Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Roses in the Snow

I just returned from a trip to my hometown where my mom, three sisters, brother, their partners, and all ten of our kids gathered to mourn and celebrate my Dad.

What a week it was.  From cancelled flights, to sub-zero weather, tons of snow, lots of tears, and many tasks to complete, it was destined to be a stressfest.  Nothing could be further from the truth. From beneath the blanket of sadness, grew something beautiful.  Like a flower, peeking up through the snow.

We all hunkered down at my Mom’s place and went to work.  We had three days to pull together our ideas for two visitations and a service.  We all wanted to be involved, to dive into the process of letting Dad go. We wanted to create a send off that befitted him – elegant, graceful, musical, and light- and warm-hearted.  

Dad was known for many things but what we wanted to highlight was his passion for Korea (where he was born), teaching (his life-long profession), music (he was instrumental in having a Casavant Fr√®res pipe organ installed in the church), flying, (he was a pilot), Found’s Island (our family summer place since 1952), and an unshakeable devotion to his family.

We gathered bits of memorabilia and were able to put together a beautiful visual of all his loves.  Stones and branches from the island (and the old “Found’s Island” sign) were put together in one corner; yearbooks, school uniforms, and certificates signified his teaching years; tiny organ pipes and his favourite music was skillfully woven into the flower arrangements; and hundreds of family photographs were on display all around the room.  Dad’s ashes were placed in a beautiful “chong” – a tiny Korean chest. It was a perfect setting for his long-time friends, relatives, colleagues, and students, to spend time remembering him.  It was a joyous occasion… many commented on how uplifting it was to be there, to talk about Dad, and reminisce with laughter about the many good times we shared with him.

His memorial service was equally fitting.  The choir sang to the accompaniment of the organ, played by our original organist.  We all had a say in what music we wanted to hear and she played it beautifully.  We each wrote a memory about Dad (or Poppa, as he is known by his grandkids) and the stories were read aloud during the service.  Everyone sang “Jesus Loves Me” in Korean.  The meditation was very apropos… urging all who knew him to “go out and do likewise”.  Dad was a very kind and inspiring man. 

It was probably one of the best times I’ve ever spent with my family (excluding the escapades together when we were younger, before we all went our separate ways).  Even though Dad wasn’t there to pitch in physically, he was absolutely there in spirit.  The last night before I left, there were 27 people at the house for dinner.  We gathered in the living room, and before we joined hands to sing Johnny Appleseed (at the top of our lungs as Dad would have done), we placed the chong right in the centre and all sang to him.  We raised the roof in his honour.

I will never forget this past week.  We learned a lot about each other and about Dad – things that we didn’t know before.  (I found out that he never liked long hair, so in his honour and as a gesture of letting go, I cut about 10 inches off my mane yesterday – it was time!) We all learned a lot about having joy and laughter in the midst of sadness.  We immersed ourselves in all that Dad stood for.  It was beautiful.

Dad… Thank you for everything you taught me.  You were an amazing man.  (And I hope you like my haircut!)

Branded by Bruce,

Authentically yours,

Buns xo

P.S.  For your listening pleasure… one of my favourite Emmylou Harris songs. 


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