In a recent article, I started by quoting ancient Roman writer Seneca, who said, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
Those words resonate with me even more now since I first quoted them. This past week has brought on a flurry of emotion as I have had to face what may be the end for someone very dear to my heart.
The fact that it is Christmas, where celebration is in the air, has made it even more surreal.
This time of year has always been joyful for us, especially since seven years ago, our son Peter was born just 30 minutes shy of the midnight hour on Christmas Eve.
However, I’m not sure if Christmas will ever be the same again. Besides my son’s birth, it will also always be remembered as the time that important person, my son’s namesake, my father, entered a new realm.
After this more recent, and very unforgiving battle with cancer, my father was placed into Hospice House earlier this week.
The warm embrace he has received there has been helping dull all our pain, as we know he is being well looked after. But it’s never easy to watch your parent fade away in front of you.
Especially one such as my dad.
He probably will be a bit embarrassed about me writing about him in this very public space before his time comes. But I am not willing to wait and pen something for the back pages of this newspaper – I want him to know how much he has meant to me, and to our family.
Proud, stubborn, funny, fearless are just a few words to describe him. My dad has always been a series of contradictions.
He was a menacing rugby player in his day and could kick a ball so high it would literally disappear into the sky, or so we kids imagined.
A lifetime member of the Toronto Nomads Rugby Club, my dad still cheers on his beloved Springboks, sometimes with a Zulu war cry, hoping they will wipe the haka off the faces of those dreaded All Blacks.
Then there’s the chef side: My dad has impressed many with his dishes – from spicy lamb vindaloo to the best barbecued tandoori chicken you’ve ever tasted.
The wilderness enthusiast: We have gone on countless camping, paddling and skiing trips in some of the most beautiful waters and mountainous areas this country has to offer.
And the artist: He began painting as a young child and rediscovered his brushes years later to capture the landscape and native wildlife in watercolour. His paintings are owned by many dear friends, and a few strangers, and he more recently became a proud member of the North Okanagan chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists.
He brought all this talent with him when he first came to Canada from his native South Africa – via a merchant ship to Europe. Told that Canada had a number of mining jobs, he and a friend took the slow boat across the Atlantic and up the St. Lawrence to their new home.
The mining never worked out, thank goodness or we would have ended up in Timmins, instead my dad went to Toronto, where he eventually met my mom through a mutual friend (think there was a little competition there).
My dad would become a pharmaceutical salesman (or drug dealer as I jokingly like to say) and plied his trade in Vancouver, where I was born, and later in Montreal, where my sister came to be. We all returned to Toronto as a family in 1978, where I would eventually leave the nest 14 years later, coming west, followed by my sister.
Here we have stayed, living life to the fullest and starting new careers…. Then the babies arrived. The lure of four grandchildren in B.C. was too much for my parents to ignore and so they purged their lives in Toronto, packed up their remaining belongings, said goodbye to beloved friends, and made their way back to us.
I am so appreciative to them for this, and that my children have come to know their grandparents.
And so now as that one beginning is about to come to its inevitable end, I want to say, I love you, Dad. Christmas may never be the same, but it will be a time to remember you always.