Two years ago, on January 14th, 2018, I said farewell to my father as he died due to complications related to cancer. It was one of the hardest days I’ve ever lived – I wrote the following a couple of days later to try and put into words what my dad means to me.
In my day-to-day life I play many roles. I’m a Chaplain, musician, wannabe writer, geek, husband, and a father of five. This last role – father – is probably the most intimidating one of all of them, as I’ve been entrusted with the incredible responsibility of teaching and shaping these five little lives to become both responsible citizens and (hopefully someday) saints.
That last role – being a father – and much more seem harder this week as the man who first taught me what that word means, Robert J. Landry, died on Sunday afternoon.
I’ve been trying to put words to the way I’ve been feeling since , and I’ve found three. I feel gratitude, I feel loss, and I feel hope.
I feel gratitude because these days have given me pause to consider just how much of who I am I owe to him. When I consider some of my great loves – playing music, the Edmonton Oilers, my love for sci-fi (Star Wars/Star Trek) – a lot of these go back to Dad. For most of my life I’ve watched Dad with his guitar. I can remember him playing on our living room couch with hockey on in the background and the TV on mute. I spent 10 years in various Scouts Canada groups, and for 9 of those Dad was one of our group leaders who always came to camp with his 12 string in hand and led us in singing goofy campfire songs and reflective songs during “Scouts Own” sessions on Sunday mornings. And most of all, I remember spending New Year Eve at Dad’s side many times at his cousin’s house in Beaumont where Dad’s guitar would be joined by a banjo, an accordion, and often even a stand up bass for hours of east coast favorites. I think those evenings are the closest experience I’ve ever had to a proper Nova Scotia kitchen party. It was these evenings that first inspired me to take guitar lessons – dad went to a pawn shop & picked up an old guitar, then turned the strings around so I’d have something to learn on.
Through work, Dad used to get tickets to Oilers games through the 1980’s. You may recall that the 1980’s were a pretty good time to be an Oilers fan (and I didn’t understand then just how lucky we were to see the Oilers as a Stanley Cup contender every year!) Every time we went to a game, he’d buy me a souvenir hockey puck -the collection of which I still keep on display in my office at St. Peter the Apostle CHS. While this love for the Oilers has not been nearly as rewarding over the last dozen years, I was able to take Dad to a few hockey games the last few years. We both set foot in Northlands Coliseum (Rexall Place) one last time a couple winters ago to watch the Oilers lose. He was with me and a few of my kids last March in Edmonton’s shiny new arena for an Oil Kings comeback/overtime win. But my favorite hockey more recent memory with him would probably be our trip to the World’s Longest Hockey game a couple of winters ago, when he, my oldest son, and I, got to go and contribute to that incredible cause.
And yes, all of you who have to put up with my overall geekery (and my fabulous Star Wars puns): I owe at least some of that to Dad as well, as I started watching Star Trek with him in the mid-80’s.
Overall, I’m grateful that for 37 1/2 years, Bob Landry was my dad. No, he wasn’t perfect (but neither am I). Some of the lessons we learned in our weakness and through tough times may be some of those I am most grateful for.
That I feel loss is probably pretty obvious. My dad is gone. I won’t be able to call or text my dad with a question when I start filling out my taxes, and countless other small moments I’ve come to take for granted. I know, like any wound, this will heal and the ache won’t quite be the same tomorrow as it was today… but there’s no shortcut through it. And I find it doubly hard because I’m also getting to see this through the eyes of my kids for whom Pepe is the second beloved grandfather they’ve lost in a year.
I also feel hope. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that hope is a regular theme I’ve tried to write about (particularly when discussing death.) In a nutshell, it’s one of the hallmarks of Christianity: in spite of the fact that sin and suffering exist in our world – and death seems to bring those of us left behind a great deal of suffering – none of these get the last word. Our belief in the resurrection, in a life after death is something that brings with it hope. I think that once the shock of what’s happened this week has worn off a bit, that hope will take up a more prominent place in my heart. My dad experienced a lot of suffering throughout his life, from the loss of his mother at the age of 15 to the cancer he was fighting up until the moment of his death. It is my hope and my prayer that he’s now able to experience the reward that comes from that suffering.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.