A few years back I was just beginning a trip across Canada when I found out that my Dad took his own life. The moment I found out what happened I knew that I had to speak at his funeral.
I’m not sure what made me revisit this today. But as I did it was a whirlwind of emotion, for obvious reasons.
What I wrote was very powerful and very true; however, I feel now that there are some important things to add. In the speech I talk about our divine love and essence, which is at the core of us all. And for the most part, many of us lose touch with that aspect of ourselves. If my Dad was able to tap into that then I know everything would be fine today. It’s the reason why I do the work I do.
However, after helping many clients (and most importantly, helping myself heal. Something I am still working on.), I realize that I underestimated the pain we all carry. Our connection with our deeper selves, our spiritual selves, is needed BADLY on this Earth, right now. But it’s very dangerous if we use this to mask the pain our humanity carries. It’s no different than using drugs or alcohol to do the same thing. SO MANY of us in the spiritual community do this, some of my closest friends. But our love and divine connection is not meant for that. It is meant to help balance the pain we carry so that we can begin to walk into those wounds and heal them, one step at a time. At our own pace.
Respect your pace.
I am still healing the wounds in my life, many of which Dad has caused. Yes, they were a result of the wounds he carried and yes he did not have the proper resources to get help, but at the end of the day, those were his choices. Just like some of my choices have hurt the people around me. I love Dad very deeply. I have forgiven him for everything many times. But I still carry hurt from him and it’s important that I honour that hurt.
It’s all a dance. A balance between our divinity and humanity. Our love and our pain. Neither trumps the other, but somewhere in between we will find our way.
Here is the speech I gave, unchanged, at my father’s funeral:
“When I found out that my Dad died I was in Moncton, 7 hours from Cape Breton. It was overcast most of the day and on the drive home, the whole sky was covered in large gray clouds, but it wasn’t raining. It was about 8pm, but the sky had been just as dark all day.
I hadn’t seen the sun since I woke up, I couldn’t even tell if there was a sun that day. All of a sudden, in the rear view mirror, I saw the sun break through the clouds as it was setting. It started as a red ball breaking through the clouds like it was cutting through a bunch of thick gray strings, but it wouldn’t be denied. It couldn’t be denied. It started to grow. Persistently, and soon the entire horizon behind me, about 180 degrees, was a mixture of bright yellows, oranges, and reds.
I could see it through both side windows and my mirrors. The gray clouds still hung high in the sky and ahead of me, but the sun was setting behind me. Some sunsets go quickly, but this one, as it turned from red, to orange, to yellow, and finally to purple and blue, lasted forever.
My father is died 5 days ago.
What emotions do I feel? I feel the range of every emotion possible.
Anger: How could you leave us like this? How could you do this to us? Why did this happen to us, we didn’t deserve it? Why did that happen to you, Dad, you didn’t deserve that? But, deep down… that’s not what I truly feel.
Sometimes I feel Guilt: Was it something I did? Should I have stayed home instead of going on my trip? What if I said something different in a conversation that I had? What if I tried harder to save you? But, deep down… that’s not what I truly feel.
We all ask, and will continue to ask, ourselves similar questions. What if this, or What if that?
There are many things you can do with the past: You can continuously relive the past in your memories, you can bring back anger by remembering how different people have hurt you, you can remember a time when you thought you were better than what you believe you are now. You can dwell on the past and continue to wonder “what if?”
However, the past is always what it is, the past. There are only two healthy things that you can do with the past: that is, to learn from it and to accept it. It’s always okay to reminisce about old times, and we will reminisce about the wonderful moments that we had with dad, but don’t try to live there.
There is only ever one place that you can ever truly be, and that is right here, in “this very moment.” Everything in this entire world only ever is in “this very moment”, it is never anything else. We can worry about the future, but the future always becomes “this very moment.” And this very moment will eventually become the past. Therefore, if you are concerned about the future, the only thing that you can do about it is right now, “in this very moment”.
How many times have you said “Well, I will wait until later. I will wait until tomorrow” and how often does tomorrow turn into next week? Next year? Never?
The fact is, it is never tomorrow, or next week. You can’t quit tomorrow, you can’t start tomorrow, you can only do it today, in “this very moment”. Tomorrow never comes, it is always today. All we will ever have in this entire world “is this very moment”. It comes in an instant and it leaves in an instant and you have all of the power and ability to do with it whatever you want.
And it’s never too late. It is never too late to do what you truly want, but you have to do it in this moment. It is never too late to do what is right. It is never, ever ever too late to do the right thing. You have this moment, and this is all you have, and this is all you will ever have, and you may do with it what you will.
My family and friends, the people that I love the most, there was nothing else that we could have done. None of us did anything wrong. It is not our faults. It is not my Dad’s fault. It is nobody’s fault. We did everything, that at that time, we were capable of doing. I know you have unanswered questions in your minds, but let them rest. They will never be answered. I love you all so much, and Dad loves you “more than anything in the world”, and we truly did what we could.
Yes, I feel guilty… but deep down… that’s not how I truly feel.
What other emotions do I feel? Sadness.
I feel sad for us all. If I could take this away from all of us I would do it in an instant. However, the greatest sadness I feel is for Dad. Imagine the darkness that he felt, the things that he kept inside.
How sad is it that we cannot express our true emotions? The ones that we feel deep down. How sad is it that we find it so hard to be honest with each other, and even ourselves?
Dad felt like he had to keep everything in for several reasons. 1, he didn’t want to bother anybody with his worries. He would talk about them a bit, but never to any extent that he had actually felt them. He would let them brew instead of solving them. Secondly, he felt like he had to be the rock, the provider, the strong one; therefore, to him, to express his emotions fully was to appear weak. He was a product of his time, a man growing up in a small Cape Breton village. Society taught him that men don’t cry, they aren’t supposed to be seen crying, it is a weakness.
However, we couldn’t be more wrong.
If crying is supposed to be such a weakness, why do we find it so hard to do sometimes? How is that when your brother, your son, your father, your uncle has died that you find it so hard to break down in front of your family, and just cry? That is because crying is not a weakness; opening up to your family and friends about how you truly feel is a strength!
You are not helping anybody by keeping everything in! You are actually hurting them; they want nothing more for you than to open up. Holding in your emotions IS the weakness.
How sad is it, that we feel the need to keep everything in when we are most in pain? How sad is it that we cannot be honest with the people we love, and even ourselves?
We all need to learn from this situation. We need to be honest and open with each other, and ourselves, especially during this time of tragedy.
When I found out about Dad, I was alone in a tent in Moncton. I slowly and blindedly packed up my belongings and took down my tent and put everything on my back. I had nobody there. I tried to find somebody. I went to the nearest church, but every door was locked. I walked around the entire building, and tried every single door. Finally I found one door that had a buzzer. So I buzzed it. Tearfully and distraught I asked if there was a minister or a priest or anybody that I could be with or just talk to? A nervous female voice came across the intercom and said that he wasn’t in right now. She redirected me to an address and said “that’s where most people go.”
So, in my confusion and pain I wandered around this unknown city for another 30 minutes looking for the place she told me to go. I eventually found the address she referred me to. She had sent me to a homeless shelter. She must have assumed I was somebody on the street.
If I couldn’t be with someone then I wanted to be completely alone, but I couldn’t get out of the city. At that point I took a deep breath. I knew that my drive wouldn’t be there to get me until another few hours. So, I accepted the fact that I was going to be here with my grief for a while.
I went to the only place that I knew that had a plugin, so I could charge my phone, in case there were any calls or news from home. I went to the lobby of the biggest office building in town. I knew there was a plugin there because I was there the night before to charge my computer. I took off my heavy backpack, plugged in my phone, sat on the cold floor, and put my head between my knees and cried.
I sat there on that floor for two hours, alone. Crying. But I was in the middle of the lobby of an office building on Monday. So many people walked past me. Stepped over me as I sat there. Some did a double take when they realized that I was crying. Some didn’t notice me at all. People, all well dressed, walking to their offices, walking to the bank, walking to whatever it was they were walking to. But I sat there alone.
I am not telling you this hoping that you will feel bad for me. I do not feel bad for myself at all. I knew that I would soon be surrounded by love and I was able to text a good friend of mine while I sat there.
But how sad is it, that we have alienated ourselves from each other so much that I could sit there for two hours sobbing, in a busy building, and not one single person could ask if I was okay?
How sad is it that not one person could ask if there is anything they could do to help?
How sad is it that Dad believed he had to keep everything inside?
How sad is it that he felt like he had nobody to talk to?
How sad is it, that in that brief moment, he felt like that was the only option, his only escape?
How sad is it that it came to this?
Nobody is to blame for any of this. Nobody is at fault. It is nobody’s fault that all of this happened. It is nobody’s fault that those people felt like they couldn’t approach me. But it will be our faults, if we choose not to learn from this situation. It is up to all of us to make things different, to be more open with each other, to openly show our love for each other, what we feel deep down, on a daily basis.
Yes, I feel sad… but deep down… that’s not how I truly feel.
Yes, I do feel angry at times, guilty at times, and sad, lonely and scared and every other emotion possible. But deep down… that’s not what I truly feel. What then, out of all of the possible emotions, do I truly feel? I feel the only thing that is possible to feel, and that is love.
I feel the deepest purest love. Actually, I don’t even feel it. I am it. I am love, I am living love, love is living through me.
I feel the deepest love for everyone in this room and for what we are all dealing with. We did not deserve this. But I loved you all before this, and I will love through this, and I will continue to love you past this. Dad loved us all dearly, and he still does, and his love is still with us and will be forever!
I feel the deepest and purest love for every single person and every single creature in this entire world! If I cannot love everything then I cannot love anything. If I cannot do everything with love then I cannot do anything at all. What happens to one of us happens to all of us. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. When one of us rejoices, we all rejoice. To put somebody down is actually to put yourself down! To deny loving yourself is to deny loving everyone in this entire world! Sometimes we have high expectations of our love, but to us it feels like it comes up short to what we had imagined it to be in our heads. However, if you do anything through love it will always work, even if it wasn’t exactly how you imagined. Because Love never fails.
Yes, Dad died five days ago. But to be honest, he has not fully lived for some time now.
Dad did dwell on the past. He relived moments when people wronged him. He didn’t know how to accept the past and move on. He worried about the future, he worried about how he was going to provide for his family. He worried about work, he worried about his family, he worried.
I can pinpoint a couple of key moments that Dad had particular difficulty with. He never fully got over when his father passed away, when Poppy Stan died. One of Dad’s last experiences with Poppy was an argument, and I don’t think Dad was ever able to forgive himself for that. He wished there were things that he could have said to him, and things he could have taken back. But that didn’t really matter. It didn’t really matter that one of their last encounters before Poppy Stan got sick was an argument, what mattered was all of the wonderful times they had together. Just like we will remember the wonderful times with Dad.
Another critical point was when Daryll died. On top of losing his best friend, Dad told me specifically, just a few weeks ago, that he had lost the only person in this entire world that he felt that he could talk to about anything. The only outlet that Dad thought he had, he had lost. They worked together for almost 30 years. I bet he drove poor Daryll crazy most of the times, but they were an outlet for each other and were able to bounce things off of each other.
Don’t get me wrong, these weren’t the only two things. There was so much more going on in Dad’s world that clouded him, but these, I think, were two key moments that held a particular weight on Dad.
Lately, when Dad drank he drank to forget his worries. He rarely drank to have a good time. He drank to forget. Dad drank to leave this world so he could be free of the darkness for a while. This is what happens when you bottle it up. And eventually, this is what broke Dad. He tried to take on the world himself and didn’t know how ask for help.
I can promise you this, Dad never truly meant to do what he did. I am sure he thought about it over the years, but we all have at least thought about it before. Ultimately, it is up to you to come to whatever conclusion you want and to believe what you want, and that is totally okay. But what I believe, is that in that moment, in that very brief moment, the darkness got the better of Dad, and all he could see at that moment was the darkness, and he did the only thing that he thought that he could to escape.
I had been talking about the range of emotions that I have felt. And although I still feel them all, all I can truly feel is love. And that’s because that is all I am, that is all we all are! At the absolute essence of us all, you and I and everyone and everything, is a ball of light, a ball of love. And that is who we truly are. And that’s who Dad truly was too!
Although Dad had built up all of this crap over the years by trying to take on the world: the worries, the drinking and what happened, that is not who Dad was!
Dad, just like all of us, is that true love that lies deep down inside of us. He was that pure energy of goodness that is in us all and that connects us, and all things, as one. It is in all of you right now, and it always will be.
These are not just words that I am saying to comfort you or myself. What I am saying is what I know for certain!
Some people call this energy the soul or a spirit. But you do not need to be religious to believe in it. I like to call it energy.
Unfortunately, Dad lost sight of this in himself, like so many of us do. Like I have so many times.
If you don’t believe that this is at the base of all of us, all you need to do is look at a young child. An innocent child or a baby, who has all of the zest for life. It is easiest to see it in them because they have yet to learn and be entirely conditioned by this world. You can see the pureness and carelessness in children, you can see their love for life!
Take a second, even, and think back to when you were a young child. Everything seemed so amazing and you had enthusiasm for everything!
“Hey Grant, want to go for a drive?”
“YESSS! OMG, we are going for a drive! Where are we going? The dump? We’re going to the dump! AWESOME!”
It didn’t matter what you were doing, where you were going, or who you were with, but everything was truly awesome. In fact, you were scared to death that you might miss anything, you had to be in the middle of everything.
The only time that this faded in us is when we listened to adults and they forced their limitations upon us that they had learned. And through time, we adopted these limitations.
That pureness, that deep love, that energy that shines so effortlessly through children is who we truly are. It’s just that as life goes on we let soooooo much junk build up on top of us. I got bills to pay, I got to make money, I got to provide. “Sorry son, I can’t play games today, I got to go to bed because I got to work in morning.” Work will always be there, but that moment to play will soon be gone forever.
Yes, as we get older we do acquire more responsibilities. But that doesn’t mean you need to lose touch with who you are. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to enjoy life! Don’t let your work define your life. You, and only you, that pureness inside you, can define who you are. And never forget that.
Think about how often you say no to things, things that as a kid you couldn’t resist doing, but now you almost feel dread imagining doing them, but for no real apparent reason. Some of the most social and outgoing people I knew from high school I hardly ever see anymore.
However, at some point you give in and finally say yes. Finally, someone prods and pokes and begs you enough and convinces you to do whatever it is you didn’t want to. And what ends up happening? You end up having the most fun that you’ve had in years!
Dad was one of those prodders, and so is my uncle Bruce “Wanna go fishing? No? Ahhhhhh comeon!” “Wanna go up to the brook for a dip? Ahhhh comeon!” Finally, you end up going and end up having a great time.
My Dad did lose sight of that pureness and love. But it was always inside of him, just like it is always inside of us all. Sometimes it appears hidden but we are that pureness and love, anything else is just junk that have we collected along the way. I was lucky enough to be able to witness that pureness that was still there inside of him. I saw it every single day, even when he was at his worst, even if he didn’t realise it himself.
I saw it shine through Dad when he and I were walking down a river with our waiters on, our rods in our hands, and our only worries were putting a worm on a hook. I saw it when dad walked into any room, anywhere, at anytime, and when he walked out at least one person had a smile on their face.
I saw it when he was talking to our dog Tameka in some strange language of squeaks and sounds that only he and her could ever understand. I saw it when him and my mother sat on the couch at night, and dad sat there endlessly rubbing her feet. I saw it when Dad picked up a guitar and lost himself in his music. Music was actually another healing method for Dad, something which he didn’t do a whole lot the last couple of years.
I saw the light in Dad when he got lost in telling a great story, or even a simple story, that he made sound great with his story telling abilities. I was also able to see the light in my dad through the stories that all of you have been sharing with me about Dad over the past couple of days.
Lately, I especially saw it when he played with his young grandchildren. His young, innocent grandchildren, who knew nothing else but the pureness of life and were able to pull that pureness to the surface in my Dad. Whether they were playing their fishing game: Dad would pretend to reel them in in the living room and once they got close he would grab them and sit on top of them on the couch because they were fish and he was the fisherman. Or if he was sitting with them at the table playing cards. And it was in those moments that my father was who he truly was. It was in those moments that he was truly alive.
And that is who my dad was. That was all he could ever be, himself. And that is all we can ever. All of this other crap that builds up in us, all of this pain and anger, that is not who we truly are. Whenever, and I mean WHENEVER, anybody in this entire world ever does anything to intentionally hurt someone, whether it is an act of violence or just a rude snicker, it is not truly them speaking. Unless they have a psychotic mental disorder, the thing that commits that act is that stuff that we let build up in our lives. Because who we truly are, deep down, is that pure love and energy, and that would never hurt anybody. It is incapable of hurting anyone.
Despite what Dad had been going through, and the darkness that was in him, that light was shining through him every day! It is such a shock to our family that this happened, but I can only imagine the shock that the outside community feels. That’s because, although Dad might not have realised it himself, that light and pure love was shining through him every day! Whether it was just giving somebody a hand or if it was being there in our dearest time of need, Dad was there for us all! His beautifulness touched us all, and perhaps we took it for granted, well of course we took it for granted because we thought it would always be there. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t recognise an angel until he is gone.
Dad will be remembered by us all, not for his drinking, not for what happened, but for the pureness that he was. That ball of energy that is in us all. We were blessed to ever have known such a wonderful man like my father and we are the luckiest people to have had an angel like that in our lives.
Everything may not happen for a reason. But it does happen because of many reasons. And once something does happen, it will cause many other reasons in turn. It is our duty, our obligation, to learn from what happened. To learn to be open with the people we love, and to be open with ourselves. We have to say what’s on our minds, not ever with intention to hurt anyone, but with intentions to help people understand. Never judge anyone, because like I said, whenever somebody hurts someone, it is not truly them who is doing the hurting. And if somebody means something to you on this planet, if there is somebody who you love, and there is somebody, then tell them. Please, tell them.
Perhaps what I said today has reached two people in this room. And when they leave here and say hello to somebody else with a smile, and then that somebody else does the same for another person, then another and then another and then another. That’s how it works! But it works the same with negative energy. Of course we will all mourn this moment until the day we move on, but it is our duty to teach everyone around, our children, and everyone that love is the only way. I have tremendous hope and tremendous faith for the future, for our children and our children’s children, because they are going to learn this love, and the will understand it better than we will, and they will continue to pass it along. It is our duty to pass it along. I know this world will become a better place than what I grew up in, because love is stronger than everything.
Out of everything Dad has taught me about hard work, honesty and humility, through all of these things, my Dad taught me love.
As I was driving home on Monday, the day Dad died, the entire sky was covered in clouds. The sun hadn’t been seen all day, but all of a sudden it broke through on the horizon behind me and shined so bright. It cut through those clouds like dark gray string, the light would not be denied by those clouds.
I knew that on that drive, Dad’s body was heading in the opposite direction to Halifax and I knew that at some point on that drive I was going to pass him. At that moment, while the sun was in full force, I noticed a strange white van go by accompanied by an ambulance with no lights on. I’m not sure if Dad was in that white van or not, but what I did know is this: those dark clouds were all of the junk that Dad had accumulated in his life, all of the worries and problems. But Dad was the sun, that was the light and love that Dad truly was.He was able to break through those clouds with ease. And as I drove on into the clouds, to face the pain that was ahead, he was driving away from them, into the setting sun, into the light that he was, and away from the clouds forever.”