Father’s Day in 2007 was one of the real highlights of the relationship I had with my dad. Mom had died in May, 2007. Dad was wearing out (he was 94), but hung on until Mom died.  He seemed to be doing well for a couple of months after Mom’s death, but it was short-lived.

It was right around Father’s Day of that year that we seemed to connect better than we ever had before.  I treasure the time I had with him over those precious few weeks.  He faded rather quickly in August and died in mid-September of congestive heart failure.

During the two months or so that Dad had seemed to rally, he and I had many opportunities to talk.  We discussed several things about us that had not been touched on much in previous years. It was the kind of sharing I wish had occurred so much more often in our past. I used the poem I wrote about his sharing as a tribute at his memorial.

The Garden Chair

My dad was such a quiet man who seldom ever shared

His inner thoughts–it made me think he hardly ever cared.

Then Mama died and he began to change, had different needs;

Our talks began, then as we spoke, his changes picked up speed,

I loved to garden, so he’d sit, and “help” his special way;

We talked of life and how he felt, it’s how we filled our days.

I really got to know him, then, as he shared from his chair;

I learned so much about him and us, I loved to hear him share.

But, now he’s gone; I miss him so, but I can feel him there;

My garden has a place reserved for him: my father’s chair.

Reflecting back on the times we had together and the talks we had, I am struck by several important revelations I’ve had about being a dad.  I wrote three poems about what I learned and I give them as advice to my kids and to all fathers who read this.

My Foundation

When I was young, I couldn’t wait, to get out on my own;

Determined to succeed in life, based just on me alone.

Then I got married, children came and lots of change began;

I realized that family is the base of who I am.

I saw so much effect on me that both my parents had;

And how much I had gained from being raised by Mom and Dad.

But, there was more than just those two, connecting deep inside;

I really felt the roots I have, they’re spread both deep and wide.

The man I am is based upon, those who had been before;

Just how they lived and who they were, is deep inside my core.

I’m now aware that there are links, in life that truly last;

It’s finally clear, I really feel the presence of the past.

The Wonderful Present

Each day a gift is ours to have, but, most don’t seem to care,

To open it and use it well we leave it sitting there.

We’re focusing on other things, so busy that we seem;

Preoccupied, then soon forget just what our present means.

We tend to think of what could be or things from in our past;

And all the while, our “here and now,” is ours, but does not last.

Don’t focus on a different time, it’s NOW where you must build;

Enjoy each day for what it is, you’ll feel much more fulfilled.

It’s What Matters

When we are moved to celebrate a life, in joy or grief;

I stop and think what’s precious and revisit my beliefs.

In life, the most important thing is love, the kind that’s shared;

It comes from family and your God and friends for whom you care.

So many people miss the point, instead they’re seeking things;

But without love, your life is like a bird with broken wings.

Seek out the love that’s there for you, from lovers, family, friends;

Make it the base to build upon, up to the point life ends.

Right now’s the only time you have, you must live in today;

Embrace the love and give it back, don’t let time slip away.

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Edward Gray

Ed Gray graduated from Cornell with a degree in mechanical engineering and earned his MBA while in the military. He is the author of the new book, Essence of Grieving. From the early 1970s to the end of 2007, his career was marketing and new business development for plastics in the auto industry. Ed has been doing woodworking since he was a teenager. Recently this has evolved to sculpture involving natural materials such as driftwood and stone. He is widowed and lives north of Ann Arbor, Michigan. In his blended family, there are six children and eleven grandchildren (so far). Ed enjoyed poetry as a child but never wrote any until he met his wife Nancy in 1984. She inspired him to begin writing; her creativity, artistry, and loving support encouraged him to develop his poetry extensively. Ed published his first book, In Rhythm with Your Feelings, early in 2004. His next two books, both published in 2005, were “adult humor”: Ode to a Load and Ode to a Load … Look, I did a number 2. He was working on a fourth poetry book when Nancy became ill and then passed away from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). To help him through her dying process, Ed began journaling. Toward the very end of Nancy’s life in June 2008, this had evolved into using poetry to express how he felt and what was happening in his life. This poetry exploded after her death and has been a crucial part of his movement through the grieving process and transition back into life.

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