Last year, after my dad passed away, as I was writing the eulogy for his memorial service, I asked my mom and sister to share memories with me that, to each of them, captured or conveyed who Dad was, what he valued and how he lived his life. Mom shared a memory that has stuck with me—and has, in moments since, become a part of my life, too.
She told me and Kathryn that, over the years, throughout the summer and into the fall in Northern Michigan, Dad would occasionally take the boat out on Crystal Lake by himself before making dinner. (Anyone who knows our family knows Dad was the cook—and a really good and talented one at that.) Dad would take a drink with him and told Mom that, out on the lake, he would toast his parents, telling them how great his life was and how blessed he was.
This short story is emblematic of Dad’s gratitude and approach to life—his approach to living.
My dad didn’t take much for granted. He savored life and lived in and for the moment. I believe he died with no regrets. Sure, he still had goals and dreams to see through; trips he wanted to take; and life experiences he wanted to have and be a part of. But I truly believe he made the most of his time on Earth, with all of us, and have to imagine his only regret was not having more time.
My dad was authentically himself, and I often feel the best way to remember, honor and celebrate who he was and how he lived his life is to show up authentically as myself in this world. To live a life of heart and soul. To live that life, my life, today. And to quietly and humbly raise a glass, in any given moment, to how great my life is, to how blessed I am.
On the first Saturday in May, two days before the anniversary of my dad’s passing, I woke up without much of a plan. It was a beautiful day in Bariloche, and while I knew I needed to spend the day writing and reflecting, for no one but myself, I also knew I needed to get outside at some point. As the morning moved along, I realized how I wanted, and needed, to spend the day and reached out to my friend Sofía.
Hola Sof – Cómo estás hoy? Cómo empieza tu día?
Tengo una idea: queres hacer una caminata ~ el atardecer? I’ll bring my notebook & pen and a bottle of Malbec. If you’re up for it, I’d invite you to bring a notebook (or something to create, too). Would love to toast my dad with his favorite wine and maybe spend a little time writing outside.
Podríamos ir al Cerrito Llao Llao o algún lugar más cerca tmb 🙂 No hay presión. Solo una idea.
Sofía was on board, and a plan took shape. Late that afternoon, we drove up to Cerro Catedral; parked along the road between Catedral and Los Coihues; and walked 15 minutes or so through a landscape of changing colors to a viewpoint of Lago Gutierrez, Los Coihues, Cerro Otto, Cerro Ventana and Bariloche.
I wrote a little bit. Sofía took some photos. But really, we just sat among Bariloche’s beautiful landscapes and talked for hours about family, work, love and life. We first shared a mate, and then, as the sun dipped behind Catedral and the sky grew darker, Sofía opened the bottle of Malbec (Dad’s favorite type of wine that just so happens to be produced, almost exclusively, in Argentina) and poured a little into each of our favorite ceramic mugs (that we’d carefully packed and carried along for the occasion). And in the midst of so much of what I love about Patagonia and my life there, Sofía and I toasted Dad, commenting on how good and wild and beautiful this life is. And as we did, I shared this memory with her that Mom shared a year ago. It felt like a fitting moment, as we were doing the same.
In the time since May 2021, especially during my return trip to Argentina in April and May 2022, I have thought of that memory—that small-but-significant tradition of Dad’s—often. I think it’s such a beautiful and innocent memory, and I want to live my life like that, being grateful for this life and all it carries. Showing up authentically as myself in this world. Living a life of heart and soul, and living that life, my life, today. In honor of my dad, and also, in honor of myself.
Photo: Sofía Mejía Llamas, Chacay Audiovisual
Saturday, August 27, 2022
One thought on “a blessed life, a life of gratitude”
You honor his memory so well! I think of him often. I shared with him that when I had a problem and could not sleep- I pictured my mom and dad sitting beside my bed and how it brought me such calm and joy. He later shared that he was also doing this. With his passing,, there are now three chairs beside my bed. I once again can see his loving smile and feel his love, calm and gratitude. I too am grateful for our dear parent and also for the best baby brother I could have ever asked for. Thank-you for keeping his memory alive Emily.