A Life, Remembered


Today’s Music: Pete Seeger – Turn Turn Turn
Days Til Spring: 73

This is a remembrance of my father in law, who passed away a few days ago.

An ordinary man. There will be no epic novels written of him. His name won’t be remembered in the history books. But a man, nonetheless, who lived a full and happy life, and who enjoyed himself all along the way.

Dinosaurs caught the imagination of the man. The fossils, the movements, the history. He studied them and grew intimately familiar with them. As a result, for many years, he served once a week as a Docent (someone visitors could ask questions about dinosaurs of) at the Museum of Natural History.

Music caught the ear of the man. He was already familiar with music, especially all the great folkies of the 50s and 60s. He already knew how to play piano, but this time he picked up a guitar. He forced his hand into the shapes of chords, again and again. Then, pushing on, he learned the positions on the neck and began doing more intricate finger picking.
He discovered middle-age and medieval music. On any given night, you could find him puzzling over obscure music notations, trying to figure out how that translated into English, and to the guitar and lute, which he taught himself to play. He delighted in picking out a tune for the first time, then realizing how similar it was to something he already knew, by a completely different name.
The lyrics too were a doorway to a world long gone. The ballads of the bards told a stylized history of life back then – serfdom, the actions of nobles, the difficulties of daily life. All these discoveries enriched his own life.

The birds caught the eye of the man. They entranced him. He already knew what a camera was, but now he went out and got serious equipment – cameras, lenses, filters. A high end printer so the physical copies would do justice to his digital images. He studied composition, light, color, all to bring his pictures closer to what his eye and his imagination saw.
On the wall behind me are five ultra-close-up images of flowers, a riot of color and swirls, that he took.
The last car he bought, a beat up standard transmission Jeep, was so he could get out to the marshes and preserves and photograph the wildflowers and birds he loved.

The sun caught the eye of the man. In a room of his apartment, with floor to ceiling windows to let the best light in, is a drawing table festooned with pens and brushes and inks. There are dozens of drawings and paintings of birds, of the sun, of dinosaurs.

The man had once studied at seminary to enter the priesthood. It didn’t take, but it had a heavy influence on his spirituality. In the end, he came to Buddhism…perhaps because of the meditative aspects, perhaps because of the inward focus. In time, he led groups in the practices of Buddhism.

The man was concerned about the well-being of others. For many years, he worked as a social worker. In later years, after he retired, he worked in an outreach program for helping people learn English as a second language.
He was going to work in another program to encourage and help foster children to go to college.

Despite having a severe bad reaction to sugar, the man LOVED cookie, with CookieFest being a highlight of his year for several years. There was no one he wouldn’t approach and strike up a conversation with, and no one who wouldn’t engage with him.

He was married for several years. And he raised the most wonderful girl in the universe.

They say that when someone dies, they’re gone, and all we’re left with are the memories of who they were. But sometimes we’re left with an example, of how someone can live their lives, working every day, and still find time to enjoy every day – whether discussing arpeggios with his son in law, or sailing a styrofoam sailboat in the bay (and getting a wicked sunburn), or simply sitting quietly with a pad, trying to draw the reptile skull on the shelf

And we realize that someone who was just a man hasn’t only left us memories.
He’s left us an example we can follow of a life well lived – a life lived with the companionship of close friends, the security of high ideals, and the unabashed love of family.

And puns. Good lord, did that guy love puns.

And he will be missed.

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112 responses to “A Life, Remembered

  1. When did he die? There’s nothing on the Internet at all where he is still listed as amongst the living. Did this just happen?

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  2. Sorry for your loss. My prayers are with you and your wife.

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  3. He’s not dead. It was a hoax earlier this week. He is alive at age 94. His wife Toshi, died in July. But he’s a great guy and you can rerun this when he actually does die :-)

    From Google:

    Pete Seeger dead 2014 : Musician killed by celebrity death hoax …
    en.mediamass.net/people/pete-seeger/deathhoax.html‎
    News of musician Pete Seeger’s death spread quickly earlier this week, causing concern among fans across the world. However, the January 2014 report has …

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  4. Oh, misread it. Oops. I’m sorry. I am red faced and feeling really stupid.

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  5. Oh, dude, I’m so sorry. Men with artistic talent and a penchant for puns are supreme beings.

    Peace and care to all of you.

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  6. I’m sorry Guapo… He sounds like a great man, it must have been very interesting to have known him. And that’s about the best you can do as a human being I guess…

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  7. Knowing this “ordinary” man seems to be worth far more than knowing someone who would be in an epic novel or history book. I am sorry for your loss.

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  8. EG, this is beautiful. I am so very sorry for your family’s loss. He sounds like someone who left our world much better than he found it. One small consolation is that the deep sadness with this kind of loss comes from deep love, a wonderful thing despite the pain it brings. TMWGITU is clearly a testament to his life well-lived, and certainly he lives on in both of you. Sending good thoughts.

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  9. My deepest sympathies for you and TMWGITU.

    But he sounds like a wonderful man — thank you for sharing a bit of him with us. May he rest with the birds:

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  10. Sorry for your loss Guap. Regards to Mrs Guap too. Her Dad sounds like the man all of us should aspire to being. Best wishes.

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  11. My sympathies to you and TMWGITU. But what a wonderful tribute to the man. I’ll be thinking of you both. Take care!

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  12. A lovely tribute, Guap. My condolences to you and TMWGITU…

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  13. Guap – this was an amazing tribute – just effing beautiful – So sorry for you and TMWGITU loss..tell her hi and my thoughts and love are with you guys.. Lizzie <3

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  14. What a great remembrance of what surely sounds like a life well-lived. I like it when memories are alive in other people, which is what it sounds like with you and yours. My condolences….

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  15. That was well done… I can’t wait till I die so you can write one about me!!!

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  16. I’m sorry for you loss, Guap.

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  17. Oh Guaps, I am so sorry you & TMWGITU lost this wonderful person in your lives. What an interesting life & I’m sure our world is better for having known him. Anything I can do, you know I’m there.

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  18. Nice tribute, Guapo, regardless whether someone has died or not. I’m a little confused here. I guess from now on I won’t assume something is truthful on the Internet. Ha ha.

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  19. Hugs and best wishes to all of you. But I wouldn’t be so fast about the no great epic novels. That one needs a little time and the story could well be there, couldn’t it?

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  20. Condolences for you both.

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  21. Your father-in-law (I’m assuming that’s who this is) sounds like a hell of a guy. I love it when a person is mourned through celebration. There are no ordinary lives, no ordinary people. It sounds like you recognized what was extraordinary about this dude. God bless (or the secular version of same)!

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  22. Love to you both. I’d have enjoyed time chatting with the man.

    X

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  23. So sorry to hear about the loss of your FIL. What a beautiful tribute you gave him.

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  24. This is one of the best tributes I’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, Peace and comfort to you and TMWGITU. Here’s to him with …. http://youtu.be/8U7XWAJKC2s

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  25. I too am very sorry for your loss my friend…What a great blog in his honor…..
    xx
    Sooz

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  26. Fine tribute – puns ( sharp mind and sense of humor), fold music (compassion, hope, soul), docent tickled with dinosaur bones (sense of wonder and history), and keen observer of small creatures ( appreciate of beauty, the interconnectivity of nature). He was a delightful man who touched many – and it mattered. Warm thoughts in support of you and yours at this difficult time

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  27. A really lovely tribute, Guap. I’m sorry for your loss. He sounds like a remarkable man any of us would have been proud to know.

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  28. My thoughts go with you and your wife. A beautiful tribute.

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  29. Thanks for the lovely tribute.

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  30. sunshinebright

    I thought, as I read your post, that it sounded quite personal, but it didn’t hit me until you mentioned about his raising “the most wonderful girl in the universe.” And your last, “And puns. Good lord, did that guy love puns.

    And he will be missed.”
    Terribly sorry for your and your family’s loss. The way you expressed your feelings touched me profoundly personally.

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  31. My condolences to you both. Beautifully done El G.

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  32. This was so beautiful. It made me cry. What a wonderful man he was. He will be missed. My condolences to you and TMWGITU. My thoughts are with you both.

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  33. Oh Guapo, so sorry!!! What an amazing man he was! Your wife is lucky to have you as a husband, it sounds like you really loved him and cherished his outlook on life. My sympathies to her. Glad you will have wonderful memories and examples. :(

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  34. so sorry for your loss. I will keep you and your family in my prayers. This man was fortunate to have known you.

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  35. Sir, please give my condolences to TMWGITU. What a wonderful father she has! (I put that in present tense because part of him will always be with her, and with you.)

    If you feel so inclined, I suggest looking up Robert Penn Warren’s poem “Grackles, Goodbye.” Warren was a bird lover, and he saw Grackles’ migration as a symbol of the certainty that when loved ones die, they are not gone forever. In fact, he found it absurd that anyone could believe otherwise, and it angered him (according to the language in this poem).

    Warren was as sure that he will see his departed mother again as he was that the sun will rise each morning, and I am equally confident that you will see your father-in-law again.

    Thank you for sharing with us a little bit about this beautiful man!

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  36. Your father in law? I’m so sorry – but that’s a beautiful epitaph. It gives a lovely warm picture of him. Sometimes ordinary people can be wonderful if you can just see it. My sympathies to your wife, hope she’s doing ok.

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  37. whiteladyinthehood

    awww, Guapo! I am so very sorry! You have my deepest sympathies for you and your girl. He sounded like a very warm, caring, and unique individual. The post was beautiful!

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  38. I’m regret missing so many posts lately, especially this one. I’m sorry for your loss. That was a beautiful tribute and I’m sure he will love reading it from wherever he is. Hugs to you and TMWGITU.

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  39. Brilliant tribute… Sorry for your loss.

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  40. This is such a beautiful and thoughtful post. I’m very sorry for your loss. He sounds like a truly amazing human.

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  41. You wrote lovely words that touched a lot of people who don’t know your father-in-law, including me. That’s quite a talent you have, both in terms of the rightness of your emotions and in terms of your ability to articulate your feelings. I hope to live a life like this man, focusing on the world and changing myself rather than focusing on others and lamenting what I do not have. Learning new things is better than owning new things. Great post with something for everyone, to enrich them. Masterful.

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    • Thanks so much, Brenda. When I sat down to write this, it pretty much just flowed out. What you read is almost exactly what I had in my head about him.
      And my wife appreciated it too.

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      • If I were her, I would have shed tears of joy. What a lovely man she is married to. Peace and Joy to both of you, you are blessed to have each other. Warmly, Brenda

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  42. Wonderful post, particularly when you think that history generally only remembers the psychopaths.

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  43. That was a beautiful eulogy. You are so fortunate to have married this man’s daughter, and to experience both of their wonderful spirits in your life. I’m sorry for you and your wife’s loss.

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  44. This is a beautiful tribute to a man who was obviously very special. My condolences to your beautiful wife and to you. I love the way you have started so many paragraphs with things that caught the senses of this special man. It reminded me of a beautiful poem by Thomas Hardy with the line He was a man who noticed such things. A fitting tribute. Love to you and yours.

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  45. And you are a lucky man to have such an example as a part of your life, Guap. I think I would have gotten along well with him – I have never met anyone else (except one of my professors) who loved medieval music.

    I find that the extraordinary is most often found in the “ordinary.” He sounds extraordinary, and not only do memories of him and his example remain, but so does his child. <3

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  46. This is a beautiful tribute. I am so sorry for your loss. My condolences to your family.

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  47. I’m very sorry for your pain and loss. But I have to say, your words of tribute are elegant and touching. Take care of your heart.

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  48. what a beautiful post.
    i don’t know him, but your picture of him made me think i did.
    may we all be so ordinary
    may we all be so loved.
    I am so sorry for your loss

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  49. Guapo, I’m so sorry for your loss, and happy for the wonderful relationship it sounds like you had with your father-in-law. That is the biggest blessing in life. Your tribute is beautiful.

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  50. I am so sorry for you loss.
    You have given justice to your memories in the form of this beautiful tribute.
    A man becomes remarkable by living a life of fulfillment and it comes out to be true at so many levels for him, as we all come to know through your writing.

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  51. Merissa Sheppard

    I only knew him through a group on the internet but I have to speak on behalf of all who knew him there when I say he will indeed be missed! It was a beautiful eulogy, thank you for sharing it.

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