Dad's signature

Saturday, June 23, 2007
I am writing this in advance because on June 24th I expect I will be on the sandy, desolate beaches of the Isle of Iona. And I don't want the day passing without remembering, and I expect I'll be on the island, remembering.

June 24, a little after nine am, my dad died.

The day before, on June 23, Lauralea and I were in town at the hospital, along with my mom and siblings, taking turns with dad. He was unresponsive till later on in the morning when he "Woke up" and we were able to spend time with him and help him and joke with him.

At one point in the morning Dad's sister came to see him and to give him some papers he'd been waiting for, having to do with his mom and dad's final estate arrangement. He needed to sign a cheque for mom to deposit, and he looked to me for a pen.

I pulled out my pen and gave it to him, and he signed his name in that distinctive, authoritative way he always had whenever he signed his name.

It was always so strong and decisive. Now he struggled a bit. Breathing and writing at the same time were not easy any longer.

He signed his name, Reuben Friesen, and gave the cheque to mom with relief in his eyes. And he handed me back my pen.

His name, his signature, was the last thing he wrote.

For dad, your name meant something. Your yes should be yes and your no should be no, and your name should stand behind your words.

I remember that signature signing my report cards, and other papers I would have to take back to school. I remember it on the inside of books, and on his papers. I remember it's strength and clarity, even through the years of illness.

And so that morning after my dad gave me back my pen, I returned it to my shirt pocket and I remember thinking that could be one of the last things he writes.
And so it was.

I confess I have carefully held onto that pen this year, each morning returning it to my pocket. And each time I place it there, or use it, I think of him. And I think of his name and choices and strength and clarity, and I am encouraged.

Though there is a measure of comfort in that, a pen is no replacement for a dad.

I still miss him.


  1. Hey Randall.. I am following your blog daily and it blesses me and ministers to me as you stay real in your insights and sharing your experiences. I am praying for your trip to be a God experience and that it will breathe new life into a weary soul and new vision into your ministry.
    After my father died, I treasured his little possessions for a time, hanging onto some precious trinket as though it would somehow connect me to him or bring some comfort. After a time, as reality of the chasm between the living and the "gone before" became more real, I reluctantly let them go.... they were his but not him. The sadness stayed for at least a year and returned at different times.... when I went to the cottage and his work gloves were where he had left them on the kitchen table, still holding the shape of his hands. The pain was almost unbearable. In time, the pain softens and life returns to a new normal. But the grief experience changes you forever. I will never be so innocent of sorrow. Several years later, my only sister died of beast cancer, leaving 2 heartbroken teenagers and a stunned, unfaithful husband.
    As I journeyed through grief again, it was more familiar and more hopeful.... I now knew something of the beast and how it behaved. I knew it could not kill me, even though at times, I wished it would. Healing and recovery do happen and I learned that there truly is more joy than sorrow for the Christian. I learned much about my God and myself. It is a worthwhile lesson... one which no one escapes.
    Thankyou for sharing where God is taking you and what he is teaching you. Have a wonderful trip. Linda Hilderman ( Christy Z's Mom)

  2. Randall...Christy Z's mom...your words of grief and enduring it are beautiful and vivid and take me to that place again.

    Randall, June 24th marked what would have been my grandfather's birthday. We lived with my grandpa, on the same farm as he and grandma so we were very, very close...He died when I was 14 years old and there are days still, like his birthday (my anniversary) that still haunt me with that empty feeling and the incredible reminder that his presence is missing; the void is made bigger on those days and the process begins again and again...

  3. Grief is a strange beast. My dad has been gone now for 21 years! Our 30 yr. old daughter Shannon was helping us pack up our house yesterday for moving. With all the memories of her Grandpa there in that house, she sat down and cried. "I miss Grandpa"....was her lament.

    Grief washes over us like ocean waves, putting us off balance and making us wonder when the next wave will hit.

    I thank God for keeping my head up out of the water, 'cause there are times I would have drowned.

    I'm praying for you, Randall.


  4. It's curious how different people react.

    My father died about 16 years ago, and I missed him for the first year on and off. But I have a sense of his death being in the right timing (although quite early - he was 53) and he had lived a full life. More than 2 years on I'm still fundamentally affected by Sarah's death, still near tears at times. One should not bury ones own children.

    Chris's mum has probably a year to live, and mine maybe 5 at the most. I shall be mourning my daughter long after their memory no longer brings sadness. To me, the death of a person grown old seems right and proper, not that we should hurry it, but it should be welcome in a sense. If my body is anything to go by now, I shall welcome it if I make 70+.

  5. Toni,
    You are so right about it not being "right" to bury one's own children. And it is true that death of a person grown old is right and proper too, especially if they die well. But I think it is also right and proper to have these moments of remembrance/grief that seem to come up on us like rogue waves. They may just be part of being human, being connected to others, don't you think?

  6. Linea - I've never seen this as a connection to my humanity or others. I'll consider that.


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