Remembering, both Hurts and Heals

Remembering, both Hurts and Heals

“You’re everywhere except right here, and it hurts.”

-Rupi Kaur

My father died when I was twenty-seven years old. I felt grown up at the time and yet like a little girl wanting her daddy, mostly devastated from losing him and unable to think of my life without him.

He never met my husband or my three children. He was absent from my adult struggles and never saw my tears of disappointment when things did not go my way. He did not see who I grew up to be or the work that I have done, and the countless people I have helped over the years.

I have finally accepted that he will not ever be here to cheer me on and witness the dreams and goals I have yet to accomplish.

Unless he is floating up above me or his spirit is twirling around with the breeze on a windswept night, I have not seen or felt his presence in thirty-three years. I often hope that a fluttering butterfly or sunspot on a photo is a sign, a message, or an indication that he is always with me.

I wonder about heaven and the afterlife, the Promised Land, immortality, and the man upstairs. I so want there to be a land of milk and honey and seventh heaven. I fantasize seeing him again and visualize running into his arms at the Pearly Gates.

It helps me to think this way.

Remembrance Day has passed. November 11 marks the end of World War I At 11:00 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, two minutes of silence is held to remember the people who have died in wars.

The poppy is described in the famous World War I poem “In Flanders Fields.” The red poppy is a symbol of both remembrance and hope for a peaceful future. The poppy is a well-known and well-established symbol that carries a wealth of history and meaning.

The daffodil is another flower with meaning. It is the symbol of the Canadian Cancer Society. It represents strength, resilience, courage, and life. It survives Canadian winters to become one of the first flowers to bloom in spring. My dad died of Cancer.

My father’s favourite flower was a Pansy. Kind of funny for a construction worker, farmer, man’s man, and rugged type. He liked the little face imprinted on the petals.

Now, the petite, sweet blossom reminds me of my dad and how he appreciated the little things in life—flowers that bloom, a silly joke, or the game of Charades; nature and his garden with tomato plants growing up along the back wall of our house; pickled beets and canned pears. He loved working and building, helping and creating.

My dad came from meagre, impoverished beginnings and vowed to my mother when they first met that he would never yell or show anger towards their children. My mother was in agreement.

Us kids consistently came first. As my parents struggled, we still had bicycles, toys, trips, and lessons of every kind. My mother said if there were a particular movie we all wanted to see, we would eat ground beef for a week just so we could afford to go.

My dad and his brother 1919
My handsome dad, Vince Bonner 1967

Without bragging, I like to think that I am like my father. He was kind and humorous, witty and smart. But he was also a worrier.

I did not know until years after his death, when my mother told me, that my dad had internally fretted over pretty much everything; their four children (my siblings and I); money and food, not having enough; health and happiness, ours and his. And yet on the outside, he displayed nothing of these worrisome thoughts that tormented him.

He was never one to sing the blues or show how much he agonized over all of these things.

How do we keep our loved ones who have passed away current in our minds? We might reminisce over old photos and videos. As it may be, something often reminds us of them—a place, a smell, or running into an old friend. In my case, it is a flower.

I like to tell stories and reflect on memories in remembrance of the good old days, my past, and the people who have left me, and this world, far too soon.

If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can still see his smile, hear his loud, boisterous laugh, and almost feel his bear-like hugs. I understand his worry now that I am older and wiser. I carry with me many of his same worries. Perhaps we all do…

Imagine having one more day with someone who has finished their time on this earth. Not a day when they were sick in bed, but a day when they were well, a time years before they tragically or suddenly left us. What would you do? What would you say?

If I could be who I am now and was given twenty-four more hours with my dad…

I would get up early, and he would be in my kitchen making bacon and eggs. We would sit down to eat and have an instant coffee together as he stoked the fireplace. Then I would walk out to his garden with him, and he would show me around. While we were walking, I would tell him how happy I was that he was my dad. I would ask him questions like, “What’s your favourite food?” or “What did you think when you first saw me?” or “What are you worrying about today, Dad?” I would then introduce him to my three children and my husband, and we would all play Charades together. He would admire my husband for the work that he does with the homeless. He would be astounded at how my oldest daughter looks like me, how my middle daughter is an adventurous world traveller. And lastly, he would be impressed with my son’s artistic talent and how handsome he is. He would tell me that all three of my children have beautiful smiles and how happy he is that they take care of their teeth. He would then tell me how proud he is of me and how sorry that he left me.

Where is My Happy Ending? – A Journey of No Regrets, Page 278

Reflections of a Limo Ride

“It felt glamorous, but wrong, to be enjoying the luxury of black leather seats set in a U-shape formation, with a minibar lined up behind the driver. The sunroof was open, allowing a warm September breeze to ruffle my hair. At one point, my brother’s girlfriend suggested we stand up through the sunroof above us. The driver said that was completely out of the question for safety reasons. None of us wanted to do it, anyway, except her.

As we exited Lonsdale Street and turned onto the Upper Levels Highway, the route reminded me of all the times I had ridden with my father as a little girl in his work truck. My treasured childhood memory, combined with the new experience of being in a limo, brought a lightness to the event, and for a brief moment, I was absurdly happy. Catching myself, I struggled to find balance and teetered between pain and euphoria. For once, my mother’s mental health issues seemed to be making sense.

The Capilano Crematorium had standing room only. Aside from myself, a great number of people in the community had adored my dad, and it seemed like all of North Vancouver had come out to pay their respects. Not everyone could fit inside the room, and many had to wait outside until it was over. It was the end of a long warm summer, so thankfully, the doors were kept open.

I sat next to my mother, and she held my hand. I first thought she laced her fingers in mine because she was reaching out to calm me, to let me know that she was there for me, but when I felt the soft wadded-up Kleenex balled up in her palm, I realized she was holding my hand for her own sake. I did not mind, as the last time she held my hand was when I was a little girl at the grocery store.

My oldest brother had prepared music, a mixed tape of my father’s most loved songs—”The Tennessee Waltz,” sung by Patti Page, and “Put Your Sweet Lips a Little Closer to the Phone,” by Jim Reeves. We had an open microphone, so people were able to come up and share their memories, thoughts, or heartfelt feeling”.

Page 279

Stepping outside into the glaring sunshine, several people stood around laughing at the telling of old stories or perhaps funny memories they had shared with my dad, while others timidly glanced over at me with downcast eyes, not knowing how to act, what to say or do.

I wanted everyone to be weeping, to holler out how unfair it was, to shake their fist at the sky, and to demand answers. Their laughter felt wrong and unnerving. I yearned for someone to gallantly take my father’s place, climb into the oven, and become reduced to ashes, professing that they should be taken from this world instead.

In the days and weeks afterward, grief consumed me. I felt unbelievable heartache and melancholy that I carried everywhere with me…

My writing has brought me tremendous healing.

I work hard almost daily in wonderment, battling my unanswered questions and missing my dad, even now, after all these years later.

But, if truth be told, sometimes I forget to remember.

I had a dream a few days after my dad died. In the dream, he called me on the telephone, the old-fashioned kind attached to the wall. He told me that he was happy and well and for me not to worry, that everything was going to be okay. He asked how my mother was doing.

The song He’ll Have to Go by singer-songwriter Jim Reeves reminded my dad of my mom. When they first met, they were both on blind dates with other people, so this song turned into their song.

“Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone

Let’s pretend that we’re together, all alone

I’ll tell the man to turn the jukebox way down low

And you can tell your friend there with you he’ll have to go…”

-by Jim Reeves

My best advice is never to stop remembering and telling stories. And never feel guilty if your loved one slips your mind for a time. It is okay. Even if they never told you, I am telling you, those that have passed would want us to have a great big beautiful life.

Remembering is healing, and so is moving forward and living life to the fullest.

Me and my dad 1982

He’ll Have to Go by Jim Reeves


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