food and drink, contributing time and energy to causes that I care about, taking care of my body and mind, and most of all sharing in these experiences with people I deeply care about.
Last weekend I celebrated Father’s Day a week early by going on a father-daughter trip to watch a couple of Women’s World Cup games in Montreal, Canada. This was three weekends in a row that I had the opportunity to spend time with my father, not a usual occurrence since my parents live in Texas and I live in North Carolina. My father is not a perfect man by any means, but he loves his family and fiercely cares about the wellbeing of his children and grandson. He relishes in spending time with them, especially on vacations (look forward to a post on our big family vacation to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in a couple of weeks!)
This trip had a certain energy to it from the start. Both of us were emotionally and mentally exhausted but determined to have a good time and enjoy Montreal, and we very much did! We watched two pretty riveting World Cup matches, with Brazil narrowing defeating Spain 1-0, and Costa Rica playing their hearts out to a tie against Korea but winning the crowd’s support in the process. On a beautiful Sunday we spent quality time wandering the Montreal Museum of Art, and walked half the city after exploring the Old Port and Old Montreal on a beautiful Sunday. The food was fantastic (especially this incredible Portuguese restaurant, Ferriero!) and we tried to really enjoy our time in the city as well as just time spent together.
On the way to and from Montreal I stopped in Brooklyn (the second stopover due to a cancelled flight) and spent time with my older brother and my cousin from my mom’s side. While together we processed the weekend before and just family in general. My mom’s mother is now my only remaining grandparent and she turns 90 on July 25th! The recent passing of our grandfather convinced my brother and I to make the trip to Dallas to share in the celebration of this milestone (my cousin was already planning to go.)
With all the tragedies that occur in this world, and with all the lives that end too soon, we must celebrate life!
I encourage you, even if you don’t have a living father, to just reach out to someone that you care about today. Plan to spend time with them, just talk on the phone, learn from them, experience something with them. Celebrate family! Celebrate life!
Happy Father’s Day to my dad! Happy day of life to everyone!