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Something you can trust all your life

The last time I saw my Dad was when he saw me off at the train station at Eastbourne, a seaside town on the south coast of England. We said goodbye at the ticket barrier, but as I was starting to walk to the train a little voice inside me said, “Turn around and watch your Dad.”

Dad was 94. He lived alone in a small ground-floor flat directly across from his favorite pub in a village called Pevensey Bay, not far from Eastbourne. I had come over from British Columbia to visit him. He died less than a year later.

As I stood at the barrier and watched Dad walk slowly and deliberately toward the exit, I marveled at how upright he was, and I felt a quickening of love and admiration for him I had never felt before in my whole life.

He was 6’3”. He was careful, and yet so unutterably proud, in the way he walked. Straight as a ramrod. Upright as a redwood. Careful, though, not to take too big of a step. Careful in the way he used his stick to help him. Careful not to trip or fall. But never losing his poise.

What I saw bursting through him with each step he took was his indomitable spirit. A spirit tried in peace and war. In 75 years of brave journalism – to quote a commemorative silver plate he received toward the end of his life from fellow London journalists -- and in a million other ways.

He was as brave at 94 as he was when he was 60, listening to a judge sentence him to 6 months in prison for refusing to betray his principles and reveal his sources to a government spy tribunal. His quick jokes, a specialty of his, didn’t diminish in quality as far as I could see, and he remained as gallant as ever to the ladies. It impressed the heck out of my wife the first time they met when he insisted on carrying her coat.

In this world in which we live it seems as if there is less and less upon which we can really depend. Jobs quit on us. Relationships quit on us. Institutions quit on us. Sometimes friendships quit on us. Some argue government is quitting on them.

Cars are quite well-known for quitting on people, too, though in fairness to automakers it does seem as if they are doing a better job these days.

But there is something you can trust that will never quit on you, and it is your own unconquerable spirit. The idea of quitting never enters its head. And its love never fails.

I feel Dad’s indomitable spirit present with me more strongly than ever, cheering me on, shall I say. And with all his flaws, and all my flaws, I’m glad he was my Dad.

Please write if you have any thoughts you’d like to share. And if you enjoyed this post, please pass it along to a friend. Stay strong.

Re picture: Left to right, my Aunt Kathleen, my wonderful wife, JoAnn, and Dad

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Don Camichael February 12, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Hi–

Thanks for sharing your lovely embedded recollection of your dad real n’ strong-upright. Natural play I believe bee our friend too as we grow further along the continuum of life, important to sustain elasticity n’ stability along with the vertical of grace n’ poise ; )

Best,
Don

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Christopher Foster February 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Great input Don. Thank you so much. We sure do need both, just as you say. And the older we get, the greater the need and opportunity to engage both, I find.

I was pretty stiff for a long time in my life. Now I’m enjoying play more than I ever did before. Not the way it’s supposed to work, is it? ha ha.

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BarbaraZ February 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm

My parents are a part of what Tom Brokaw called the ‘greatest generation.’ They went through the rough times of the depression, WWII, and they did what they had to do to survive. There was a stoic sense about them, no complaints were heard, at least not to us children. They were determined to create a better life for us, my brothers and I. We did not talk of things as I wish we had. I find myself looking back and wishing I could change this.

In relation to the comment by Don C. before me… my parents also found ways to make life enjoyable… picnics, Santa making it to Aruba where my Dad worked for ESSO, family dinner time and other things that I remember as special. It was a good life.
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Christopher Foster February 12, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Hi Barbara,

Thanks so much for writing in. It’s very touching to share your story about your parents. You have some good memories there. And I’m sure there was a lot they taught you either by word or example that has stood you in good stead. I liked what you said about how they found ways to make some good times for their family. Bye for now.

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Bruce Morse February 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Love this tribute to your dad and the indomitable spirit.

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Christopher Foster February 12, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Thank you Bruce. Every good wish.

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Kathleen February 12, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Thanks for this post. I’ve been low lately. Your words that “…there is something you can trust that will never quit on you, and it is your own unconquerable spirit. The idea of quitting never enters its head. And its love never fails.” is JUST what I needed to hear. So I’m moving onward with head held high ! PS. I’m tall too so I love the image of your tall father with his erect and careful gait. Thanks again!

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Christopher Foster February 12, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Good for you Kathleen. Way to go. Head held high. Thank you and good luck.

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Joan February 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I look forward to your posts. You remind us of the happiness that can be found through life’s transitions. Transitions are always a part of life and they are often fraught with anxiety – especially I think as we age. Thank you for your positive missives.

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Christopher Foster February 12, 2012 at 8:08 pm

I appreciate your encouragement very much Joan. You are so right. Transitions are part of life and they do inevitably bring some anxiety along with them. I’m happy to be sharing in the journey with you. Take care.

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Hiten February 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I could tell by the bricks of the house that the photo was taken in Blighty. 🙂

Lovely post Christopher. It sounds like your Dad was a true gentleman. I think whenever we lose someone close, of course they are no longer with us in the physical sense. However, amazingly, their spirit continues to live in us. And we can never lose this.

Thank you for this beautiful post about your Dad Christopher.
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Christopher Foster February 12, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Always a pleasure to hear from you Hiten. Thank you for your comment, I agree 100 per cent. Your words remind me of a friend who liked to say the same thing. We can never lose what is true. Blessings to you.

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Terry Starr February 12, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Awesome words! Thank you.

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Christopher Foster February 12, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Thank you Terry and all the very best.

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Hilary February 13, 2012 at 2:37 am

Hi Christopher .. strange for me – I can see the station and barrier as I use it quite often – I live here now … so pleased that you have that memory of your father at his best – because he was at his best. My mother had strokes five years ago and is here now bedridden – though she can talk (doesn’t do it much .. but at least she can – and did lots of it until about two years ago) … but I was thinking of all the positives I have had out of the experience and time of her illness. She used to live in Penzance Cornwall and though we usually travelled by car … her last trip was via the train station to London – then the strokes happened. There’s always a positive light …

This post perhaps reflects some of the eclecticism that is my mother!
http://positiveletters.blogspot.com/2010/07/could-this-be-sitcom-or-break-out.html

The other subjects are the kinds of things we discussed and might have talked about while she’s been ill …

I loved reading this because I can see the area and feel you and your Dad’s ambience within Eastbourne still …

Thanks … Hilary
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Christopher Foster February 13, 2012 at 11:19 am

Such a pleasure to hear from you Hilary. Thank you so much for sharing about your mother and about your own connection with the Eastbourne area. Your post on your mother is beautiful, and very touching. I loved the pictures too.

I felt Britain (and my love for Britain) very close as I was reading your message. Most of all I loved the way you evoke the indomitable spirit that is surely our greatest blessing and always will be. Take care and thank you again for sharing.

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Hilary February 13, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Hi Chris .. thanks for taking the time to read … – my mother is incredible – she will still talk very slowly sometimes as though I can’t hear …!! It really could be a sitcom sometimes …

I like to include pictures as a lot of my articles have some form of history in them … and yes my blog does seem to bring back their British roots – even if blogging friends were born over seas and have never visited.

So pleased it add briefly and in a small way to the memories of your father … I meant to mention earlier that it was lovely seeing a picture of JoAnn and am glad she was able to meet your father … and your aunt Kathleen.

With thoughts – Hilary
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Chris Mann February 13, 2012 at 3:09 am

When I go to see my own Dad, I feel the same. Having very recently lost my Mum, my family is in shock but my Dad’s courage, strength and the dignity with which he carries himself are a source of comfort and continuity.

He was a hero during wartime and spends much of his time with ex-paratroopers now. To me, he is still a hero – I wish I were more like him.

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Christopher Foster February 13, 2012 at 11:24 am

Many thanks for writing Chris. I loved hearing about your Dad and I can feel through your words his proud spirit. You’re absolutely right. He is a hero still and always will be. My condolences on losing your Mum.

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jared February 13, 2012 at 7:49 am

Wonderful post, thank you.
I lost my father in 2010. He was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at 65 and passed 10 days later in my mothers arms on their dining room floor. He was such a provider over the years, worked so hard, and had just retired. At times it doesn’t seem fair, to work so hard and retire then to slip away. However, he really valued himself on his work ethic so I think retiring was weighing on him. Plus, he had “other” work to do I believe.

Your fathers poise was like my fathers strength. His hands were those of a construction worker and always seemed strong as steel. And it’s fitting I think that he didn’t have to suffer the withering away that many do with cancer. I do miss him, but am grateful more than anything for having him at all.
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Christopher Foster February 13, 2012 at 11:35 am

What a fine, fine comment Jared. Thank you so much for sharing so intimately about your father. It’s a privilege to share your words and also the spirit of them.

I agree with you absolutely. Your father has other work to do and I’m sure he is busy about it right now. Bereavement is tough. And yet it is also, I have found, an opportunity like no other to expand our boundaries and grow in our experience of our own mission and truth. Blessings and take care Jared.

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Nadeja Gerasimow February 13, 2012 at 10:43 am

Thank you Chris, for your ever present inspiration to this world – my world. Much love to you and JoAnn.

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Christopher Foster February 13, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Lovely to hear from you Nadeja. Thanks. Your support is a blessing to me. be well.

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Lorraine A. Pollay February 13, 2012 at 11:49 am

I so thoroughly enjoy your columns, your spirit’s view of life, family and friends and your connectedness with all, which leads me to share my story.

My brother and I met after work in downtown Chicago in 1968, before his trip to the Upper Peninsula where he had hunting property. After we said goodbye, I too watched him as he walked a block to the train station. marveling at his swagger and love of life. He drowned the next day during a squall on the lake. He was only 44 years old.

At his graveside in the light spring rain, I heard him say, “Don’t look down, I’m not there – look up”. As I looked up and saw the wind moving through the trees, I connected with his spirit as never before and thus my spiritual journey began.

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Christopher Foster February 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Lorraine, what a beautiful, beautiful story. Very poignant. Very sad. But also very uplifting. My experience eaxctly when I lost my first wife, but instead of wind moving in the trees a whole flock of chickadees suddenly came to perch on the outside of our veranda. It was a bird we both had loved.

Take care and be well.

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Elana February 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm

That was so lovely and touching to read. Thank you for the inspirational message. It rings with so much truth!

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Christopher Foster February 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Hi Elana: Thank you so much for your kind comment and for taking the time to write. Be well.

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Pat Fuller February 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I can really relate to your post. I watched my mother age and retain her spirit to the end. Now, it is my turn and I hope to always rely on that spirit to keep me going and give me courage to face whatever lies ahead.

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Christopher Foster February 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Thank you for writing Pat. And for sharing your experience with your mother, that’s a beautiful memory you have, and more importantly, as you say, a beautiful example.

A thought just popped into my mind, it may or may not be helpful but I try to follow my inner nudges. Just wanted to mention that in my own life more recently I’ve found a lot of inspiration in a man called John Sherman, at the river ganga foundation. Blessings to you.

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sheila February 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Good day Christopher

My Dad sailed away to heaven on December 21…

Grieving is an interesting process, losing a loved one and realising they are gone, the sadness and of course for my mother at this time the loneliness settling in.

For myself along with my brothers we remember him sitting on his sailboat or driving about in his Triumph Spitfire. We were Canadian kids that always had some silly British car in our driveway, well thats how we felt about it growing up, never realising it was Dad’s way of having a slice of home in Canada. Now it is a fond memory..

But the best gift our Dad ever gave us was laughter, it got us through the trying times and always made the good times even better. I don’t think my Dad ever had a day without a smile or a chuckle… how delightful and such a simple legacy he passed on to each of us as we have embraced that in our lives too….

Christmas was about memories this year and I bought everyone the word laughter… we wont forget and we wont stop..
cheers
Sheila

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Christopher Foster February 14, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Thank you so much for sharing these lovely memories, Sheila, which sure warmed my English (and Canadian too) heart. When you speak about your Dad’s Triumph it REALLY touches a chord, remembering seeing quite a few when I was a young fellow in UK.

How wise of your Dad taking care to import a bit of Brit into his new home. But most of all, I love what you say about his laugh and his chuckle. You remind me how just before my Dad delivered one of his impeccably timed, off-the-cuff jokes there was always a telltale sign. His lips would start to pucker and curl up at the ends and then out would pop the joke.

Hey. Let’s share a laugh together in honor of our Dads.

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Tricia February 15, 2012 at 4:59 am

Thank you for this wonderful glimpse of your father and his spirit. He reminds me of my own father … similar age / history / culture … who towards the end of his life called every woman “Duckie” and when I questioned this, he confessed that his memory was going, and he couldn’t always remember who was who, but this way he never upset anyone by using the wrong name!

Awareness of that deep and constant core of values guided him through his life … and me through mine. Thank you for the reminder.
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Christopher Foster February 15, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Hi Tricia

I think your Dad and my Dad would have got on famously. What a clever notion on your Dad’s part:-) Let’s see, I wonder if it would work a bit for me here in the U.S. “Hi Duckie,” I could say when I meet someone I know I know but I can’t quite remember her name…Um, maybe not…

Tricia, more seriously, I honor that awareness of true values that guided him in life and now guides you. Thank you so much for your comment.

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Tricia February 15, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Thanks Chris, I also think they would have got on well.
I agree, it is not something you can get away with until you’re in your 90’s or so, and then you need to call everyone ‘Duckie” so no one suspects!!
However, more seriously, I do think that appreciating your own core values is a critical way to stay sane in this world!! I read a great book “Plato not prozac” which stressed how for so many people the lack of a sound philosophy of life causes mental problems and how chemicals are not the answer!
Thank you for your blog .. I so enjoy the thought provoking look at life that you portray ….
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allan February 15, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Wonderful Chris

The father spirit when truly exemplified is unmistakable. The tone of assurance and
true peace is so welcome. I too have had the privilege of being in the presence of such
magnificence. It is like carefully aged wine and unmistakable to the taste. What more should we aspire to then that we should in our season provide the same assurance to our worlds.
LOVE AND CHEERS ALLAN

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Christopher Foster February 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Wonderful to hear from you Allan. Your words are beautiful. Love and cheers to you too. Be well.

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Lynn Hess February 17, 2012 at 9:41 am

Hello, Christopher!

I have seen glowing references to you and your blog a few times on Mary Jaksch’s site but hadn’t taken the time to come check it out until today. I’m so glad I did! I’ve been nosing around through your archives, and there’s an air of peace and wisdom in everything you write that gives me a calm feeling just reading it. I’m pleased to “meet” you and to learn from someone who is walking such a lovely and serene path!

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Christopher Foster February 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Your words are a blessing and a balm to me, Lynn, thank you so much. I’m pleased to ‘meet’ you too, and wish you the best of everything on your own journey in this magnificent, scary adventure we call life.

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Katherine February 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I just signed up for your blog. I work with the elderly in an assisted living facility while I’m also working on my degree in Psychology. I am thinking of focusing my degree on our aging population. I see so many talented people with no where and no one in which to share these talents and skills. This population is under utilized. I’m hoping to find a way to reverse this trend. I hope to glean some wisdom from you since you are older and actively writing and participating in life, not stowing away in some facility waiting to perish. Thank you!

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Christopher Foster February 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Hi Katherine,

It was very special to get your comment. What a wonderful path you have chosen to follow. I can’t think of a more valuable or rewarding field to be in.

I think that would be a terrific focus for you in relation to your degree. Yes, so much talent and wisdom and so many skills present in this aging population, just as you say, just waiting for an opportunity and encouragement to share its blessing. Have you heard of the movement called “The Elders”? Has people like Mandela and Bishop Tutu in it?

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Tricia February 18, 2012 at 4:25 am

What beautiful memories you’ve conjured up for so many people. Thank you for the gift of your writing and the inspiration to talk of this.
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Christopher Foster February 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Thank you and bless you Tricia.

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Noch Noch | be me. be natural. February 21, 2012 at 3:48 am

Hi Chris

That’s very touching. My fiance just lost his grandpa last week. And it made him really distraught. My fiance was very close with his grandpa. We saw him one last time end of last year in Canberra, and kind of knew it would be the last time.

He was failing really bad. But still his eyes lit up at the sight of my fiance, and I had only met him once prior to last year, and he still remembered my name and gave me a hug. I was very touched, for he had Alzheimer’s and forgot virtually everybody else’s name.

He was still smiling and vibrant, even though he talked of his death. He was ready to go and said “well, I will come to Beijing to your wedding!” despite his pain. He wanted us to be happy. That for me, took a lot of strength.

Noch Noch
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Christopher Foster February 21, 2012 at 7:26 pm

What a beautiful story Noch. And what a beautiful man your grandpa must have been.

I feel privileged to share your story. Thank you so much for sharing it. I can feel your Grandpa’s love through your words. Yes, he wanted you to be happy. Blessings to you Noch. Stay strong.

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Noch Noch | be me. be natural. February 28, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Thanks Chris. He will lay to rest this weekend. God will take care of him now 🙂
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Christopher Foster February 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Hilary, you are a very unique person. And I mean that in 100 per cent positive way. A real pleasure to have connected up with you. Keep writing and stay strong, and you have definitely added a lot to my memories of my father.

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Christopher Foster February 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Well, I’m glad we got this one sorted out Tricia, thanks for your tips, I’ve put them in a file in my mind and just hope I can remember it when I reach the venerable age you’re speaking of here.

Thanks for the mention of ‘Plato not prozac,’ I’ll look out for it. Sounds very interesting and I sure agree with the premise. Happy to have connected with you Tricia and be well.

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