Mark Weber

When Father’s Day is a reminder of profound loss

Father’s Day always brings a spectrum of emotions to me. My dad, Herb Weber, passed away in the fall of 1996, so Father’s Day is a day that for me is about remembering him and honouring his memory. That’s not to say I don’t do that through the year of course. But with all the talk about dads and the impact they have on their children this time of year, this is a time when I probably think of him more intensely.

My dad was a loyal, hard-working and very caring man. He was also a complex person – a rugged ‘man’s man’ but also a person with a gentle, sensitive and emotional side. I saw my father shed tears easily, and it was one of his attributes that I loved most.

He also was one to put others ahead of his own interests. I recall times on family vacations, for example, when he would want to do something but would kind of be drowned out by the rest of us who wanted to check out a different site or activity. Dad was a typically good natured, easy-going man who would brush it off and go along with what others wanted to do.

As a father, my dad provided me and my two sisters with a constant sense of stability and safety. I was never afraid of anything if my father was nearby. Most importantly, I never doubted for a minute that he loved me. He wasn’t one to really verbalize his feelings, coming from a generation where expressions of love were often more shown than spoken. But it didn’t matter – he adored his kids and there wasn’t a hint of doubt of his commitment to us.

This isn’t to say my relationship with my father was perfect. Through my teens and into early adulthood, there were times when we didn’t really connect very well; when the ‘generation gap’ was at its widest. He was 43 when I was born, so age-wise there was quite a span. But thankfully as I grew older, that gap narrowed significantly. I was only 27 when my father passed away, and I’ve felt sorry that we couldn’t have had much more time together. Although we did share many common interests, I know that bond would have grown even closer.

Losing dad was the first time I had experienced the loss of a loved one so close to me. Dad’s health took a turn for the worst quite quickly.

I look back at the last summer of his life with gratitude, because we were able to spend a lot of time together. We worked in the yard. I would drive him around the city. We talked. We grew closer. With his failing health, I sensed my father was dying, and I knew that when that happened I didn’t want anything ‘amiss’ between us. By the time I returned to school in Calgary that fall, our relationship was better than ever.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, my dad had surgery. But things went terribly wrong and he was rushed to Calgary. He was forced to go on a ventilator, and it was heart-breaking to watch him struggle in his bed unable to talk. I remember him looking at me one day with a look that said ‘Can you believe this? It’s horrible.’ He felt devastated and sad not just for himself, but for us as well.

I went to the hospital one cloudy Saturday afternoon to see how he was doing, and it was clear his condition was worsening. Within a dizzying, anguished two hours my dad was gone.

The following weeks and months were bleak, but slowly the colour does return to one’s world even in the midst of grief. But obviously, things wouldn’t be the same.

All these years later, I remember my father with appreciation, affection and pride. He always spoke of the joy of new experiences. He took delight in the simple things of life. Towards the end of his life, heaven was as real as earth – I remember thinking how dad started to notice so powerfully the beauty of the world. It was like he was preparing for something better.

I’m always also so pleased when someone comments on how I remind them of dad – how I walk like him, fold my arms like he did. Or even let my arm hang over the edge of the couch like he did. I see pictures of him as a younger man and I see reflections of myself in him.

On that note, Father’s Day can be something of a celebration – in a different way.

My father left me a rich legacy of faith, love and security. I’ll always be grateful, and I know I’ll see him again some day.

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