... in my brain actually. My very own brain tumour

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tributes to John

This photo was taken by Joan in the Cedeberg in January, when John did his last hike and climbed his last peak, the Wolfberg.

Having said that the previous post was the last, I don't know how many bloggers will be looking at John's blog again, but many friends have requested that I put the tributes paid to John by our sons on the blog. The funeral took place on Monday 15th Sept 2008. We had a wonderful service which was a fitting tribute to a brave, talented man and Ian and Michael captured the heart of John so well.

Ian's Tribute:

Early in January I was driving home from the shop with Hannah when
mom called to say that there was something wrong with dad. They
had just got back from the Cederberg. I knew then, before the
diagnosis that it was a brain tumour and that he was dying.

I felt cheated. Dad wouldn't see our children grow up. We wouldn't
be able to go on family holidays together any more. It felt like
the expensive bottle of wine we'd got him for his birthday that he
wasn't able to drink. The wine as it turned out was corked and
putrid. Fit only to be poured down the drain. A bitter irony.

And yet, we were granted time. Quite a lot less time than we'd
hoped for, but time none the less. And time is a valuable thing.
In this time I learned again that my dad was amazing person.

He was a wonderful father although he seemed unconvinced of this.
He would often say that one day, we might forgive all the mistakes
he made. The truth is that there is nothing to forgive. Because
of him, I got to experience a broader world than I might otherwise.

I walked and climbed in the mountains with him. I listened to music
with him and although my taste diverged somewhat I find that I'm
deeply influenced by the music I was exposed to as a youngster.
He could get a tune out of just about anything: a piece of hose
pipe, a saw, two recorders at the same time or a garden tap.

He always questioned everything and he wasn't satisfied with a
superficial understanding. He was fascinated by the sciences and
things that we don't understand, the very big and the very small,
the universe and the atom. He tried to think about things in new
ways, in unconventional ways.

He told fantastic stories and I remember sitting in a darkened rooms
in front of fires on holidays being regaled tales of utter misery
in windswept and sand-blasted family holidays. Always told with a
wonderful sense of humour so that the hardship became funny. He
told us how he'd once burned half of a documentary his father had
made because he'd discovered how well celluloid burned. When his
father found out, in stead of being angry, they burned the other
half together for fun. But, he didn't have a happy childhood and
he looked on with envy at the start to life his 3 grandchildren are
being given.

He was a proud grandfather who fell in love with his grandchildren
rather unexpectedly. Proud of their beauty and delighting in their
innocence and wonder at everything. All new and bright.

And then the cancer struck and slowly ate his brain while the
medicines slowly ate his body. And he had to think hard about hard
questions. The one question that troubled him most was what to do
about God. Fortunately God knew what to do about dad and so about
a month before he died he accepted Christ into his life. And he
was specific saying "I want it said of me that I have accepted the
truths in the bible for myself".

He didn't want to be remembered as he was near the end: weak, frail
and fighting for small scraps of dignity. But this is fresh in my
mind. In time this memory will fade and I will walk in the mountains
and stand in a place where you stood, or I will remember a story
you told and I will pause. I will remember you full of life and I
will miss you.

Michael's Tribute:

A letter of thanks to my father
My father was a remarkable man. In his last days he said to me, “I wish that I could have given you boys more.” In this vein, I would like to focus on some of the many gifts that we, his boys have received from him.

Loved his children

One of my earliest memories is this. I can’t have been more than 3 years old. During a visit to family friends, I crawled onto one of those foam body-boards that happened to be floating in the swimming pool. The next thing that I remember was a brief moment of bubbles streaming past my face. Unable to swim, I was sinking. Seconds later I was being pulled out of the water by my now very wet father. This would be the first in a long line of saves from imminent danger that my father would perform. I guess that I needed a lot of saving in my earlier years. My father loved us, no matter how difficult things might have been at times. He was always around for us and invested heavily in our future. We in turn love our children too and would do anything to keep them from harm. Thanks Dad.


Prompt and well prepared

Just before diving into the pool in his Sunday best, he had enough time to remove just one garment. Without thinking, off came his watch. Yes. My father was always prompt and well prepared; a sign of respect for others and a seemingly uncommon human characteristic these days. I too cannot stand being late for an appointment. In all, I have spent numerous hours during my life waiting in my car at my appointments destination for the time to pass so that I can “arrive on time”. Thanks Dad.

Love of mountains

Thinking about being well prepared reminds me about his love for the outdoors. I remember a story he used to tell about a particular expedition of his. He and some mates were about to embark on a 4 day hike. Having not been on such a long hike before, he diligently did some research about what to take. There was a food provisioning table in one of Sir Edmund Hillary’s books on tackling Everest. I imagine the logic went something like this, “If it worked for Everest, it must work for our 4 day hike.” So they calculated, measured out and packed the recommended supplies which included a surprising amount of sugar. ½ a Kilogram of sugar per person per day! It seemed like a lot, but it’s what Sir Edmund Hillary recommended so it must be necessary... It wasn’t... If anyone has found little stashes of sugar hidden under rocks along the path down the Wit-Els and couldn’t understand why, consider the mystery solved. Now we, your children also share a love of the outdoors. Rock-climbing, hiking and basking in the beautiful simplicity and ruggedness of the mountains, I will always remember you fondly.

Thanks Dad.

Computers and things technical

Something that may have helped the “sugar calculations” is a computer, although perhaps the formulas for Everest don’t translate linearly to the Wit-Els. My father was always keenly interested in technology. He purchased his first Atari kit-computer when we were very young, which he upgraded to a BBC-Microcomputer, and ultimately a PC as the technology advanced. He enjoyed creating, and found that writing computer programs was a good way to do this. This was a passion he passed on to both of his sons before they were 10 years old and who would later go on to start successful careers in the computer industry. Thanks Dad for your patience in teaching us about technology.

D. I. Y.

My father was never afraid to fix things himself. Be it a radio, changing the oil in the car or rebuilding a wind-blown fence. He usually didn’t have the right tools for the job, but that didn’t stop him succeeding. Through determination, perseverance and a little un-holy language, the job would get done. I was never particularly good at fixing things, in fact quite the opposite: I broke things. But that was counter-balanced as my brother received gift enough for all of us for fixing things. Like Yin and Yang, Ian and I would go around fixing things and breaking things respectively. Incidentally, Ian now always has the right tools for the job. Thanks Dad for at least imparting this gift on one of us.

Love for music

Music was another passion of my father’s. Listening to it and playing it. I will always remember my father for his ability to turn any inanimate object into a musical instrument. While extremely adept at playing the music of the classical masters on the piano, he was also known for his Cross-Cut Saw concertos, as well as his ability to play Frere Jacques on the garden tap which was transmitted via means of vibration to the toilet bowl which acted as a loudspeaker, much to my surprise as I was the audience, so to speak. Perhaps it was his ability to play two recorders – one up each nostril – that put my brother off playing music; one recorder belonged to him. That certainly put me off the recorder, but I moved on to playing piano, drums and guitars after that. Thanks Dad for such a sound introduction to music.

Love and respect for his wife

My father loved and respected my mother. He never questioned her judgement (at least not in front of us). My parents always made decisions together, especially when it came to us children. A united front is what we saw. This is something that I hope to achieve in my own life, now that my wife and I have also been blessed with a wonderful little girl. Us boys as grown men now love and respect our wonderful wives. Thank-you Dad and thank-you Mom for this gift.

Strength to start over

Late in his life, events conspired against him at his job in the bank; a job that was the foundation of security for him and his family, security that he was so desperate to provide due to the lack of it in his own troubled childhood. In the face of his worst nightmare, he was able to find the strength to start again. He used all his skills as a computer-programmer, a financial expert and a mentor to create a tool and body of knowledge that would help others succeed in business. The metamorphosis began. I could see that, for the first time, he truly believed in what he was doing. Over time he became less stressed and just seemed lighter and happier.
This was an inspiration to me. Having been working for the same company for almost 13 years, I felt sorely like I needed a change. I figured that I would get there eventually, but I didn’t really have the courage to take the next step. The shocking news of my father’s brain tumour changed all of that. Three months before he intended to retire, he was diagnosed with three months to live without treatment. With odds like this, I decided that I had to do something about my own life. Life is simply too short to be doing something that you aren’t passionate about. I quit my job with nothing but the faith that I would find my way. Almost immediately I found a new job, one that I am passionate about. Thank-you Dad for leading by example and helping me find the strength to do this.

The right crowd

My father always managed to surround himself with good people, good friends. Your presence here is a testament to that. Thank you.

Humble farewell

Dad, I know that your primary mission was to provide for your family. You have given us so much more than you would ever admit to. I am eternally grateful for all that you have done for me. You were truly a remarkable man.

Farewell all you Bloggers!

1 comment:

bp said...

thank you for posting those tributes. very beautiful.