Though life has been stuffed tight—setting up a home in Ethiopia, becoming oriented with a new school, new job, new language, new pattern of living—I have found time to write a few pieces for my forthcoming book.
This one I wrote in a cramped office while waiting for the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia's manager to return ATM-withheld money to me. After only two hours it was declared that the money would be available to me in three short days. This is why I have a book to write in and a book to read from on my person at all times.
The Day He Died
Written November 17, 2014 | Jimma Town, Oromia, Ethiopia
The day he died, vigils encircling bottles of rum were held wherever the news touched ground. The realization of this newly formed void in our lives made it impossible to stand and continue, instead we fell in around the closest table, with souls similar in character and in hurt. Across the world, it seemed, Dad’s loved ones halted their lives and joined each other to share his memory, to share their pain, and to acknowledge the closing of an important epoch in all of our histories.
Dad was life's spark plug, and now we are tasked to carry his spark through the ages, setting people’s hearts and minds alight as he would. In a sense, this passing of the torch was empowering, but the weight of this responsibility pushed each of us to the nearest bench, to the coldest drink, and to tears over the understanding that Geoff was no longer here to show us how.
We drank to remember, to scour for details in a lifetime of tiny moments that made our relationship with Dad so rich and so magical. We drank to soften the blow of this truth, this creeping truth that Dad’s expiry would come sooner than our own. We drank to carry that spark, to push on with the party of life, for the show must go on. This was us carrying his spark for the first time, each of us holding our endowment tight before letting it give rise to new, beautiful lights for the rest of our days—allowing Dad’s legacy of energy and laughter to affect humanity with exponential scaling.
Mom, Brit, and I steered the car from the hospice directly to the Tin Cup Pub. This was us closing the door on the idea of keeping our hurt to ourselves, and giving up on the idea that we should forgo fellowship now in anticipation of more in the future—this thought was to be surrendered forever. Always go to the party.
We met with a vigil already in session—close friends who frequented the same pub, reeling over the news and revelling in the memory. The table got longer. Dad’s brothers, Mom’s family, our friends who rode this entire journey with us flowed into the dim bar. The table grew and grew. We had taken over the place, members of our team standing in every corner. Laughs being expressed right beside cries, each of them appropriate. Each of them perfect in their moments.
We were exhausted with 6 months worth of fatigue. Bodies and minds finally being allowed to fold, to rest. The crowd around me swirled into a blur, the only clear images in my world were of my hands on my beer, and of Dad as he said goodnight to me months before – ‘Love you, buds,’ he would exhale, ‘See you tomorrow.’ with a grinning light in his eyes. I’ll see you tomorrow, Dad.
A commotion pulled me from my fugue state.
“You guys have got to check this out!” someone called from across the room.
As the curious went to take a peek, I remained in my seat, with my drink and my memory, trying to let that warmth envelop my world again.
The curious marched straight back into the bar.
“Seriously, you folks might want to see this.”
I watched Mom head to the doors, her eyes urging me along.
My useless legs carried me through the maze, kicking stools and shuffling through others’ feet. The cool after-rainfall air pushed into the bar and past my foggy being, livening me a little, my surroundings becoming focused.
Natural light overwhelmed my vision and for a moment I was alone again with my thoughts. Dad not there this time. My eyes adjusted their apertures, the pixels fell into place, and there was Dad. There he was, shooting across the sky in the form of a brilliant, vibrant rainbow. Not just a rainbow, a double rainbow.
With his new wings Dad ripped across the horizon, painting the spectrum for us not once, but twice. In true form, he splashed on a little something extra for us. He called down for us to say that everything is all right.
Everything is going to be alright.
Fully awake and sharpened now to my purpose, I broke my trance and became, again, present and engaged and enriched with life.
Sometimes you just need a reminder.
If you have a story to tell about where you were and what you did when you heard that Dad had passed, please share it in the comment section below or send me a private message. I find this type of account particularly powerful and I would love to include some of them in the book.
All my best as you Make Each Day Count this New Year, folks,