He is free. He is free. He is free…

And so begins the long journey home…

I wasn’t due to make a trip north this Christmas.

I wasn’t due to see the snow.

I wasn’t due to travel.

And I knew the next time I did venture home, would likely be to say a final goodbye.

So here I am, on my way to say the final farewell.

Each time I’ve seen my Dad over the last few years, I’ve said my goodbyes.

I’ve told him it was okay to let go,

I’ve told him that I love him,

I’ve told him that he was tough, and he did us “Smith’s” proud.

I’ve told him I love him, and he is the best Daddy a girl could ask for.

I’ve told him I will be with him always, and I am okay.

I’ve told him I am strong.

So what do I say this time?

As I ready to board my flight and I reflect on all the years I’ve flown home to see my parents, I can’t help but realize that this is the first time a plural is hyperbole.

Parents has become parent.

In finality and permanence, his last breath has been taken.

And with a final exhale my Dad has found peace.

With one last heartbeat his body finally rests.

His mind finally freed from confusion.

So I contemplate. What do I say?

I don’t know.

I love you Daddy.

I wish you’d met Ruby. Like really met her.

In a way that you could appreciate the fire and mischief that fuels her spirit.

And I wish you could have known Brooklyn. Like really known her.

In a way that you could appreciate her thoughtful, caring, creative nature.

I wish you could have seen the marriage Kibwe and I have built together. Like really felt the love we’ve built, as partners, as parents, as best friends and as lovers.

I wish you could have seen my short hair. I think you would have scoffed and said “what’s this?” In a disapproving, yet playful manner.

I wish you could have taken me hunting.

I wish I had more time with you, since I’ve been the most like me.

I wish I got to know you better. Got to hear more stories.

But the thing I know to be true is, I still see you Dad. I see you everywhere.

I see you when I look to Dale and see his devilish grin, knowing he’s up to something.

I see you in Riley when he smiles with boyish charm.

I see you in Paige, the playful prankster with a kind nature for good fun.

I see you in Brooklyn when she raises her eyebrows at something surprising.

I see you in Ruby when her eyes twinkle with mischief and omnipotence.

I see you in the mirror, when I look into the icey depths of my own hooded eyes.

I thank you Dad. Your life and your death have been a tool for transformation in my life.

You taught me to be who I am. Authentically.

You taught me to say what you mean, and do what you say.

You taught me that sometimes you have to fight. Whether figuratively or literally.

You taught me to not take shit from anybody.

You taught me how to have fun and play.

You taught me a great love for a mountain peak and a pet.

You taught me to observe the world around me, and all the beauty that it holds.

You taught me presence.

A constant endeavour.

For years your memory has been filled with the weight of your current reality.

Finishing your days in startling contrast to how you lived your life.

That weight has lifted.

I’m filled with gratitude that you have found peace.

I’m filled with gratitude that you have been freed from your prison.

I’m filled with gratitude to have known and been raised by you.

It was my honour and my privilege.

I could be bitter that you ended in such a cruel fashion, but instead

I’m filled with gratitude that your fate sent me on a purposeful path that fills my life with great meaning.

As I fly across the sky, I look down on the mountains. It’s been too long.

Too long since I’ve been greeted by these white capped mammoths.

They rise from the ground with immensity and grace. Much like you…

And all I can think is…

They don’t make them like my Dad anymore. He was grown in the great white North. Not knowing plumbing or concrete sidewalks until his mid teens.

He was raised where the winter solstice saw no light, and the summer solstice saw no dark.

He flew planes, and raced cars and motorbikes.

He disappeared into the backcountry for weeks and returned with a beard and some wild game.

He was a pioneer of the Canadian tuxedo.

He worked pipeline and told stories of daring fights and wild nights.

He worked as long as the daylight still shone, and when it was cold

He would warm his icy hands on whomever he could catch first.

He could talk to anyone, anywhere exuding charm and charisma, including dogs, and horses, and cows, and even grizzlies, and

He likely preferred the animals to the humans.

After all, authentic beings resonate with authentic beings.

My Dad took pleasure in the little things, and he was at peace amongst nature.

And I take great joy in knowing he is free again to roam the back country.

He’s free again to explore the wild wilderness.

He’s free again to gaze upon the mountains and watch for a passing bear or deer.

He is free again to wander…

Free again to wonder…

He is free. He is free. He is free.

And although it is hard to imagine an Earth his feet do not stand upon,

I believe he lives on,

In every mountain, every stream, and every tree.

In all of my family, and certainly in me.