Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Only Perfect Thing

I have missed blogging the past couple of months, but I just haven't been ready to write about other things until I've gotten this big one off my chest.

My father passed away in April. It was peaceful and without anguish or pain. And because we knew it was coming the family was together with him. We couldn't have hoped for more than that.

Now that a bit of healing time has passed and I have thought clearly about the big picture of it all, I realize that my family has a lot for which we can be thankful.

As Dad got more forgetful at home in Alaska, he used to joke that his memory had "gone south." Several years ago for medical reasons, with the family's assistance the rest of him made the same journey. My father lived most recently in a nursing home near my sister in South Florida.

Although back when Dad was better able to consider his options he never considered leaving Alaska in his old age, in later years it really didn't matter to Dad where he lived, geographically. The past -- career, accomplishments, losses, disappointments, his treasured Alaska book collection -- none of these mattered terribly much to him any longer, either.

What was important was the quality of Dad's daily life and the care that he received. Where he lived recently, the quality of these things was high. With his physical needs taken care of and limited by poor vision and a fading memory, Dad concentrated his attention on what was left.

Fortunately, what remained was the important stuff. Dad expressed love for those around him. It didn't matter who was there. They might have been family members, friends, doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, therapists or just other folks who happened to be there. Whoever it was, he loved them and he made sure they knew it. And because he expressed his love for people, the love was returned in abundance.

Relationships and simple pleasures that can be enjoyed in the here and now -- things like singing, listening to music and birdsong, feeling the warmth of the sun, eating a cookie, holding a hand, a hug -- these he still enjoyed to the fullest. And he seems to have found a good level of contentment in them.

Dad had long been interested in Buddhism and had practiced meditation. Thinking about all this, I realized that in his final years he refined the art of living in and appreciating the moment.

I have a close friend who often points out that "to love is the only perfect thing we do." I think that in this respect my father passed his final years in the most perfect way he could. Of course over the past few years there were moments of despair, stress and anxiety. We wouldn't be human without those. But now looking back, I know that Dad and the whole family endured it all because of the love.

And in that I can find comfort.

Text and images copyright 2014 by Marc Olson


  1. Mark, a beautiful remembrance for Father's Day....and a fitting reminder of what is truly important in life.

  2. How beautiful to know of your realization Mark. Thanks for sharing with your friends who care so much about you.

  3. Marc, my sincere condolences on your loss. Your father sounds like a truly wonderful person, and he will live on through the love and wisdom that he gave to others.

  4. Sounds like he was a great guy. You are fortunate.

  5. That was nice reminder of the importance of love and relationships that work both ways. He was lucky to pass without enduring endless pain and stress for the family. We see so many times that passing includes years of agony for the patients and families, to go that was is indeed a blessing.

  6. May you always have fond memories of your parents...

  7. Mark, I am so sorry to hear of your father's passing. That was a lovely Father's Day tribute.

  8. A very nice tribute to your father, Mark.

  9. What a beautiful tribute! Your father sounds like a wonderful man!

  10. Welcome back to the blogosphere, Marc. I have been thinking about you all day on this Father's Day, your first without your dad. I was wondering how you were doing. Then I saw this beautiful post. Thanks for sharing it. What a lovely insight into your intimate relationship with your dad.

  11. Thank you! Taking the time and heart to write about your recent loss and views has made a difference to me....and mine. I particularly appreciate you talking of the simple pleasures your Dad enjoyed and see the same with my Dad. I hold on to those small things as proof and reasons we/all get up and do each and every day. Our Alaskan lives and our fading parents are much similar. Thank you for posting and sharing, it means something. I am sorry for your loss but admire your strength and view.

  12. Thanks for this meditation, Marc.

    Your father should have been friends with my papa's mother -- she deeply understood this lesson of life. My parents fought their demons; my grandma won-over hers. She was (and is) one of the people in my life who showed me -- profoundly -- of that quality called 'emotional intelligence' and I love her so much because of it.

    You've written of a father who made a good life and a good way to live. Beautiful, Marc. Much love to all of us who can hold memories of our parents in peace. To those who yet cannot, my hope that someday you will.

    It would seem growing older, loving well and facing end of life, isn't a bad thing after all.

  13. Coincidentally, Marc, I've been reading Mohammed Ali's book "Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on a Life's Journey".

    I believe your loving father would have relished this book. Turns out that there are important similarities between Ali's Sufism and your father's Buddhism.

    Your post contains so many thought-provoking threads, and I thank you for it, and welcome your return.

  14. Your father's (and mother's) example is reflected in your own kindness to others. What a great gift to his children.

  15. It's difficult to imagine a more graceful exit, Marc. Thanks for sharing this. ~eric.

  16. A lovely tribute to your dad, Marc. Our condolences.

  17. For some reason, I missed this post. I wish I had read it when you posted it. But my feelings would have been the same. It is a lovely tribute. And I hope the scars of loss are heaing.


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