Carrying on My Father's Legacy
Written on February 20, 2020 in hospital in Northern California
I am writing this blog as I sit vigil for my father’s passing.
It has been ten days since my two brothers and mother surrounded my father and prayed. The palliative care physicians brought up the possibility of ending dialysis, and my father agreed. He had been in hospital for three weeks already. His body was failing - his kidneys, his heart, and his untreatable cancer were getting the best of him.
No one could plan a better passing. They quickly moved him to hospice and secured him his own room - with a view, plenty of space, and room for a keyboard. His sisters were here, and we were all able to surround him with love and song and laughter. One by one they all had to return to their lives as death took much longer than anyone expected. A couple days after ending dialysis, father said to his baby sister, “This is taking too long.” That was a week ago. However, he perked up a day or two later and had really wonderful times with friends and chosen family who came to visit. Some stayed for a little while, expressing their love and gratitude for Uncle Wayne/Pastor Wayne/Papa - they all have names of endearment for him.
What this afforded my father was the opportunity to hear stories of how he has impacted their lives in the most glorious of ways. People were able to share songs with him, recall memories, and articulate how he made their lives so much richer and fuller. Not just their lives but the lives of their loved ones. My friend Lily sent some hospice songs from her mother’s women’s choir. One song starts with a solitary angelic voice singing, “We will sing your song. You will live on our breath long after you're gone. You and your music live on.” My father said, “My music will live on.” What a gift to know that deeply in one’s soul before departing.
The theme that resonated through all the testimonies shared in this time was the remarkable amount of love my father and mother have given to the people around them. As ministers, they were the ones at people’s side before and after surgery, before and after death, before and after birth. He tapped into infinite love and gave it generously. My mother said he taught her how to love. His love wasn’t just verbal, though he was eloquent in love. His love showed up in tangible ways every day. His love sacrificed his own well-being to be present for others. I am so glad it was all returned to him as companionship on this ultimate transition from life.
And so I commit to carrying this legacy of love forward. Through my art and my life, through my work and my play, through my relationships and interactions - love first. I wanted to remind us of the power of love - not just a frilly, frothy love, though there is a wonderful place for that - but a deep, creative, and powerful love. Love that transforms. Love that restores people to themselves and the beauty they possess. That’s the legacy I want to carry forward.
Here are two poems that I came across in my devotionals with dad this week. I shared them with mom, and we all agreed they resonated powerfully and perfectly. They are both from Hafiz, the 14th-century Persian poet, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky in Love Poems from God.
The first expresses father’s approach to his ministry and life:
WITH THAT MOON LANGUAGE
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who live with a
full moon in each eye that is
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in
this world is
The second wraps up one of the core practices of my parents epic love affair:
One regret that I am determined not to have
when I am lying upon my
is that we did not kiss