See, today also would have been the birthday of another very important guy in my life – more important than even Grover, believe it or not. Today would have been my Dad’s 73rd birthday, but 10 years ago this fall, he died.
I had intended to do a tribute up to him on the 10th anniversary of his passing, but today, the day that commemorates his life, seems so much more appropriate than the day that marks his death.
One of my Dad’s greatest wishes in life was to go to Alaska – and this was long before I owned a sled dog or a dog sled. And sadly, he never got to go. Oh, I have no doubt that he has been along on many of my trips north, I’ve felt his presence numerous times on the trail, but my regret is that he never got to go to the starting line of Iditarod with me even once. He would have been very proud and would have told me to be careful, because “you know your Mother worries”. Truth be known, he always worried just as much as she did, if not more.
I think the words I wrote about him for his eulogy are still the truest words I’ve ever spoken in regards to him, as is often the case when your heart is raw and aching. So today I’m going to share that eulogy with you. It was written right before his funeral. It was actually the first time in many years that I had sat down and put words to paper. I had forgotten how much I loved to put my thoughts and feelings into words. As you obviously all know, I’ve kept writing over the years and it has opened a lot of doors for me. Maybe that was his last gift to me.
So, I hope you all forgive me this off topic post, but he crosses my mind a lot, especially lately and I needed to share.
*********************************************************It is important to me to be the one speaking about Dad today. This is because you all knew Don Murray as a co-worker, friend, golf partner, relative, or neighbor, roles that I know that he was good at, but I knew him in the role that he excelled in above all others - being a Dad.
Don Murray was born July 15, 1933. Before his first birthday, the Murrays had moved to Winnipeg. It was in Winnipeg that Dad met Morna, while they were both employees of the Dominion Bank. A while after Dad moved to Toronto, from where he and Mom carried on a long distance romance. In 1955 Dad went home for Christmas and gave Mom an engagement ring. They were not to see each other again till nearly 9 months later, the week of their wedding. Dad arrived in Winnipeg on a Monday, after the minimum 48 hour waiting period, Mom and Dad were married on a Wednesday night. They set up home in Toronto, where in 1964 I was born, followed by Jim in 1969. In 1975 the family moved west, with strains of Gordon Lightfoot singing ‘Alberta Bound’ on the radio. It was in Alberta that Dad found a style of life that suited him.
Over the years Dad worked at many things - sales manager for various printing companies, real estate salesman, retail sales manager, representative for an aluminum siding company, inspected homes for insurance companies, and, up until about 4 weeks ago, worked for Keyfacts Canada.
Those are but the details and dates of Dad’s life - they are not really about who and what Dad was.
Dad was first and foremost a family man. My first memory is being snuggled with him on the couch, watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Most of the rest of my memories involve him..the walk he took me on when my cat got hit by a car, to tell me about his pets and loss being a natural part of life..diving into the deep end of the neighbor's pool to rescue Jim from drowning..driving through the mountains and stopping to watch the trains go by..he and Mom being in the stands or crowds of virtually every trumpet performance Jim had and every horse event I participated in. He took a deep and serious interest in anything we were interested in. This meant he was well versed in trumpets, big bands, horses, dog sledding and much more.
Dad was a skier, a curler, and a golfer. He approached all of these sports with the same determination that he took to every aspect of his life. As a skier he was always composed and in control on the ski hill. Mom, Jim, and I all learned to ski the same way, with our skis between his, in a snowplow, slowly carvings turns into the hill, then walking back up - no lifts for us until we were completely comfortable on our skis. It was an effective approach as we all turned out to be good skiers and ski trips to the mountains provided us many memorable family weekends.
As a curling skip he was a force to be reckoned with. The last year my husband Mark and I lived in Calgary, we joined Mom and Dad’s curling league. Curling and staying with them for a few drinks after was so enjoyable. When we moved to Grande Prairie we joined a local league, but gave up after one season - curling just lacked something without them.
And then there is golfing. Do you know that Dad kept every scorecard for every game he ever golfed? That includes his last game, less than a week before his passing. He would very much want me to mention that he shot a 97 that day. I think one of his favorite aspects of golf for the last few years was his golfing partner - his son Jim. Although occasionally accusing each other of ‘fudging’ scores, the enjoyment that they both received from these games was obvious to us all.
Dad was a Canadian. The truest, most patriotic Canadian I have ever met. It was a matter of great embarrassment to Jim and me to see that huge Canadian flag hanging on our garage on all national occasions. On his desk is taped this quote by Robertson Davies “Because I am a Canadian, I couldn’t really live anywhere else. I have had chances to do so and have never given it serious consideration. I belong here. To divorce yourself from your roots is spiritual suicide….I just am a Canadian. It is not a thing which you can escape from - it is like having blue eyes.”
Dad was not a religious man, in the traditional sense of the word, but he had strong spiritual beliefs. The verse that appears on the back of his memorial folder is one that he gave me many years ago. Going through difficult times in my life, including this - the most difficult time, I have referred to it often. Among his paperwork was the verse in its entirety. I’d like to share it with you, as in it I see so much of my Father, of his values, beliefs, and teachings.
*********************************************************Go Placidly amid the noise and haste, & remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly & clearly; and listen to others, even the dull & ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud & aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain & bitter; for always there will be greater & lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity & disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue & loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees & the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors & aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery & broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
Found in Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore, Dated 1692