I guess if I had to choose one word to describe my mood tonight, it would be thoughtful. June has always been a month of reflection for me. It's not my favorite month at all, too many bad things have happened in my life in June for it to be. But it has always been a month that's taught me that the good things in life aren't free, nor are they permanent. It's taught me the importance of giving as many hugs a possible and saying 'I love you' every chance you get, because tomorrow the people you love might not be there. Tonight I'm going to talk about two people that I lost in June, and what I learned from each of them.
The first is my father. It's hard for me to talk about him for a couple of reasons. First, because when he died I was sleeping in the same room and I've always felt like I should have woke and done something, but I didn't. The second is because he wasn't a warm person in my experience. I don't have a lot of memories of hugging my Dad or sitting around having heart to hearts. He wasn't that type of person. He was a hard man, but as I get older and learn more of the world I've come to realize that he was also a good man. I often think of him like King David standing before Goliath. He was a small man, but he was a fighter to his core. He was always the first one to stand up against something that was wrong and he didn't care who or what he had to face to put it right. He was an honorable man. He wouldn't settle for 'good enough' or 'I tried'. He would stick to the job, no matter what it was, until he had given his absolute best. He was a good husband. There was never any doubt in anybody's mind that he loved my mother with everything that he had and he would have gone through hell itself for her. The thing I think that I learned the most from him is this: Hold yourself to a higher standard. The world may give you all sorts of reasons and excuses to be less than you could be, but in the end giving up or selling out demeans us all.
The second person I want to talk about is my Opa (Dutch/German for grandpa). In a lot of ways, my Opa took over when my Dad died and he was quite a different person, though no less driven. He came to Canada after WW2 with pretty much the clothes on his back and a few dollars in his pocket and built from scratch a life for himself and his family. What I remember of him was vastly different from my Dad. He was always giving people hugs and had no problem saying 'I love you' or even crying when he needed to. He always had flowers, he loved to make things grow, and he loved to take care of animals. I remember he had doves and chickens and rabbits and budgies and everything and he cared for each with as much kindness and love as I had ever seen from a person. I think that thing that I learned most from the him is: You can be strong without being hard. It's okay to show the people you love that you love them. It doesn't make you any less of a man, in fact it makes you even more of one.
When I think about what it means to be a man (and its not simply being male, there is a difference) these two are the ones I think of. Rest in peace guys, you've earned it. Love you always.