My dad’s funeral started with “God Bless America” and ended with the poem above. When I hear these things, something still resonates. My father wasn’t perfect by any stretch but, after almost 25 years, my siblings and I talk about the things he loved and stood for most. No question, the energy he put it into his passions is still very much alive.
My dad loved Tchaikowski, the Ravinia Music Festival, fireworks, golf, and the United States of America. He cried like a baby and threw his hands in the air with things like the canons blasting and the French retreat in the 1812 overture, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” in Lake Placid, and when men landed on the moon.
Those moments of his hands in the air, tears streaming down his face, are carved into my memory.
A friend recently lost her beloved dad. Shortly after he died, she texted:
“My dad was the kind of person that made everything seem like it was going to be ok. He had such humor and kindness. He grew up with nothing and appreciated every single thing he had in life, but mostly he loved and appreciated his family. The world seems much less happy without my awesome dad in it.”
Another friend recently posted the 35th anniversary of her dad’s untimely death on Facebook: a doctor struck and killed while helping injured motorists on the side of the road.
Last week, I attended the funeral of one of my father’s closest friends. The service opened with bagpipes and “Amazing Grace” and closed with Monty Python’s “The Galaxy Song.” A moving tribute to a fascinating and humble man.
All these fathers were sons of “The Greatest Generation,” as Tom Brokaw named their fathers, and they clearly carried passion, perspective, and honor.
And all these things encourage a daughter take a moment or two to think a bit about her dear dad, her dad’s dear friends, and her dear friends’ dads. These men taught us a lot. The “Greatests’ Sons” did a pretty spectacular job showing us honor, humility, love of nation, and love of neighbor.
After my cousin’s mother died, she said, “I know this is going to sound weird, but I feel like my mom went inside me after she died.” I said something like, “I think she probably did.” Oddly, I could relate. We who’ve lost parents may sense we are carrying on their legacy, their influence. Their energies remain nearby and in our hearts. Some call it spirit. The Buddhists call it karma.
Thich Nhat Hanh says that, when we meditate, we do it not just for ourselves, but for all the generations before and after us. The peace we receive from those who nurtured us, and the peace we pass along to those we nurture, are blessings. And finding forgiveness for the challenges (and bad genes!) our ancestors passed down is a sign of hope: perhaps the next generation will do the same for us.
I love this. It negates the silly idea that we are being selfish for cultivating mindfulness. In reality, the reach of meditation goes so far beyond us now.
“We see ourselves as one element in the continuation of our ancestors and as the link to future generations. When we see in this way, we know that by taking good care of our body and consciousness in the present, we are taking care of all generations past and future.
“Think of a plum tree. In each plum on the tree there is a pit. That pit contains the plum tree and all previous generations of plum tree. The plum pit contains an infinite number of plum trees. Inside the pit is an intelligence, the wisdom that knows how to become a plum tree, how to produce branches, leaves, flowers and plums. It cannot do this on its own.”
– Thich Nhát Hánh
Remember your elders. Reflect on where they placed their energies and on what you want those left in your wake to remember. Not just about you, but about hope and the beauty of life. Spend many moments here. And breathe.