Tribute

My father was a big man.  And he took up a lot of space.   Right now, we are all trying to come to terms with how we will ever cope with all of the empty space he has left behind, now that he is gone.

His chair at the head of the table.  The corner spot on the family room sofa.  The chair on the front porch.  The driver’s seat behind the wheel of his Porsche.  The space he so often occupied in places like the balcony in this sanctuary, the Y, and the marina at the waterfront.

And of course, there is an enormous space he has left empty in every one of our hearts.

As I’ve been struggling to imagine how we will ever manage with all of this empty space, it occurred to me that I had it all wrong.   It’s like one of those optical illusion puzzles – if you look at it one way, it appears as though nothing’s there at all, but if you change your perspective and look again harder, suddenly a vivid and detailed 3-dimensional image jumps out at you.

Instead of focusing on the unbearable fact that he isn’t here anymore, our job is to shift the lens and to bring into clear perspective the rich and detailed images that are filling and overflowing out of all of that empty space.

Mickey Cooper was all about people.  His children and his grandchildren are living proof of all that he truly valued, and it is through our lives that everything good about him will live on.

He taught us all that the most important things in life aren’t things; and that it’s the relationships between people that matter the most.  Through my whole life I’ve watched him build and nurture relationships, and so much of who I am today is the result of those valuable lessons.

He found a way to forge a connection with everyone he met.  In the simplest of human interactions, he would always draw out some detail about the other person, and he would find a way to link their lives together, so that he became not just another customer, associate or patient.  He was even doing it in these last days while he was so sick in his hospital bed.

Late on Sunday night, as his new nurse was helping him get settled for the evening, he insisted that she look at his jacket hanging in the closet, because it had a logo on it from the country she was born in.

Our family is Dad’s greatest achievement.  He was so proud of us, and who we are, and he made sure that we all knew it; especially in these last weeks.  He told me that he was so happy about the way that we all pulled together around him and Mom during this tough time.  I let him know that we were simply following the lead that they had set for us for all our lives.

There were so many times when we all worried about him, and we struggled as we tried to protect him from knowing just how bad things really were.  In comparing notes over the past 24 hours, we have all come to feel that he knew all along, and that, through his actions as always, he was looking after all of us in so many ways.

He announced the other day that he was going to write a book about all of this once it was over.  And he was planning a party to show his thanks to all the special people who were so good to him and to us through his illness.

As he rallied last week, we all got a gift, and we had precious time again with Dad in his best form.  He held court in his hospital room; telling jokes to his grandchildren.  Without meaning to, he started up a competition of sorts.  We tried to outdo each other in showing our love for him, but we did it in his style and in the language he understood best.

Dad wasn’t one for flowery or sentimental speeches.  We all casually said “love you” every time we left him in the hospital, and he’d blow a kiss and say it right back.  But we truly told him how much we loved him as we bent over backwards to smuggle all of his favourite things into the intensive care unit.  Even on his worst days, he was jokingly handing out “stars” for our efforts:  rice pudding was trumped by chocolate ice cream, then a McDonald’s hamburger, a corned beef sandwich, chocolate cake, salami, and finally. . . kishka!

He rarely took any credit for his role in creating the family he was so proud of.  But  just the other day, in his inimitable style, he looked at Mom and I and he said: “I guess we must have done something right; there isn’t a loser in the bunch!”  Mom, you and Dad did everything right.  And you did it together.

It’s the next generation that carries forth the legacy that anyone leaves behind.  I’d like to close by reading you some excerpts from something that our children put together for Dad’s 75th birthday, 4 years ago.  It says a lot about who he was, and the wonderful images and memories of him that we will all carry forth forever.  I think it reflects his unique sense of humour as well.

It’s called:   All I Really Need to Know I Learned from My Bumpa

The best part of any meal is the meat.

Anything green will be eaten “later”.

The world’s finest instrument is the ukulele.

Sailboats are meant to be polished.

No matter the topic; there’s always a song to go with it.

Any performance, recital, game or life event, regardless of how small, is worthy of a grandfather’s attendance.

When in need of obscure information for any school project; call Bumpa.

Above all, family comes first.

We love you Dad

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