Memories help, even when they hurt

Lighthouse painting - Dad

“Lighthouse” (unfinished) By Arnold Butler

If you’re a Facebook user, you will likely be familiar with the “memories” that pop up on your feed from time to time, with an option to share them if you choose. Mostly, I find these surprises bring a smile or chuckle. But today was different.

Today, Facebook reminded me that it’s my Dad’s birthday. It’s not that this isn’t true. The problem is that Dad is no longer here to share this milestone. He died last October, after a struggle with melanoma and its related complications. The Facebook reminder was like a punch in the gut.

I don’t blame Facebook, of course. I don’t blame anyone. I just wasn’t ready for it.

Today, Dad would have turned 83. More than anything, I would love to celebrate his birthday with him. I can imagine us chatting about life over a big pot of Bewley’s tea. Of course, we’d discuss politics, one of his favourite topics. Instead, though, I am spending the day looking through old photos and reflecting on Dad’s impact on my life.

Dad had a wonderful sense of humour. The knack for saying just the right thing drew people to him. What I loved most is that he never made a joke at someone else’s expense. His sense of humour was rooted in deep respect and love for people. Dad valued honesty, tolerance, and integrity. He was open-minded, non-judgmental, and inclusive. These values shone through his life in countless ways. I hope that I reflect these values too.

He had many interests. Besides cooking and gathering people around his table, Dad loved the arts. In his younger days, he played 12-string guitar. Visits to my grandparents’ cottage always included enthusiastic sing-alongs led by Dad around a bonfire. He had a massive repertoire.

When I was in my early twenties, Dad and I took painting classes together at Danforth Tech. I wasn’t very good at it, but Dad was. He continued watercolour painting off and on for many years until the combination of arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome made it hard for him to hold his brushes.

After Dad died, my step-mom invited me to select one of his paintings to bring home. It was a hard choice, but I eventually decided on the unfinished painting of a lighthouse I’ve included in this post. I love that it’s incomplete because I feel that Dad’s story isn’t over. Not only does he live on in the memories of all who loved him, I am certain I will see him again one day.

So, while I am missing my Dad particularly keenly today, I cherish the countless memories I have of him. They are his most beautiful gift to me.

Liz signature

About Liz Leake

I'm a communicator and writer living in Mississauga.
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