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.