We’re all searching for the meaning of life…
Discovering who we are deep down, living our best lives and making a difference to those around us is a life-long journey. Often it’s not until someone passes away that we learn about the good that they’ve done in their lives.
A great case in point was my dad.
Dad lived in a small rural town his whole life and kept to himself. He wasn’t an overly social person at least on the surface.
Dad always had a deep sense of empathy for others which I believe was forged during his childhood.
He grew up in the depths of the great depression and second world war years. It was during this time that he and his family personally experienced significant hardship after his father died unexpectedly.
Dirt poor was a step above where dad and his family lived…. Remember in those days there was no social security or insurance. In those days if you didn’t have a job or a form of income you were in big trouble. With the high likelihood that you and your family would go hungry and possibly starve.
Times were dire!
I believe that it was during this period in his life, witnessing first hand the desperate situation of many families that his desire to help others was cast.
From an early age he learned to forage. Helping not only his family but others around him by catching wild rabbits and sharing his bounty with them.
A common theme in dad’s life became his willingness to help others whom he thought were in need…
But it wasn’t until after his death that the meaning of his life was revealed…
He wasn’t a religious man and due to his wishes we held his funeral in a local hall and not a church.
The hall was a large blue stone building that had been a church in its former life but now used for local meetings and gatherings for the townspeople.
Initially the most startling thing was the funeral itself. The funeral was mid week and we didn’t know if anyone other than our immediate family would attend so we only put out 25 chairs just in case.
When it came time for my eulogy the hall was packed solid. With over 100 chairs filled, while others stood five and ten deep around the edges.
Incredibly many more people stood were unable to get into the hall itself thus spilling out onto the lawns and footpath outside the main doors.
The town only has a population of about 500, and so we were blown away as we estimated that there must have been more than 250 people in attendance… 😧
It wasn’t until I was at the wake that many people sought me out to tell me about the helping hand dad had provided them over the years…. Clearly this wasn’t a singular event or isolated occurrence.
Even now, as I write this essay the stories that people told me brings a tear to my eye. 🥲
To give you context we lived on a one acre block on the edge of town. Dad always had a large and vibrant garden full of every conceivable vegetable which he tended meticulously all year round.
I can’t remember a time where we had to buy either fruit or vegetables during my childhood. We also had a veritable orchard of trees in the yard not taken up by his beloved veggie patch. We had apples, plums, apricot, lemon, nectarines, peach, quince and walnut trees filling the yard.
As if often the case much of the harvest for a particular fruit or vegetable ripens all at once. So instead of having 10 tomatoes to eat we’d have 50 or instead of three heads of lettuce we’d have 20 all ripe at once.
We always had too much, and never wanting to waste a single piece he’d inevitably give away the remainder. ❤️
Even after my mum died and my siblings and I had moved out dad’s garden never got smaller. Instead of scaling back he just expanded his distribution even more broadly.
He’d pick whatever was ready to eat, package them into old plastic ice cream containers and drive around town dropping them off to whomever that he thought might be in need.
He’d drop by innocently enough, however before he was about to leave he’d always say “oh, I have some extra veggies that I thought you might like – here you go” as he handed over the container.
Not a peep from him…ever!
I also didn’t realize that he’d been helping with Meals on Wheels for years.
If in his travels he found out that someone needed something done around their house and they couldn’t do it themselves he’d drop back later in the day with his tools and take care of it for them.
He would never accept money even if it cost him out of his own pocket to fix it. ❤️
We had no idea…
He never said a word to any of us kids as he wasn’t one to “big note” himself. Nope he was just an everyday guy who always kept an eye out for someone in need.
Yes, I have tears rolling down my face as I write this…
Dad wasn’t an educated or learned man, but he knew right from wrong and when he thought someone needed a helping hand he’d just step in with no fuss or ceremony.
Yeah, he was that sort of guy. ❤️
He never questioned his life, nor it’s meaning he just got on with it and did what he thought was right.
I’m hoping that his empathy and sense of helping others less fortunate brought him comfort and peace during his lifetime. Unfortunately we never had the opportunity to talk about it before his passing…
Although looking back, I don’t think we would have felt comfortable having this type of conversation anyway.
He was loved not only by his family, but also by those that he touched over the course of his life. He is still very much missed all these years later…❤️
Until next week