Sunday, May 18, 2008

In Memory of a great man.

A friend of mine's Dad just left the physical plane for the more peaceful, less painful pastures of a wonderful new land. He's been sick, weak, and having trouble now for a while. Sometime this morning his fight to live, became a journey toward peace and rest. While it would be anyone's tendency to surrender to the pain of loss, and the trauma of grief, I thought I'd instead look at this man who meant so much to so many people. A gentle, strong, wonderful man who touched so many lives with light, laughter and love.

This man was a husband, father and even a grandfather who lived a rich and full life and blessed everyone he touched. He was also an engineer and a safty expert who had a long career of helping ensure safer and happier lives for countless other people.

Me, he taught me, well even better helped me see, how asking for, and accepting help could be a good thing. Many, mnay years ago a storm did damage to some trees on his property, and one was dangerously close to falling on the house. As an engineer, he was understandably concerned about how to safely take down the tree without doing any harm. Having spent plenty of time in my youth taking down trees and chopping them up for firewood, and having read way to many books on the subject. I offered to do it for him saving him the cost of bringing in a tree specialist.

He was understandably sceptical and no amount of discussion allowed me to explain what I was offereing to do in a way that assuaged his concerns. Finally I suggested we take down another tree on the property so that I could show him. I asked him to place a dime on the spot he wanted me to drop the tree and then started making my cuts. In very short order I dropped the tree right on the dime. It takes a brave and special kind of man to be comfortable enough in his own skin, and yet able to accept and recieve help. In my rush to try and help him with a problem and save him a bunch of money, he helped me learn a lesson that stayed with me to this day. One I've shared with other people.

At another point, long after we'd cleared not only the tree that was threatening the house, but a number of others on the property. He'd rented a frontloader/backhoe combination in order to open up space for a garden and do some landscaping. The property wasn't exactly level, thus the heavy equipment, but at one point it got seriously stuck. Because it was wheeled and not tracked, once it was stuck and the powered wheels were spinging, it was good and trapped. Again I stepped up and offered to get it out and briefly he argued I was crazy and it was going to take heavy equipment to get it unstuck. He was concerned that if we tried any more to get it unstuck it would slide, or even tumble down the hill it was hanging over the edge. He pointed out quite correctly that having it tumble down the hill, and possibly onto someone else's property, let alone the chances for someone getting hurt. I promised I'd be extra careful and if there was even a hint of it further destabilizing, I'd shut it down and walk away.

My idea was to use the tractors mass and hydraulics to free it. Between the bucket in the front, the backhoe in the back, and the two hyraulic stabilizers on the sides, I figured I could slowly walk it out of the mess it was in. Long story short, exactly like a bug, I carefully leveraged the weight of the tractor in a way that allowed me to get it onto solid ground and then drive it someplace out of the way and park it.

Dad was an amazing, gifted, strong and stubborn man. He fought to hang on, to stick around for those who love him, but in the end he knew when enough was. He's going to be deeply missed by everyone who's lives he continues to enrich by having spent time with us. In my life, I'd never been terribly good about asking for help, allowing someone to offer it, or even accepting it when it's offered. It's been a theme central to my life, and something my own father beat into my head as something one should never, ever do. This man, who was, in many ways like a father to me too, showed me in a powerful and meaningful way that there is a time and place to be stubborn and strong, but that there is also a time to ask for, accept, and appreciate help in our lives.

I'm a much, much better person having had him inmy life and he will deeply missed. As strong and stubborn as he could be, he was also amazingly gentle, sensitive, perceptive and tender too. He's going to be missed by a whole bunch of people, me included. But he's going to be remembered, and honored by me and a whole bunch of people. So right now, instead of getting lost in my grief, I'm going celebrate his life!

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