Closure: a path, not a plaque

Last April, about six months after my dad died at the age of 96, I met someone whose own father had passed away at 97.  I said something about how, when a family member’s over 90, you always have an unspoken awareness of their mortality.

She agreed, but added that for her, there was also a feeling that her father had always been there and would always be.  Not a logical feeling, but a true one.  When my grandmother died, two years after my grandfather, I remember my dad saying, “Now I’m an orphan.”  He was 59.

All my siblings, as well as my mother, live in metro Detroit.  All of us went to Nova Scotia last month. The main purpose: to have a memorial mass for those who couldn’t come to Michigan for his funeral, to celebrate Dad’s life, and to bury his ashes in his beloved Cape Breton.

I find I don’t have a lot of patience with people who talk about reaching closure as if it’s a stop on the subway.  I suppose they mean well, but I can’t help hearing an implied timetable, a hint that you should define some point and then get off the emotional train.

No, when I say “closure,” I mean a kind of rethinking.  It’s figuring out how to continue your relationship with the person who’s died – and fitting that with your other relationships.

I’m managing.  I couldn’t say when, but one day, a few months after Dad died, I had been feeling sad about his absence from some event taking place.  I stopped and asked myself what was going on. The feeling cleared itself up:  “He would have hated to miss this.”

And then he was there: I could picture him sitting the way he did in his last few years. Often quiet because of his growing deafness and fading vision; bubbling and beaming when someone sat close enough to engage with him.

I don’t idealize him.  He wasn’t the best dad in the history of the world; he was simply the best one I had.  The memorial service down home helped me see him through the eyes of old family friends, of cousins and second cousins and their children.  Unlike other family names in that small place — the local paper once had five editors, all named Macdonald — for a long time there was only one family in town named Ferguson.

And the people who gathered at Stella Maris church on a warm Saturday in July are working on the latest chapter in their relationship with the one Hughie Ferguson they’d known all their lives.


2 thoughts on “Closure: a path, not a plaque

  1. Dear David: I am so very glad that I was a part of Uncle Hughie’s Cape Breton life and in his final resting place. He was more than an Uncle to me. He was my Godfather and my friend. I could talk to Uncle Hughie and bring him up to date on “things and people” around here. He love family, relatives, friends and had more friends than anyone I knew. I loved him and I was glad that on our trip last fall to Detroit….he was almost the Uncle Hughie I knew. The broad smile and hug when we landed and the same when we left. When I told him that Ross and I would be back for breakfast, “wonderful, great…see you then.” The big smile again and a wave that I will never forget. We never got to see him again….what beautiful memories we all have. Love you and your beauiful wife, Jo-anne

  2. Dear David:

    Family, are important to me and although I didn’t spend much time with Hughie I remember him well. So well in fact, I travelled from Montreal down to the home of my childhood, Inverness, Cape Breton to be there with you and your family in Stella Maris church…a very sad time in your life.

    The longer a loved one is in our lives the more blessed we are….but losing a dear one at any age leaves a huge amount of sadness that doesn’t seem to ever go away. Along with the sadness though come wonderful memories of their presence in our lives.

    Hughie was loved and respected by everyone who knew him. He will always be affectionately remembered.

    Love to your mom and siblings

    God bless you


Comments are closed.