Thursday, August 2, 2012

What I Said at Dad's Celebration of Life

My dad died on July 18, 2012, unexpectedly. His Celebration of Life was on Saturday, July 28. Here's what I said (or close to, I ad-libbed a little):

Hi I'm Danielle, aka dani, the youngest of Mike's kids. To dad, life was sweet. He enjoyed the honey in life and tried to leave anything that was not honey alone.  He and we had a lot of fun.

When I was little my dessert had the tendency to disappear. I, being  miss gullible would somehow be convinced to leave the table. When I got back dad would be waiting for that look of alarm on my face and crack up. It didn't get old. To this day I try not to leave the table once dessert is served.

When Eric and I were teenagers, we were craving ice cream, moaning and wailing about not having any. Dad told us to go look in our Granddad's freezer (he had a summer cabin on our homestead). Well, because we knew Dad, we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there wasn't any ice cream over there, having been sent over there before to get only imaginary sweets. No way were we going to go check this time and give dad the satisfaction. Well this lament for ice cream went on for I don't know how long, I think weeks. Each time dad would tell us to just go get the ice cream from Granddad's, insisting that there was some there. I'm sure you can guess the rest! We eventually gave up, risked being laughed at, just knowing that we'd come back empty-handed. This was Dad, come on, no way was there going to be ice cream there! Of course we were fooled and came walking back to our house carrying ice cream with dad beaming and laughing at his success at bamboozling us. I'm sure he would have loved to have seen our faces when we opened the freezer.

My kids call him a silly jokester. He delighted in everyone but kids especially because they are so much fun --not spoiled by age and seriousness. We were fortunate to spend a week with him in January. We live near Seattle where it rarely snows. Turns out that we got a lot of snow the day before and of his trip and it meant that many flights were canceled including Dad's. He was able to book a flight to New York but then got stranded there when his connecting flight was canceled. He called me, exasperated, which was unusual and surprised me. He must have just been tired. When we hung up, he was okay again. It turned out to be an awesome adventure and serendipitous because he got to spend a whole day in Manhattan having a great old time taking pictures and experiencing NYC.

His visit with us was wonderful. He fell in love with his granddaughters all over again and they with him. He was planning to come back next January. I was on cloud 9.

Sort of like he was when I got married. I'm not sure who was happier, him or me. I'd never seen him that happy and it made a great day even better. Knowing he was happy because I was --that was cool.
The same thing happened with the arrival of each of my children. Dad knew my joy and shared it.

Speaking of birthdays, I like to think of the day dad died as another birthday. Dad's view on death is quoted on the cards for this party-- death is just another door to walk through. John Lennon described it as getting out of one car and into another.

Birthdays at our house always included homemade layer cake or whatever dessert we wanted. Dad made a lot of cakes--he had found a fantastic chocolate cake recipe that everyone loved-- on his blog he called it a super duper delicious chocolate cake. We ate huge pieces of layer cake-- Bird pieces we called them. Dad and I usually had a piece for breakfast the next day. I still do that. It's a tradition.

Dad surrounded himself with meaningful treasures -- little things that brought him pleasure or reminded him of someone or something. One of the things that was on his desk is a bracelet with an inscription in Sanskrit. It is worn down on the inscription side indicating maybe that Dad kept it in his pocket and rubbed it with his thumb. He wrote about this bracelet on his blog.
The inscription is a Buddhist mantra: Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum
(Ohm mah nee pahd may hoong)
This mantra is often carved into stones and placed where people can see them. It's said to contain all the teachings of the Buddha and that saying it brings a person closer to enlightenment, improving their lives in every way. Dad cared deeply about improving himself and tried to influence others positively through  the changes he made in himself. I think he experienced a lot of success with that. I'm proud and grateful that Michael was my father.

I wasted far too much energy and emotion in my life wanting his light to shine on me. I've learned that it was shining on me the whole time.

I'll close with some of the things I remember dad saying:

Tomorrow is another day.
It's an adventure!
Feeling great pain means you can feel great joy.
Carpe diem
You're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!

And finally:

Go get'em!