Friday, January 29, 2016

New Mountain Tattoo for Dad

 I got a new tattoo last night. Its meaning is deeply personal to me but all of my tattoos are personal and I've written about the other ones before so I want to write about this one, too.

I wanted to get a tattoo to honour my dad. Dad loved the mountains. We went to the Rocky Mountains lots when I was a kid, travelling to Banff, Canmore, Radium, and Fairmont. He used to say, "Mountains are good for the soul."

In the hospice where he spent the last days of his life, they had a book called Journey's End by Deborah Sigrist. It was about what to expect when someone you love is dying, what will happen to them physically, mentally, and spiritually. It was very helpful to my family and I. I read it a few times. On the last page of the book was part of a poem by the Persian poet Rumi. The first line was:

Now that you live here in my chest,
Anywhere we sit is a mountaintop. 

To me it means that even though my dad is gone, he lives inside me because I am made of him, and I can try to be like him. And I can carry his memory with me.
One of the many beautiful sympathy cards I received this month says, "Every time you remember his laughter or recall his readiness to help others...Every time you find yourself doing something he taught you or repeating something he used to say...Every time you think of him, you bring your dad closer to your heart."

He lives in my chest now and whenever people ask me about my tattoo or the meaning behind it I'm going to say, "Mountains are good for the soul." 

my left inner bicep

Mt. Rundle in Banff

Love you, Dad.

Monday, January 25, 2016


Something has happened that I find extremely difficult to write about it, yet it is impossible for me to write anything else until I do.

My dad passed away on January 4, 2016.

On  August 20, 2015 he went into the hospital with stomach pains. A scan showed a perforated appendix and he went into surgery. What we thought was a routine appendectomy resulted in some complications which he was lucky to survive. They found a fist-sized mass on his colon and he was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.

The last five months have been very difficult, but there have also been some very special and wonderful moments for my family. Dad was in and out of hospital, receiving treatment, and doing whatever it took for him to get better. Right from the start he was determined to fight and he was always more concerned about us than himself. The day of his surgery my family was supposed to come over for a family BBQ and he was upset that it had to be cancelled on his account. You might think he had his priorities wrong but he never wanted to be a burden to anybody, or disrupt anyone's lives.

The worst day of my life was December 18, 2015.
On the evening of December 17 my dad went into surgery again to remove a blockage on his bowel that was preventing him from eating. On December 18 we learned that the surgery had been unsuccessful. The blockage was caused by more tumors and the surgeon had tried everything she could think of, but there was no way to remove them. There was nothing that could be done. I was at the hospital with my parents when the surgeon told us the news.

I am lucky, though, because I can definitively say that was the worst day, but I cannot choose which day has been the best day of my life because there have been so many good ones. One of those good days was December 22, when my dad was able to come home for a few hours and have Christmas with us.

The next day he moved to hospice care, where he spent the last days of his life. 

My dad was a great dad and a wonderful person. He was funny. He was always telling jokes and stories, gaining the attention and laughter of everybody in the room. He seemed to know somebody everywhere we went because he'd grown up in the city and lived there nearly all his life. Even if he didn't know somebody, he acted like he did, being friendly and asking them how they were doing that day. 
He loved James Bond, Marvel Comics, NHL hockey, gardens, mountains, travelling, and most of all his family. He was a proud dad and grandpa. Family was the most important thing to him. 

I am so happy that he got to see me finish university and become a teacher, that he got to see all three of his children get married, and that he got to meet three of his grandchildren. He lived a very good life in only 61 years.

We cremated him on January 13, and had a small ceremony with just our family. Then on Saturday, a Celebration of Life service was held. Everyone wore bright colours, at Dad's request, and we sang hymns that he chose, and told stories, and looked at pictures from his life. I couldn't believe how many people came. Many people commented that it was the most fun they've ever had at church, and that it was nice to go to a service like that and feel uplifted instead of just sad.
For me, it was an opportunity to see just how many lives one person can touch, even by living a simple life in a single place, working at one job for 30 years. It was inspirational.

David Bowie died the same week as my dad. As far as I know, Dad wasn't a huge Bowie fan, though he loved music and would tap his fingers on the steering wheel of his car and sing along to just about anything on the radio. It was strange to see how the world reacted to the death of a man in his 60s from cancer, so soon after my dad's death, and in a way it provided validation of my own feelings. The grief and hope that came out of Bowie's death was surreal in a way, like the entire world was grieving my dad with me. Everybody was thinking about the impact one man can have.

I'm proud to be his kid, to be made of him, to be like him.
We'll try to be like the best parts of him so that he can live on.

In August, about a week before his diagnosis, he sent me an e-mail after reading my blog "On Going Home and Growing Up". It said,
"Hi Danielle: I just read your blog on your trip to Athabasca. It was wonderful. You are truly a talented, great writer. I enjoy all of your blogs, but this one was exceptional. Mom and I are proud of the you that you have become. Keep writing! Love, Dad"

That was in my mind when I sat down to write this blog today. I will keep writing, whether it is here, in my personal journal, poems, songs, stories, or novels. I will write even when it is hard because it is important. 

I will try to be a version of myself he would be proud of, though I know he would be proud no matter what.

I will miss you, Dad. I love you. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year

I haven't written here for a few weeks. There has been a lot going on in my personal life, which I will write about at some point because I need to, but not today. Today is about new beginnings.

New Years, like most things, is arbitrary and it is what you make it. This year I am buying in to fresh starts, clean slates, and just the idea of something new.

There are a lot of things I want to do in 2016 and I will write those down for myself in my private journal and hold myself accountable to making the most of my time, but more importantly today on January 1st I want to think about the kind of person I want to be this year and going forward. It's a good time to commit to growth. 

I want to be: kinder, quieter, less afraid to show people who I am and tell them how I feel.
I want to: take things slow, listen better, work towards my goals, create little adventures.

On New Years Eve 2016 I don't want to think "this year kicked my ass." I want to think "I kicked ass this year!"

"For what it's worth, it's never too late ... to be whoever you want to be.
There's no time limit, stop whenever you want.
You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing.
We can make the best or the worst of it.
I hope you make the best of it.
And I hope you see things that startle you.
I hope you feel things you never felt before.
I hope you meet people with a different point of view.
I hope you live a life you're proud of.
If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength
to start all over again."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button