Remembering my father, death, and remembering to live
My father is dead. He has been dead seventeen years, ten months and six days. Yesterday was his birthday. He was sixty-nine when he died — the same age as David Bowie and Alan Rickman.
Remembering my father
I went in the basement to look for photographs of my father. Evidence of his life. On the bookshelf in the basement I found several copies of the poetry books he self-published, Chokecherry Wine, and Tender Moments. He self-published his books in 1984 and 1988, six years before Amazon was founded.
He brought his books to our wedding and gave away signed copies. I didn’t know he had given away his books at our wedding until after he died and Nancy mailed me the books my father autographed for her. To Nancy and Dick, with care, Bill Fernuik, Sept. 22, 1990.
Nine years later, my father had a stack of his poetry books on the bedside table in his hospital room. While I was sitting with him, he addressed a book to one of his nurses, in a fancy cursive font, with a fountain pen. I don’t remember exactly what he wrote. Something about remembering to smell the roses, and thank you for your kindness. He handed the book to her as though he was handing her a golden egg from the goose Jack had stolen from the giant.
Sands of time
through our fingers
little dust piles
and we lived on day
at a time
Each day added
to calendar of time
too fast dust slipped
through aching fingers
to grasp lost sand.
from Chokecherry Wine
— Bill Fernuik
I forgot people die. I forgot we are mortal.
And then Davie Bowie died. He was sixty-nine. And then Alan Rickman died. He was sixty-nine.
Davie and Alan were the same age my father was when he died.
When my father died I was thirty-nine. Now I am fifty-seven. Fifty-seven is much closer to sixty-nine than thirty-nine is.
A few weeks before my father died, while he could still speak, he said, “There are two Bill Fernuik’s. One of them is going to die and one of them isn’t. I am leaving. I am not going to die.”
But, there was only one Bill Fernuik. My dad couldn’t escape his cancer, or his mortality. He stayed in his hospital bed. A week later he died.
Don’t fear death, fear the un-lived life.
― Natalie Babbitt,
I know we don’t know when we will die. You can go to weather.com to find out how many inches of snow will fall, but you can’t go to death.com, put in your social security number, and find out what day you are going to die.
Remembering to live
Be yourself- not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.
― Henry David Thoreau
If you keep putting off being yourself until tomorrow, one day you will run out of tomorrow’s.
One day you will run out of time.
The years slipped by
a beaver dam
and at times
but time went on
The sun rose
the sun shone
No matter how I tried
or how I cried
the sun set.
from Chokecherry Wine
— Bill Fernuik
I don’t know who you are. But, I think you do. You know who you are and what you really like to do. Not just “like” to do, but really like to do. And, maybe, you haven’t been living your life as you.
Maybe your father wanted you to be an engineer and you wanted to edit film. Or maybe you are a cat, and your mother wanted you to be a mouser, but you always wanted to be a writer.
Maybe you have always wanted to die your hair blue, but are worried what people will think. Maybe you want to go back to school and become a nurse.
Maybe you want to write children’s book but you never write because you spend all your time cleaning toilets and making sure there is no dirt in your home in case someone comes to visit, and you would be mortified if they saw dust on your baseboard’s . Your computer is never used, your paints stay in the tubes, and your keyboard is silent.
Whoever you are. I hope in all the days you have breath, you are being you.
You’re the only one who can be you.
— Mr. Rogers
Are you being you?
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About Pamela Hodges
My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.