Words to remember.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

This time of year is hard for so many people.  We don't always know who is struggling, but chances are that many of the people we interact with each day are having a hard time.  Whether they're mourning losses, missing loved ones, dealing with financial troubles or job concerns, facing health challenges, trying to come to terms with unfulfilled dreams and goals, wishing away difficult life situations, feeling buried by to-do lists, or just putting one foot in front of the other during a holiday time that feels not nearly as picture-perfect and happy as it's supposed to -- it's hard.  Legitimately hard.

Truth be told, I battle a lot of forces that try hard to pull me down during this time every year.  This year I'm fighting a little harder because there's a hole in my family.

I've never shared what I said at my father's memorial service, but I've found myself looking back at my speech many times recently -- somehow these words are giving me strength right now.  So I'm posting this here in hopes that they might help someone else too.  

At the very least, I hope somebody out there is reminded to be extra kind this time of year, to yourself and others.  And for anyone out there who is hurting, I hope you are reminded that you are loved.

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What do you say about a one-of-a-kind original who, in many ways, defies description?  How do you put words to the life of a free spirit who plotted his own course and forged his own path?  

I could tell you about how he was an exquisite craftsman and could do amazing and beautiful things with wood.  But chances are you already know that, and many of you are fortunate, as I am, to be able to look at some of his handiwork each day.  

I could tell you about his passion for clean living, for eating natural foods, exercising, treating his body with great care.  In fact, I could probably talk for hours about this, especially if we get into qui gong, archery, acupuncture, mountain-biking, yoga, tennis, golf, country dancing, not to mention organic raisins, coffee, and various spicy foods.  But if you knew my dad, you undoubtedly know that this is something he was very passionate about.  

I could tell you about how much he loved to watch sports, even how a 20-year-old me took him to a UT football game, where we sat in the student section and he got every bit as rowdy as the drunk frat boys around us, or how much he loved to talk politics and listen to talk radio, or how much he enjoyed a good fiddle tune.  

Or I could tell you about his gift with words and the volumes of poetry he produced, or his spiritual side, from his years of i Ching to his interest in Native American spirituality, how he loved spending time in the woods or in a sweat lodge.  

But, knowing my dad, this wouldn’t surprise any of you.

I could talk about how he had his own distinct style, his signature look of black Levis, boots, t-shirt, bandana tucked in his pocket, long silver ponytail, and wire-rimmed glasses with only real-deal glass lenses.  

But that’s old news (although you may not know just how many years running his mother gave him a brand-new, stiff-as-a-board pair of Levis for Christmas).  

I'm tempted to bring up how tough he was, how strong-headed, firm-in-convictions, and some might even say stubborn.  After all, how many people do you know who would choose to have their root canal done with no anesthesia?  But, again, as some of my dad’s biggest fans, you know all too well.

I should probably mention what a great smile he had, and how a hearty belly laugh from my dad was one of the best sounds anyone could ever hear.  But I don’t need to, because you already know.  You know.

I could try to tell you tell you about how he loved his family and his children and grandchildren.  But I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin.

As I thought about speaking today, I realized that I don’t have to find my own words.  As the oldest of my dad’s five children, and having spent 45 years listening to and learning from my dad, I think his words say it all.  So I’m going to share with you some of the gifts he has given me, the lessons he taught and tidbits of wisdom he imparted over the years.  These are words that I will always hear in his voice:

Just be yourself and don’t worry about what anybody thinks.

Your body is a temple.  Listen to it, take care of it, respect it.

Breathe deeply and let yourself relax.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.  

Stretch every day -- stretch your body, your mind, and any boundaries you have placed on yourself.  

Love what you do, and do what you love.

Find an outlet to express what lies deep within you, be it words, music, art, working with wood, or physical activity.  

Don’t take anything personally.  Ever.

Say what you mean, mean what you say.

Accept people as they are and don’t try to change them.  The only person you can change is you.

The most important things are not things.  

Seek a deeper understanding, look beyond the obvious.

Learn.  There is always something to be learned.

Laughter truly is the best medicine.  

Let go of sadness, guilt, and grudges; they only hold you back.

Finally, life is short; live as if each day is your last.

For my dad, these were not just words.  They were how he lived his life.  Every day.  Every moment.

My dad lived with no regrets, he embraced each day as an opportunity not to be missed, a chance to learn and grow and feel free, to breathe deeply, acknowledge blessings, and appreciate the gift of life.

There is a lot to be learned from the way my dad lived his life and how he cherished his time on this planet.  I’m thankful for these lessons that will stay with me always.

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My dad's best friend also spoke at my father's memorial service.  He recounted how he and my dad spent countless hours talking about how these are troubling times for our nation (and that was before the election; I can only imagine what my dad would say now!).  He shared my dad's answer -- Spread Love and Light.  Wherever you go, whoever you meet, whatever you do, spread love and light

So that's what I'm trying to do.  Be the light, see the light, share the love, feel the love. 

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