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‘Til Death We Do Part – A Daughter’s Story of Her Dad

By Lisa Issacs

The phone rings as I step out of the shower in my hotel room in Halifax. It is early morning Atlantic time, and my brother is calling from Toronto. I’m getting ready to go to several meetings on his behalf and thought he was calling to check in. Instead, he blurts out, “Dad died last night”. I yelped, “No, no, no, not today, I have too much to do!” That sounds awful, but the timing could not have been worse. I had to attend meetings for a conference that was starting in 48 hours. In addition, I now needed to retrieve my passport in Toronto so I could travel to Northern California to see my mother who was suddenly widowed.

My dad was the kind of guy who if you asked him the time, he’d tell you how to build the watch… not that he ever really “built” anything. He was more of an idea guy and seemed to have endless amounts of historical tidbits, which he often shared. I thought he was the smartest man in the world. Born and raised in Toronto, he tragically lost his dad when he was just 10 years old. He matured quickly, and I know that affected his outlook on life and parenting as he showered me and my brother with praise and affection.

I quickly dressed for my first meeting. Luckily, it was with the hotel staff where many of the conference functions were taking place. I alerted them to my recent and unfortunate circumstances, and they were immediately ready to immerse themselves in managing the event on my behalf. Relieved, I continued on to the four other locations where I had set up meetings that day. At each one I had to painfully recount the morning’s phone call and was met with enthusiastic help and assistance from everyone. Finally, I briefed the Board of Directors, handed off my conference binder, and returned to my room to pack for the airport.

Flying from Halifax to Toronto seemed to take forever and I was in no condition to be patient. Thankfully, my girlfriend was waiting to pick me up when I arrived and whisked me to my apartment in Leslieville. I mustered up just enough energy to take a shower before having to repack and return to the airport the following day. It didn’t take long until I was sobbing uncontrollably under the deluge of water from the shower head. I let the tears and wailing flow out of me until I was exhausted and spent. Despite the terrible news in the morning and managing a difficult afternoon, I slept soundly that night.

My dad loved to plan our summer vacations which would take us all over the United States in the family car. At the time we were living in Texas, as that was where my folks met and fell in love. They were married for 50 years and enjoyed many of the same things, traveling being one of them. Months before our trips, my dad would collect all kinds of material from chambers of commerce and tourism boards for the locations he planned on taking us. Then out came the mighty yellow pad and my dad would painstakingly write out our itinerary using his favourite gold pen. Each day was carefully organized almost down to the minute. When all the reservations were made, we’d pile into the car and off we’d go on another family adventure. These itineraries were practically works of art, and after he died I found them in a box in the garage. Needless to say they are now one of my treasured keepsakes.

Navigating this grief in our family was a new adventure. I arrived safely in California ready to comfort my mother after such a devastating loss. It had been 2 full days since my dad died, and my mom was much calmer than I expected when I entered the condo. Clearly sad, her eyes swollen from hours of crying, we embraced and held each other tightly. Later that night as she and I prepared for bed, my mom pointed to a photo album on the dresser in the master bedroom. Opened to the last page, there was an envelope containing death instructions in my dad’s handwriting. It was almost as though he had known the end was near, and in his organized way was ensuring that his wife and children had what they needed.

My dad loved to take pictures and to prove it he filled 24 three-ring binders with photos. In them, we had enough memories to together to last a lifetime; birthday celebrations, every Halloween costume, anniversary parties and of course, those great summer trips. When my mom found the last album my dad had secretly put together, I knew it was his final goodbye to us all. The album was a complete timeline of our lives together and a fitting send-off.

Nowadays, together with my mom and brother, we honour my dad every year on Father’s Day by having his favourite cuisine, Chinese food. It’s a chance to reconnect and share crazy stories about dad and his love of food, of which there are many! At the end of the meal, we take part in a tradition started by my dad where we open our fortune cookies and burn the best one for good luck.

Food for thought…..

What mementos or keepsakes do you have from your dad?

What traditions are you keeping alive in his memory?

What are some the ways you honour your dad on Father’s Day?

Lisa is a member of our Moonlit Memory Walk (Fundraiser) Organizing Team. Learn more about the Moonlit Memory Walk and how you can join and share the memories of your dad by CLICKING HERE

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