A Golden Legacy from My Father
I came across this piece recently, which I originally shared at the memorial service for my father, Norman Edwin Hunt, who died on June 14, 2007.
Strangely, though I looked for hours, I was unable to fine a decent picture of him for this post. Very frustrating. Very odd. Instead I have included a few photos that speak of him in some way.
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I want to tell you a story about my dad's final gift to me.
All of you knew, and loved, my dad. He was an amazing man: very talented and creative, funny, passionate about his beliefs and causes, extremely articulate and intelligent, a mover and a shaker. And very playful. Very spiritual.
He also had a darker side, which some of you perhaps never saw, some glimpsed, and some of us, perhaps especially the family, knew all too well. He was, in a word, profoundly human--full of beauty and light and pain and darkness.
Along with other family members I had the honor of serving him during his last few days. Although on Wednesday, June 13 he had one of the best, most lucid and positive days he had had in a long time, by Thursday morning it quickly became clear that he was fading rather rapidly.
During his last few hours my brother Peter, his wife Karen, my husband Lawrence and I sat with him. He was not conscious but he was very peaceful. We talked and joked quietly. We sang. We prayed. And then his breath began to slow down, ever so gently, until finally...he simply did not take another breath.
We stayed with him, continuing to sing and pray and talk quietly, letting tears come as they would. Such a peaceful, special time.
I was sitting on my dad's left side. He did not look very good from there. I won't go into detail but it is enough to say that death is not very pretty. But I was able just to be there with him and accept that, in part because I knew the real Norman was moving out beyond that body.
We stayed with him for quite a while and, if anything, what I could see of his face became more obviously a face of death. Hard to accept, but that was the reality.
At some later point my sister Robin and her husband Wayne arrived, and a few minutes later my sister Carol. I got up and came around the bed to greet them. We talked and shed a few more tears and shared stories. By that time it had been a couple of hours since that last, slow, peaceful breath.
I turned to look at my dad, this time from the right side. What I saw was an absolutely beautiful man bathed in a golden light. It was late afternoon by this time and the light coming in the large window was very soft. But it was more than that. In some way there was a glow about my dad--beautiful, peaceful, deep. He looked like an ancient sage, a Homeric figure of wisdom and peace. My sister Robin tapped me on the shoulder--we both had seen it--so we pointed it out to the others.
That death mask, the darker side, was still there, though there was no sharp dividing line. I made a conscious decision not to go back around to the left side. I had seen it, accepted it, lived with it, and would not forget it, but what I wanted to take in and hold with me was the golden light of that beautiful old man.
As I have lived with those images and experiences the last few weeks the lessons have deepened. There was a dark and difficult side to my dad, and a beautiful, wise and golden side. There is a dark and difficult side to life, as well as a beautiful, wise and golden side.
If we try to ignore or shut out the darker side we do so at our peril. It is real. It is there. It must be dealt with. But if we focus on that darker reality we miss the incredible beauty and golden wisdom which is here as gift.
Thank you, Dad, for this incredible legacy. I knew your darker side, I know the darker side of life, and I accept them as best I can. I also see and know your beauty, and the deep golden beauty of life. And I choose that beauty.
You have left me an amazing, life changing gift. Thank you for sharing it with me. Thank you for sharing yourself with me. I love you.
The world indeed is full of peril,
and in it there are many dark places;
but still there is much that is fair,
and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief,
it grows perhaps the greater.
The Fellowship of the Ring
If you would like to read a little more about my dad, here's a link to his obituary.
Until next time,
Pemaquid, ME; Thompson Cottages
Newfane, VT; Ray Bates, Newfane.com
Golden path, Joshua Woroniecki, unSplash