My sweet Daddy died. No matter how I say it, or how many times I say it, the sentence sounds unbelievable. Harsh. Blunt. It has been 18 days. Eighteen days of speaking what I couldn’t imagine saying. Last weekend, we held his services. (He had two: a military honor guard service and a memorial service, held in his church.)
I bring this all up here, on my blog, because I have shared with you some of his journey. And from that place, it seems right to share with you the closing. I spoke at his memorial service and wanted to share with you my words.
Hi. I’m Meg, daughter of Charlie Brown. I’m nervous standing before you, because I avoid speak publicly. I have written about my Dad on my blog and, more extensively, on Facebook. That decision may or may not make sense to you, but it was a non-threatening way for me, as in introvert, to share my journey through the last few years of his illness. And, as you know, my Dad was a fantastic man. One I felt the world needed to know.
My Dad was the grounding force of our family. I am only partially kidding when I say he is what kept my mom, brother, and me from spinning off into orbit or somehow whirling away.
When I think of my dad, what I think of is his presence.
My Dad was present and steadfast. Always. He showed up. For it all.
He taught me to love the outdoors, to garden, and to believe I could do anything.
He was there for scouting, stilts-making, and sports. He happily endured earthworm-related science fairs and backpacking trips with giggling girls. He admired my scrap wood forts and mud pies as the works of art I am certain they were. You name it, he showed up and celebrated me.
He was there— and this was crucial— he was there when I came out as lesbian, or queer, nearly 20 years ago and never once stopped celebrating me. Even as he struggled to understand, he didn’t stop the celebration. To a young 20-something, that unwavering love and presence means nothing short of life.
Again, he was there. Yes, my Dad showed up for it all.
Sometimes in the military, the member gets sent Remote for a year. For our family, the time came when I was in 3rd grade. My dad went remote to a place called Shemya, the tiniest (about 2.5 miles by 4.5 miles in size) of the inhabited remote islands in the Aleutian island chain of Alaska. Shemya is about 1,200 miles from anchorage (or 5,800 miles from where we lived at the time in Portsmouth, NH).
So, my Dad went Remote. And in 1978, Shemya was incredibly remote. This was pre-internet, pre-cell phones, pre-inexpensive long distance calls, and pre-email. That year we talked infrequently and we only saw him once. Yet, he found ways to stay connected with his family. Even though he had gone remote, he was, as always, still present.
A few weeks ago it became clear it was time for hospice for my dear Daddy. I had, and still have, no idea how to be in the world without my Dad. Quite frankly, I’m pretty angry and gutted. It is still unimaginable to me that he has died.
That day, as I struggled to find some kind of peace at all, I snuggled in bed with my Dad as we cried and I rubbed his increasingly prominent forehead.
I reminded him of my love for him and what a great man he was. I told him that I would not be who I was today, were it not for his incredible capacity for love.
And, I told him that I was going to imagine preparing myself for him to go Remote. That I knew, once again, I wouldn’t be able to talk to him often, but that he would still be there. And that he would remain present no matter where this remote journey took him.
So, my Dad has now gone Remote. But like I told him while I held him in that hospital bed that day, I’ll keep him in my mind as I go through the world, and I know he’ll be there.
Thank you for being here and loving my Dad and supporting my family.
Eighteen days and counting. Eighteen days.