• Nathaniel G. Sands

A Difficult Father's day without Dad

This past weekend was particularly hard for me. It has been five years since my dad passed from ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease). Since then I have always found Father’s Day to be the hardest of days when considering his loss. But there was something about this last one that truly hit me hard.

It could be the fact I'm feeling burnt out. I have been so busy lately, which usually seems to be the case, but as the years go it seems I continue to pile on top of my unending projects one or two more. I don't sleep well or enough, (hence the writing of this blog so late into the night), and I find it hard to say no when someone is in need of help or looks to me to contribute to an event or project. I'm restless and relentless, and perhaps this over-committed nature is a coping mechanism to keep my mind off of the hurt, and on things I consider "productive", in order to push away the past and personal sorrow.

Aside from Father’s Day on Sunday, Saturday I did the walk for ALS. June is ALS awareness month. Every year our family does the walk for ALS, and we always have friends and family who come out to support "Team I like Mike". This year because of the Covid, all the walks have been cancelled, so my sister, Erin, arranged to do our own walk, this past Saturday at Maple Ridge Secondary, just inviting some close friends and family. More people than expected showed up despite the rain, and everyone seems so happy to come out and support our family. It's always encouraging to see this love and support, but also a difficult reminder of the encouragement I have lost and truly long for - the encouragement of a loving father.

To help me move past these fits of depression (or perhaps to repress them), I in what free time I have, I take to the books, which I have found to help me in so many ways – much more than simply taking my mind of difficult things. I usually take to reading 3 books at a time - 1 Philosophy/Apologetic, 1 History/Biography, and 1 novel, picking whichever up based on the mood I'm in.

The 3 books pictured are my current reads; the fourth is a book my mom wrote about her’s and my dad’s journey dealing with ALS, which I have read before, periodically pick up, and highly recommend! All these have significant meaning to me, especially when considering the loss of my father. First, I will quickly talk about insurrection by Peter Rollins. I am re-reading this book alongside my friend Nathan. We see each other regularly, as his daughter is good friends with mine, he lives just down the road, and we both are into theology and philosophy (he recently received his P.H.D. from the University of Toronto, the same university my dad went to!) We often go for walks and discuss big Ideas. He and his daughter came this Saturday to the walk to show support.

Afterward the four of us went to Subway, (the girl’s favorite place for lunch), and we hit up the bookstore, where I picked up “The lost world," (among others), by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Leah and I have read his Sherlock Holmes story, “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, but after 3 chapters of this novel I am already enjoying it more.

The last one I wish to share more on. “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” an autobiography by Carl Young. He was an early psychologist - a friend, and colleague of Sigmund Freud. I am over halfway through and have been enthralled the whole way! I am finding so much comfort in the story of his life, making many connections to my own personality, thoughts, beliefs, and learning tremendously from his wealth of knowledge and wisdom but remained unbelievably humble:

"When people say I am wise, or a sage, I cannot accept it. A man once dipped a hatful of water from a stream. What did that amount to? I am not the stream. I am at the stream."

Considering all my struggles recently with feeling this fatherly lack in my life, that love, wisdom, encouragement I feel missing, I take comfort in this interaction Carl Jung had with another:

I continue to read from the spirit of Carl young and see my father’s love. This man did sacrificed his life for his work, which I can't help but see as being a father figure to so many – to love his patients, empathize and listen to their plights, delve into tormenting behaviors and nightmares, not for prestige or glory but for the benefit of all he encountered, simply because he considered it his duty. History is filled with these loving fathers - their spirits continue to teach us if we are willing to listen.

My relationship with my dad was special and unique. Every boy is tremendously influenced by their father. I only wish our relationship could continue. As I struggle to balance work and school and being a father, so similarly to his own trials of early adulthood, it is these times I wish I could sit back with him, have a beer, and hear one of his hilarious stories.

It always seems to put things into perspective when you consider that death and heartache are universal, and my readings from a broad spectrum has always helped me to relate, understand, accept, and move forward. Humanity is full of sorrow… but also full of joy. Wisdom from those before me have proved rightly to me that one cannot be without the other - to rid the world of sorrow would be to make joy undiscoverable! I wouldn’t feel so sad about my dad being gone if it weren’t for the amazing memories I have with him. Aside from this simple truism, I have learnt much more, and have acquired an endless amount of "father figures" to remind me of his love and encouragement, continuing the efforts, long past their families' mourning.

And of course, I can always read ‘Hold on, let go’ to re-live his love, learn from his wisdom, and be encouraged by example - his own courage while facing inevitable death, consistently sporting that big grin of his. Although death and suffering is so tormenting, I cant help but reflect from the weekend and be overwhelmed by such beauty.

I love him and miss him so much. But I believe it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

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