Monday, February 24, 2014

Saying good-bye to my Father

With my father in hospice care at home with my Mom, my thoughts turn to what it has meant to be his daughter, what he has meant to me. As he peacefully "transitions," to use his term, even now he is teaching me, modelling dying well.

My father once said to me, "The only thing we can give you is our faith."  Not the words I was hoping for from my parents as a worldly and wayward teenager.  But words that mean everything to me today.  Both my brothers and I have followed in our father's footsteps and taken vows as Christian ministers; two of us are married to ministers, and one grandchild is recently ordained. Maybe my father didn't just paint prophets!  His faith, a living faith, compelled him to protest Apartheid in the 1950's, to march against racism and injustice throughout the 60's, to proclaim the horrors of war in the 1970's, and to stand at the Bellingham Friday vigil every week for the past 20 years.  I learned what faith means as I accompanied him in my stroller and later held his hand on Market Street in San Francisco, as he introduced me to the numerous ministers, all in their clerics and regalia, standing up against the corrupt and corroded powers of cities, states and nations.  I am so grateful today for this inheritance, the faith of my Father. 

SoSo, who is my dad?  The one who rides the bright yellow Triking three-wheeler!  Who stands vigil each Friday for 20 years at the Bellingham Federal Building holding up the placard-of-the-week.  Who loves to wear his fire-engine-red Doctor of Religion robe. Who attends weekly Kiwanis lunches because he believes groups committed to helping young people are essential to a healthy society.  Who gives his teenage daughter a pin declaring, "Question authority."  Who, in the 1950's and 1960's, teaches his children that love transcends colour, ethnicity and nationality. Who is fascinated with warriors of history, serves in the military, then witnesses as a Veteran for Peace. Who loves chocolate malt balls and hot caramel popcorn and A&W root beer floats.  Who loves Morgans, movies and solitaire.  Who loves Turner and Brubeck and bagpipes. The man
who paints oversize oils of scary prophets and writes lengthy verse.  The man who is a good friend, steady and true. That's my Dad.

One can list accomplishments and pedigree to describe my father: Methodist Minister in Illinois, California, and Washington, Doctor of Religion from Chicago Theological Seminary, Provost at Central YMCA Community College in Chicago, United Methodist Missionary to Poland and Fiji.   But he is so much more: a minister committed to justice, a student committed to living out his learning, a Provost committed to opening doors and windows for disadvantaged urban students, a missionary excited to be on an adventure.

But most importantly he is a husband who has remained devoted to his wife of 60 years, a loving father supportive of three offspring who have surely challenged his trust, if not his love, over the years.

Thank you Al for being my father.

Al died on Monday 3 March 2014, peacefully at home surrounded by his family.


  1. wonderful tribute not only to your dad but to what all of you have done for the good of the world and universe. Keep it up!!!

  2. Beautiful. Definitely inspires me as a daughter, a minister, a parent and a human.