For many of us, the arrival of Easter heralds the arrival of Spring, and a general re-awakening of nature.
Even our very senses seem more rudely alive, aching to take in the explosions of growth all around, our noses attuned to the blossoms scent carried on the wind, our eyes jealously keeping track of the shifting of the new year’s sun across the lakewater and the mountains of our beautiful Valley.
But in the midst of the symphony of nature’s merry-making at this time of the year, Easter signals and dwells upon the darkening path of Death as well. In the Christian tradition, Easter marks the terrible suffering and execution of Jesus of Nazareth; and the consequent redemption of fallen humanity through his crucifixion.
As enlivening as Easter can be, however, with the gorging on chocolate and the lusty carousing with visiting family and friends, my own experience is episodically interrupted by intimations of the end, death, at this time.
This year, April 6th was the second anniversary of the death of my father-in-law, George Blyth. And it is also about the second anniversary of my own dear father Harry’s terminal cancer diagnosis. This will have likely been his last Easter with us.
So you can see how Easter can cloud a guy’s head when death stalks at the edges of consciousness with grim persistence.
And yet, there’s joy in it for me, too.
To have been blessed in my time with not one, but two exceptional men in my life to call Dad, is really quite remarkable. And I am grateful for it.
But how we all miss our George.
My partner Wendy can attribute her beguiling charms and her endless canon of at-times-belief-begging stories to George’s career as a pilot, which took the family away to live for many years abroad, often in countries that we only shudder at when we hear their mention nowadays: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Greece, Russia....
But in their time, these far off places with ancient traditions, became their homes and the terrain of lives-in-the-making that would, in later years, become the stuff of Blyth family legends.
And George was often at the centre of the story-telling that carried the family history forward into the memories for so many of us.
To have George wrested away, so suddenly from our midst, was a shock. But we knew that he had a finicky ticker; and eventually it gave out. Painlessly, swiftly, like a thief in the night. He was gone.
And now my own father, Harry.
My father hasn’t had the blessing of a quick end. And, although he loves life, he has complained bitterly at times about the protracted withdrawal from the world that he endures in his own cancer-constrained condition. Happily he is in no pain, and he remains as sharp as the learned man that he has ever been. But he no longer leaves the bed, and he laments the loss of life in his limbs.
But what gracious and engaging company he is. And though he is slowly thinning out some, the cheeks radiate ruddy. And when he speaks, his timbre is rich and exacting, his thinking defined and pointed. No bullshit here, folks. He calls it like he knows it.
To be able to call Dad Dad still, to touch his hands when they are out from under the covers, to listen to his stories still coming, and to kiss his forehead when I leave his bedside after visiting -- to experience my father in his dying is not to mourn prematurely, but to love and cherish Life as we find ourselves in it.
And when things are not going well, and our losses are too keenly anticipated or felt, we remember at Easter, with the dying of a desolate Christ, Jesus on the cross, the aloneness of abandonment. The heavenly Father unhearing, or gone away.
Where are our Fathers, after all?
In our hearts, our fathers. In living, and in dying. Our fathers are felt; and if we have loved them in our time, they live along with us. In memory. In story. To the end of another Easter season and beyond.
— Jeffrey Loewen is a Kelowna-based writer who works at playing music by day and playing politics by night.