When I picture my father, I almost
always picture him the
same way, deep in a conversation, his chin in his hand or arm hanging
head, listening and asking questions. My father was an incredible man
ways and among them was his unique ability to connect with people in a
few people can. In part this was because he rarely talked about himself
made almost every conversation about the person he was talking to. Its
he didn't like talking about himself. He was comfortable in his own
with his thoughts and opinions. It's just that he was genuinely
other people, in their lives and choices and what they had to say.
While I think I've always understood
how special my father
was, it was still overwhelming to see the outpouring of love and
came in so many ways over the past few months. They came in
cards, letters, phone calls, notes and emails and sometimes just in a
hug or a
handshake. For those of you who know my mother well, it won't surprise
hear that she created a file folder to save the written thoughts in a
organized manner. The folder was aptly labeled, "Harold is Great."
I think that the contents of this
folder, both the words and
the sources, paint a better picture of my dad than my words ever could.
From a staff member of an
organization on who's board he
sat, "As always, your ideas help us grow, your thoughts make us ponder
scratch our heads) and your suggestions align our focus to what's
missing from our work."
From a cousin of my generation, "When
I walked in the room
and took your hand, you asked me what have you been doing to change the
And my reply truly came from the heart when I said, trying to follow in
footsteps. I do really want to change the world . . . and you were
along showing me how to do just that. You did it by example, by your
and by encouraging like-minded souls to follow."
From a livery driver. The guy who
used to drive him downtown
to meetings and to the airport way too often, "You are remembered in my
and mind as a man of class and deserving of great respect."
From a colleague, "I particularly
appreciate the time you
have always been willing to take to listen to concerns and to guide me
difficult issues. The patience you have shown to me and the trust you
placed in me have helped to build my confidence, to nurture my
curiosity and inspired me to be a more patient person and now parent."
And finally, from one of his doctors.
"In my experience, you
are really an unusual man in many respects. You care for others and
do. That in and of itself is really unusual. Even more remarkably, you
to do this despite personal suffering. You have a wisdom that comes
lived life the way it should be lived, directed towards helping others
family that gives you a piece of mind few others achieve."
Of course, had it not been my mother
labeling the folder it
would have been labeled Harold and Marlene are great. Many of these
messages were really about the two of them. Theirs was a truly unique
affair filled with mutual respect and admiration, support and common
And on top of it all it was clear that they just plain enjoyed each
company. A child couldn't ask for better parents or a better example of
marriage is supposed to be.
You all know that there has never
been any question that my
mom is a strong woman, but watching her these past months has redefined
word for me yet again. I couldn't imagine anyone handling such
sadness with such grace and determination. I often tried to tell her
remarkable she was, only to get a typical Marlene Response. "I don't
why people say that. How else would I act?"
Mom, I know that the weeks and months
ahead will be
difficult. I'd ask that you take a moment and look around you at this
incredible gathering of people. I know you will say they are here for
they are not just here for dad. Everyone here cares about you and is
you as well. In this family and in this unbelievably unique community,
lonely you might feel at times, you will never be alone.
My dad was the consummate teacher.
Teaching wasn't just his
chosen profession, it was at the soul of who he was. For me, his
weren't about social policy or poverty's effect on children. He was my
in life. I know I'm not the only person that felt this way and I'm
aware that I wasn't exactly his easiest student.
My dad, along with my mom, taught me
how to be a member of a
family and a member of a community. My dad taught me responsibility and
discipline but also how to take risks. He taught me how to take my work
seriously without taking myself too seriously. He taught me the
living a life without regret and even taught me how to die in peace and
afraid. He taught me how to be a man, a husband and, I think, most
he taught me how to be a father. My greatest hope is that I can live up
example in that department.
I love you dad.