Christmas at the lakefront: A fond farewell

When I set off to Bali earlier this year, I had planned to spend Christmas Day on the beach drinking pina coladas. It was one for my bucket list – and a beautiful white sand beach on the Indonesian island seemed like a perfect setting to soak up some sun over the holidays while sipping on a sweet, tropical cocktail.

Life is not always kind. Sometimes it is just downright cruel. Never in a million years would I have anticipated being back home in wintry Canada on Christmas Day, grieving over the sudden loss of my dear father. After a short illness, he entered into eternal rest on December 23rd at the age of 70.

It happened all too quickly, especially the final few days. So fast, it was difficult to process everything. I wasn’t ready or prepared to say goodbye, but not sure more time would have fixed that. I have comfort in knowing he was so happy to be surrounded with love from family, and many good friends, right to the end. We even got to open some Christmas gifts with him on the 22nd, in what would turn out to be his last full day before he passed. This gave him, and us, a moment of joy.

My father was a kind and loving man, always there to help others without asking anything in return. He taught me many things in life, not the least of which is what it means to be truly selfless. Dad touched the Earth with a gentle grace, and had the most extraordinary gift of integrity. His actions spoke volumes, and to this day I still have a lot to learn from his quiet example.

To pay tribute to his spirit of playfulness and love of the outdoors, on Christmas Day my family visited the beach at a lakeside park not far from my parent’s home in the Okanagan Valley. On a cold and clear afternoon, with pina coladas in hand, we honoured him with a short Irish blessing and a reading of the poem, He Is Gone, by David Harkins.

I know in years to come, I’ll remember this as one of the most meaningful experiences from my bucket list, and a fitting way to pay tribute and bid a fond farewell to my beloved father.

I’ll keep on smiling, dad, for you will always be in my heart.

Dad relaxing lakeside in the Okanagan Valley, 2009 (Photo by Marty Kelly)
Dad relaxing lakeside in the Okanagan Valley, 2009 (Photo by Marty Kelly)


He Is Gone

You can shed tears that he is gone
Or you can smile because he has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Written 1981
David Harkins 1959 –
Silloth, Cumbria, UK