Happy Birthday Pere

My sister came home from school one day years ago, proud to have learned in French class that the word for Dad, was “Pere.” Lingering at our dining room table, we laughed and giggled. In a collective family decision, it stuck. From that moment forward our beloved father was known as Pere. That and so many memories have come to mind today on what would have been Pere’s 105 birthday. He died peacefully at home a little over five years ago now, just days away from becoming a centurion. Four weeks before he took his leave, at 10am this particular morning I felt sure his passing was imminent. Wanting him to feel that he made it to his full 100, I hurriedly filled his syringe for liquids with his favorite scotch, poured a shot for myself, quickly sang Happy Birthday to him and down the hatch went our celebratory liquids. I wondered if, as he lay peacefully with his eyes closed in his little bed, he had heard the tune?  When I then noticed a tear rolling down his aged cheek, I knew he had. 

Our Pere was an American Gentleman. Self made and hard working like so many of our fathers, he had four degrees. Three in engineering…civil, mechanical and chemical with honors from University of Chicago and the forth in drama, from Yale. He never met a stranger, loved our Mother, Marshelline fiercely for 72 years of marriage and was devoted to his family. He had an ebullient optimism, an infectious joie de vivre and an insatiable enthusiasm for learning. One of his many passions was ancient history. Following this interest he took special pains to get all of us on a leisurely and glorious sail through Greece’s storied isles.  Another particular delight for him was a trip to the pyramids in Egypt. 

Reaching back even further in time, he said he would dream sometimes of being able to fly like a helicopter in a time warp over the earth witnessing volcanoes shape mountains, and glaciers cut great swathes to form valleys. He enjoyed his mind and so did we.

In my belief system and I’m bold to say experience, persons you love who have passed on visit occasionally. I don’t mean sit down for a cup of tea nice as that would be, but send signs, make their presence known. 

Two weeks before she died my darling girlfriend who had a tumor on her pineal gland (so named for its likeness to the shape of a pine cone) promised to send a sign if she could, after she died.  Six weeks later whilst walking in the New York City, there in front of me on the ground was a fully intact giant sequoia pine cone. What? “Hi, Heather.”

Mom has visited several times. Once, a month after her death, I was hiking down a hill off the trail with my beau deep in Yellowstone. Processing her absence I was crying most of the way when suddenly her scent was pungently in the air.  So certain was I that she was standing right behind me that I turned around.  There, at eye level isolated and perched atop a giant boulder was a ruby crystal about the size of a baseball. Mom’s birthstone was ruby. “Hi Mom.”

Pere has come to me far less frequently. I would say, but twice since he passed. The more memorable was on a trail we would walk whenever he visited me in LA. Pere loved to hike and had done so with frequency all his life. So, there I was alone a few months after he had died on that beautiful trail when suddenly I was surrounded by a swarm of dragonflies. I had hiked that trail easily 100 times over the years and never had even seen a dragonfly.  I cannot tell you why but I felt in the moment that it was Pere’s presence, that it was Pere accompanying me as he had done so many times, right there. “Hi, Pere.”

There have been other such experiences and ok these may not speak to you, feel free to call me a nut but these moments have been meaningful to me. I have felt both comfort from and a tangible presence of my beloveds gone before.

You will understand then that reading the paper today on his birthday, my eyes fell with some interest on an article about dragonflies. It said new research had revealed that their “neural system is more than 250 million years old.” That they had “taken to the skies long before birds were even on the evolutionary horizon” and “flew with precision much like helicopters, in bursts of speed.” Dragonflies in other words, have been around for a very long time, long enough to have witnessed geological shifts just like Pere had dreamed of being able to witness.  

I hope your beloveds gone before, visit you. I really do. It’s special. We’ll see how it feels when I get there but from today’s point of view, it has made me unafraid to die.

In the meanwhile, Happy Birthday Pere. We love you and now we know, your dream came true.  Enjoy your flight!

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