My dad’s funeral started with God Bless America and ended with the poem above. When I see these things, something still resonates. My father wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but after almost 25 years, what my siblings and I talk about is the things he loved and stood up for. The energy he put it into his passions, no question, 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 on facebook recently posted the anniversary of her dad’s untimely death; a doctor, who died 35 years ago, struck and killed while helping injured motorists on the side of the road.
Last week I attended one of my own dad’s closest friend’s funeral. 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.
These fathers were all sons of “the Greatest Generation,” as Tom Brokaw named their fathers, and they clearly carried passion, perspective, and honor forward.
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 neighbor.
I remember after my cousin’s mom died, she said “I know this is going to sound weird but I felt like my mom went inside me after she died.” I think I said something like, ‘I think she probably did.’ Oddly, I could relate. If you’ve lost a parent you might have had the same sense of feeling like you are carrying on their legacy, their influence. Their energies remain nearby, and in your heart. Some call it spirit; the Buddhists call it karma.
Thich Nhat Hanh says when we meditate, we do it not just for ourselves, but for all the generations before and after us. What peace we receive from those who nurtured us, and the peace we pass along to those we nurture, are blessings. And finding forgiveness for whatever challenges (and bad genes!) our ancestors passed down is a a sign of hope that perhaps the next generation will do the same for us.
I love that. It takes the silly idea that we are being selfish for cultivating mindfulness, and throws it right out the window. The reality is 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
Practice today. 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. Breathe, spend many moments here.