Warning, this article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead series.
I am really not a fan of Zombie movies. But The Zombie Genre works best when it makes social or spiritual commentary as the original Zombie Movie, Night of the Living Dead did. A black man is forced to protect the normal and healthy from the brainwashed, corrupt masses. This all takes place against the backdrop of the 60’s and 70’s racial and cultural divide.
Not a fan of gratuitous Zombie movies, I didn’t watch “The Walking Dead” until December 2015. And then I devoured it over the Christmas holidays. Ironically over the last 10 years I had been praying like crazy for the image of black women in media to come up. I wanted to see strong beautiful black women as leads, romantic love interests, not round-faced, overweight mammy servants, or beautiful whores to and/or slaves of white male and female leads. I wanted to see, intelligent, healthy, fit-figured women who were not afraid to be vulnerable, who didn’t have to always be strong. So wow, did “The Walking Dead” blow my mind when I finally watched it.
In my quest for my identity as a black woman I was always sold this lie of the height of the African Nations being Egypt. I had seen all of the images of the “African/Egyptian” sculptures and statues noses marred, defiled by being shot off as Napoleon and other Europeans had done with the Sphinx and many ancient statues of the Egyptian kings and queens. I wanted to embrace the Egyptian Kingdom, everyone told me I looked like Cleopatra, but something about it being the first African Kingdom seemed to ring false.
One day Ethiopians started coming to me and telling me I looked like an Ethiopian. I knew the misguided Rastafarians talked about the fact that Halie Selassie was a descendent of David. But I didn’t understand the magnitude of the connection. I wanted to know who these Ethiopian people were. In my faith journey through the bible that I read more than twelve times it was essential that I understand who I was as a black woman in Christ. I was raised by intellectuals. I knew in my spirit that the myth that Christianity was a “White Religion” was a lie. So as I went through my ordinary life reading the bible and it revealed the overwhelming presence of Africans in the bible, and in fact, in the very genetic line of Abraham.
I read in Genesis and Exodus of all of the references to the second wife of Abraham, Kutura, being from Ethiopia, and having six of his sons, and Zephora the Ethiopian being the wife of Moses, my eyes were opened. Moses was tutored for 40 years in the desert by God, of course and his wife Zephora’s father Jethro, the high priest who worshipped the same God as him, likely descended from Abraham’s six sons. I found out Zephora performed the first Jewish circumcision on Moses’ first son to stop God from killing Moses. I was mind blown. Exodus says Zephora was put down for being an Ethiopian by Miriam who God then struck with Leprosy in the desert. In Acts, Phillip baptizes a travelling Ethiopian official who is reading the Torah and Prophets. I read in Revelation that Sheba, the queen of the south, (Queen Sheba of Ethiopia) would judge the nations because she sought the wisdom of Soloman. I could not believe it. No other woman is named in Revelation for such a high duty, no Jew, no European, no man. Sheba is singed out to judge the nations.
When I watched “The Walking Dead,” in Rick Grimes I saw the journey of Moses schooled by a black Jethro named Morgan. I saw Cain betraying Abel in Rick and Shane’s conflict. Like Abraham and Issac, Carl is the one son, the blessed off-spring. Sarah dies for her second child’s birth like Rachel.
Walking Dead is the story of man and his people in the desert of sin looking for a promised land. Like the Jews enslaved for 400 years by the Egyptians; the Gaul’s, Germanics and Saxons enslaved by the Greeks and Romans for 400 years; and finally African’s enslaved by the Europeans for 400 years, I saw a present-day people enslaved by their own sin, then put upon the road of being redeemed from it. They are forced to drive out the wicked in the promised land as they fight to keep it from contaminating their souls. In “The Walking Dead,” the living are harassed by the walking dead, some living souls, unaware of the purpose of the journey, succumb to their evil nature, while others were, taken by half-death of a global plague that is a reaping of the karma (sin) of all.
All characters carry this virus of death (sin) in their very bodies that is unleashed by death or wounding. The good doctor Hershel had to cut off his arm which could have lead him into the hell of Zombidom, so he could live, like the sacrifice of right arm that might cause anyone to sin. And it’s no accident that he was a bible believer and his daughter Maggy continues to pray and and have faith God when the group endures the worst trials. At moments the show tries to inject Buddhism or eastern spirituality and it falls flat. The story of the Orthodox Priest who seems to have no faith at all attempts to mock Christianity, but he is not a man of faith, he is a man of the legalistic false church who is finding grace in the love of Rick’s tribe. There are numerous biblical references not only in the music but also in the dialogue and articles like Michael Gilmour’s on the Huffington Post.
We witness Darryl’s character change fundamentally, redeemed by the family he finds in the desert, one he might have never met in the normal course of things. He thrives in the rich soil of the apocalypse, as he says on this meandering day trip in search of alcohol with Beth. A Eunuch of sorts, he is the chaste warrior, whose dark history of abuse as a child, like any of David’s mighty men, he is a lead warrior amongst a motley crew of outcasts and orphans. It is here that he finds his tribe and purpose.
Glen and Darryl functioning as a Joshua and Caleb of sorts or to Rick’s Moses. The exceptional love, faith and grace of Glen takes on an almost Christ-like quality. He is always gracious, forgiving, courageous, merciful, full of hope and faith even in death. It is no surprise he leads Rick to his Tribe and is the ultimate sacrifice for the group’s transgression involving the Saviors.
Although Mashon has an angry rage in fighting evil or the zombies, she has a gentle and quiet spirit, a Zephora of sorts who often rescues Rick, her Moses from death or a Jael that does not fear acting out the bible proverb “Women take authority when men are weak.” Carole is also the Deborah-type character who submits to the authority of men and others around her in meekness only to lose her daughter to Zombiehood. But when a plague threatens their tribe, and she starts cutting people down and she is forced to kill a child close to her daughter’s age, she becomes the most dangerous warrior of all. She rescues the group with the efficiency of a housewife pulling up weeds in the garden and gets the victory while Tyreese’s PTSD leaves him behind looking after Rick’s baby.
Maggie, the daughter of the Hershel the Minister and healer, is the minister of hope and courage, not fearing pregnancy in a zombie-pocalypse and Negan wars. Both Dale and Hershel are the wise-men, priest/prophets who provide spiritual wisdom to all with love and gentleness, caring and self sacrifice. Like Saints, they are often murdered by the most evil of characters.
One of the most beautiful scenes is before the group has come to Alexandrea. They bear a storm together in a barn. They have spent their time hoping together, encouraging and building each other up. They are sheltered by the peace and love their obedience to the good has wrought. After caring for each other and defeating many psychopaths along the way, and suffering the loss of their most precious loved ones they endure the final storm.
They enter Alexandrea and they cannot tolerate a false Eden, a plastic world that denies the pain and loss that each has suffered and makes life and their love for one another so precious. Their Caravaggio world of darkness and light so clearly delineates their freedom of choice and the rewards of love and community. This is the beauty of their dark path, the light shines so brightly in it, bright stars and far galaxies can only be seen in a midnight sky. They understand the value of pain and loving in spite of it. They recognize the great price of the freedom to chose love, good, hope and inward peace.
When the dam breaks on a massive herd of Zombies that swarms Alexandrea like a flood and only the most noble survive. After the loss of so many of the weak spirited at Alexandrea, the necessity for grace enlarges.
But new Devils arise to take them to new levels again. Perhaps the Savior’s name and the arrival of Jesus were the clue as to a new dispensation and expectation of conduct for this leg of the wonderers journey— “to he who much is given, much is expected.” Darryl and Rick are gracious toward the trickster-like Jesus who introduces them to his enclave.
It is now that Darryl finds grace and compassion, letting his guard down unfortunately does not bode well later with Dwight, his wife and sister-in-law. Darryl’s attempt to protect Rosita cause Glen to get killed. There are consequences for mercy and love, though there is also a time for war.
But ultimately their pride, individual self-preservation, cockiness take Rick’s tribe down. They kill the Saviors with impunity, without compassion, or any thoughts of redeeming them. They came into the promised land, drove out the evil people whose wickedness made them worthy of being driven out. But, now the new grace has begun, redemption of the soul can only come via the redemption of others as high priest Morgan demonstrates. In his efforts not to harm and redeem others, Morgan tries to free the Alpha Wolf who is quickly extinguished at his moment of transformation. But now is the time to be willing to save the unredeemed in order to build life again.
The most curious thing I find with “The Walking Dead,” is that they have not come upon any elite political societies who can explain the plague. As the top show perhaps it cannot afford to address black mold, nano-tech, biological warfare, viruses or alternative remedies, it may scare off advertising. But I would sure like to see them try. Where is the colloidal silver, where are the herbs? I think Carol went mushroom picking once.
It will be exciting to see how they deal with their new challenges. Self serving grand standing, merciless killing will not bring them the life they so wish to recreate. Though they are strong, they are only strong in their love and humility. For weak, foolish, small, the outcasts, to defeat the Goliath apocalypse, they must always be buoyed up by a faith, love, hope that stirs the force of something greater than themselves.
My first memories of my father were around the age of two or three, we’d go to the “Green House”, a house he lived at the top of, in an apartment near the U of A that was loft-like. My parents had divorced when I was one, so I had no memory of them living together. But I knew family was most important to him. “ By the blood of Africa, by the blood of England, we swear we will always be true to one another, so long as the wind blows, so long as the grass grows, we swear we will always be true to each other”. He’d ask us to say this when ever we left visiting him…
Green was my father’s favorite colour. Statistically most people say their favorite colour is blue. My parents were both very unique people. My mother, born in Jamaica, became a doctor in the UK, her favorite colour was yellow. And my father introduced us to many things green. Back in the seventies, when no one had heard of kiwis or avocados in Alberta, he urged us to try them. He made us crêpe Suzette for breakfast with fresh squeezed lime juice and powdered sugar. He must have been overjoyed that all of his children’s eyes were green. And of course the most important green was the forest and the Canadian Rocky Mountains he frequently took us to.
My fondest memories of my father are of camping in deep, thick down sleeping bags in the green tent. We would hike through the forest with me on top of his shoulders. I’d hold tightly to his broad forehead as his sissled (whistled) along the path. We’d stop for cheese and crackers with pepperoni and have chocolate bars for a sweet treat. And when we got thirsty, my dad always had ice limaide in a plastic bottle to drink.
Things smelled like motor oil around my father. But his soothing deep voice singing songs like the Wild Colonial Boy, or the Teddy Bear’s Picnic or listening to CBC’s “As it Happens” at dusk as he tinkered on one of his many cars gave me a peace around him. Sometimes we’d listen to tape recorded myths about a sea monster dragon from South America.
On the summer camping trips up to Jasper, Banff and our favorite spot, Onion Lake, he’d let us poke the fire, even build one. He taught us how to shoot guns and rifles, how to change a tire. One summer we painted his camper wild colours like purple, turquoise and navy blue at Larsen’s farm. The camper lost the shoulder of the road in a heavy rain storm as dad looked for a camp site in the dark, up in the mountains. My sister Rosemary, always vigilant, stayed up all night with him driving and when the camper tipped over I had to dig her out. Thankfully no one was hurt. My father was devastated but remained positive, repaired things and continued the trip despite my pleas to go home. I told him I wanted to go back home to my mom afterwards, but he insisted we stay and eventually, all was well.
As we drove home from these summer trips, my father let us stop at almost any stream, river or pond that glistened aquamarine along the way through Alberta, coming down from the mountains and there were many of them. We’d see tiny minnows and our feet would “get headaches” from the cold, glacial waters. As the sun went down, I’d look wondrously up at the mountains as we drove, thinking they looked like sleeping giants that I feared might awaken if we made too much noise. But I felt safe in my father’s car. All the while my father explained the geography and geology of the land. We went to hot springs and understood how the water was heated below the earth’s crust. He showed us how the ice age formed the mountains and the sediment and fossils that could be found in the layers of rock. He told us why the water was aqua marine blue or green.
It could be awkward to be a mixed race child of a large, tall, Viking looking father with blond hair, blue eyes and booming baritone voice calling to you across a mall in Edmonton in the early 70’s. We often made a point of calling him Dad several times in public. He had no issues of vanity around seeing himself reflected in our faces. It was seeing himself reflected in our thinking that was most important to him. He often took us to obscure foreign films, to cultural events and museums and made us privy to intellectual gatherings at friend’s houses or his own home.
Today I see his face reflected in his grand children, especially, my sister’s eldest son, Jaylee, who has much good in common with my father intellectually and the big heart shaped head, dimples, the tall, lean body. He is a powerfully individualistic thinker, his teacher’s say he has superior intelligence and a compassionate heart, he is a natural leader. All of my father’s grand children are writers, artists, with an interest in the human experience and strong technical abilities. My other nephew Ifari has produced video games and animated films. This is my father’s legacy.
One summer myself and my sister Rosemary stayed with my dad as the University of Alberta HUB was being built and had adventures all around the new structure. We made friends with Leslie, Doreen Caldwell’s daughter. Dad tinkered away on cars and listened to As It Happens in the evenings. We slept on a huge foam mattress in the living room at his place. We ate a lot of chili, tacos, and Kentucky fried chicken, his favorite. One night he let us go to the “Room At the Top” at the U of A while a band was there and we got up and sang folk songs with them all night. It was rich and rewarding.
And dad’s activist friend Buck came to visit us. Rosemary and I both had a crush on him. He was extremely kind and had beautiful olive brown skin, startling blue eyes and dark hair. He looked after us a couple of times. Dad let us buy ice cream sandwiches at the hub vending machines almost every day.
As we grew older my father always took us out for dinner and movies and we enjoyed the Bruce Lee Kung Fu trend. My dad often took the Karate stance with his legs apart as we waited in line ups, which embarrassed us, embarrassing at the time but now it seems hilarious.
We took many trips with him. He told us that the best Chinese restaurants had Chinese people eating in them. If we didn’t see more than three sets of Chinese people at a Chinese restaurant we’d be out the door in search of a new one. Frequently we went in search of dim sum, especially on a trip to Vancouver.
We took a trip to Toronto with him on the way to see my Aunt Alison in Nova Scotia. We spent the summer with my cousins there. He and they were so unable to do my kinky hair to the extent that I came back with a dreadlock in my hair that it took my mom 4 months to comb out. Once my father took a picture of me with my hair blowing out of my parka and my mom became incensed at the condition of my hair and his ignorance about it.
My father often felt like an outsider in his own society, so he grew towards the light, toward places and people who were accepting. My father was keenly interested in other cultures, finding the people of the West Indies and South and Central America to be warmer. He also loved the Edmonton radical community and like most lefties. He believed strongly in the kindness of humanity that was demonstrated by his friends. People spoke of my father as an elder in the radical community here in Edmonton often on the cutting edge of ideas. He often journeyed to Cuba, South and Central America. I always felt he was doing something important when he was away.
Like most tweens, I became more interested in myself and my peers as I got older. After that I rarely saw my father, it seemed we had nothing in common. It broke his heart. I infrequently saw him at Tools for Peace. He had promised me a car, as he had given ones to my older brothers and sisters. But I enjoyed drinking tea with him and having biscuits and the peace it gave me to be with him as he tinkered on cars and listened to CBC. I went through very difficult emotional times he couldn’t understand or see. But he was wise, he worked with his hands, remaining self-employed so he could pursue ideas as he was that, a man of ideas, an educator of peers and family.
My father had been an NDP candidate in strategic areas in Alberta. Born in England in 1931, he was evacuated during World War II from the bombing of London and reached Canada at the age of 9. There were several thousand British children sent to Canada for their own safety through the Children’s Overseas Reception Board. One of the ships in the convoy was sunk by Nazi U-boats. It wasn’t camouflaged, it wasn’t painted grey like my father’s ship. Most of the children on that ship were lost. After that the British didn’t send any more kids. He grew up in Canada.
He had grown up in a “Britain totally dedicated to fighting the war, and came to Canada to live amongst the bourgeois of Toronto. He lived with a rich family for several years until my parents also moved to Canada. He saw small time millionaires and corporate directors in booming Toronto. While his own people were dedicated to fighting the Nazis, the Toronto elite were busy making money, playing the stock market, taking trips to Bermuda, buying in the black market. In front of my father they said what they liked and didn’t pay any attention. But it oriented his thinking for ever afterwards. The culture shock was too much.” His pleading letters to his parents to bring him back to London were ignored and then he was told to refrain from complaining by letter until his parents rejoined him in Canada when he was 16.
My father was moved away from his friends, “to a better school”, Upper Canada College, where he went to school with the likes of Ted Rogers. This only increased his sense of alienation. Relationships were essential to his sense of belonging, which had remained tenuous since his evacuation to Canada.
His father was a banker, a foreign currency specialist who worked for the Bank, of Nova Scotia, in London throughout the depression and the war years. Eventually he moved to the head office in the Toronto of the international department for the Bank of Nova Scotia. My father had great respect for his father, but was deeply hurt by what he felt to be 7 years of rejection. In those days, living among the Canadian elite might be thought an opportunity for any parent wanting to provide their child with a leg up in society. But it left my father feeling isolated, alone, rejected. As a young British boy in an elite Canada that was eager to separate from the crown, he was targeted with resentment. And because he was very tall, he was often expected to know more than someone of his age might know. His foster family was wealthy, even bought him a dog. But he felt his adoptive mother was cold and unfeeling and she often left him isolated in his room as a child until late afternoon on the weekends, not wanting to contend with a child’s bursts of energy.
When his family finally came to Canada, my grandfather had my dad pay for his own university fees, I imagine because my grandfather felt he had paid for my father’s life in Canada for 7 years. This led to a greater sense of rejection from my father. His younger sister Alison had not been sent to Canada from England, it is unknown as to the reason why. Perhaps the last bombed children’s boat was the reason, but it felt like favoritism to my father. Her university education was also paid for. To make matters worse, when his father passed, he put my Aunt Alison and her husband in charge of the estate.
“I have great respect for my father, even though we didn’t get along well,” my father often said. He became a socialist. He worked for Avro Arrow and other odd jobs while completing university then went to visit his father when he retired to England. (In later years he would express disapproval over Canada dismantling the Avro Arrow’s program.)
My father met my mother as she was studying public health as a specialty for her as a doctor. They lived in Jamaica, where my eldest brother and sister were born. In Jamaica, around 1960, the elite white communities, still left over from post colonial society, were shocked to have him bring a black woman to a party they invited him to. My mother and father were quietly shunned for the entire evening. In Belize they felt more welcome, but it reminded my mother too much of Jamaica. She had experienced a kind of “shadism”, discrimination from lighter skinned elite black’s growing up that had left a bad taste in her mouth. They lived in Mexico before moving up to Alberta, where despite my mother’s exceptional credentials, she had graduated top in all over her classes in the UK and Canada, this was the only place that would take her. Alberta needed doctors. Dealing with small minded views of small town Albertans did not engender my father to them. At one point my mother had to prevent my dad from taking a rifle out after some “redneck”, as my father had described him. Upper Canada College
They had four children before they divorced. She was a medical officer and he had an import business and was away for much of the time. After the divorce he went to university to work on a geography degree, as well as a master’s degree and a teaching certificate. He worked for the university in the community development program and foreign aid agencies. He also worked for Indian affairs but felt that he was asked to do things by the government that he felt to be compromising. During that time he had a Native Canadian girlfriend whom he loved and enjoyed but they split up due to her drinking after a time.
When the Nicaraguan revolution came up, he helped start a group called the Committee for Peace and Reconstruction. It was very successful and they got a lot of support for Nicaragua. My father sent CB radios, bikes and other aid to the people of Nicaragua. Then Tools for Peace, another aid group, came to Edmonton from Vancouver. Dad joined, was on the board, and became vice-president. FSLN or Sandinistas took exclusive power in March 1981. They instituted a policy of mass literacy, devoted significant resources to health care, and promoted gender equality. Oppositional militias, known as Contras, formed in 1981 to resist the Sandinistas Junta and received support from the U.S. CIA. In some cases if the whole village had CB Radios they could be alerted to an attack from the American backed Contra military and avoid being wiped out, mass murdered.
My father cared for those who had less than him and had eschewed the elite world he could have easily belonged to. At one point he told the story of going to the home of a girl of one of the elite family’s of Toronto. He easily identified the art work in the home purely out of interest and the family was duly impressed. But my father was not interested. He preferred woman of African, Latino or First Nations or Asian background. He felt European women were cold, though he had many female friends of the same background. I thought his alienation from his family, his mother may have had something to do with it. He said that only once as an adult in his life did he mention his distress as a child to his mother. They saw a film about a family that endured poverty and hardship during the war. His mother remarked that it was unfortunate that they could not have sent their children somewhere to help them and my told her that he felt they were better off in poverty, because they were together. He said her face showed that she understood what he meant and was devastated. It was never mentioned again.
My mother had overshadowed him. She was a Jamaican woman who excelled in England and Canada in spite of the odds. My father’s lack of ambition in conventional society and some infidelities led her to divorce my father. As we grew older, she was always central to the family and often overrode him. She had not forgiven him for abandoning her and a year before she died expressed deep sorrow at him not loving her. Theirs had been a shot gun wedding. He told us children that he had never felt true, unconditional love until he met his children. But his rebellious habits and his inability to accept that the dreams of his desires of his children were anchored in living in Canada and the USA, his great enemy, made it difficult for us to relate to him and him to us. My eldest sister had become estranged from him. Some foolish divorce attorney had told him that we would return to his life when we were teens, but anyone with any sense knows that, that is when children move away from their parents. When my mother passed on he was able to begin to find his way back to us. It took many years as he was unable to release the sorrow of being abandoned as a child. In fact, he wore it like a badge, being a product of the evacuation of British Children.
The lyrics to Jimmy Cliff’s the Harder they Come: “I’d rather be a freeman in my grave, than living as a puppet or a slave” exemplified my father’s thinking. He could not survive in conventional society and consequently saw and understood things in a way few others could because of this independence. He made connections others didn’t with respect to ideas, finance, politics, current affairs. e was also well aware that the
He did so till the day he died. My father chose to remain outside of the mainstream and that made him who he was, an uncompromising idealist and an educator to his family and friends in the Edmonton radical community.
Like most children, no matter how I tried to establish my own identity, I couldn’t separate myself from that of my parents. My socialist views held alongside my material ambitions and could only be reconciled by my faith. I longed to live out my purpose but my relationship with my father was crucial to that. After all, my mother had told me I was very much like him. But I tried also to hold fast to my mother’s practicality. My father was a perfectionist and an idealist, an intellectual.
My father had worked as an investor for a season and continued on with an interest in the dollar most of his life. He was around when the American dollar moved off of the gold standard and knew well what it meant. In 2003 as I worked in finance, I explained to my father much of what was going on in the American subprime mortgage industry and all the regulations that had been ignored or over turned via lobbying. He had been looking at fiat currency and realized that the American dollar was going to tank. He also knew that the Euro Dollar was going to soar. He informed many and few listened. Finally by 2004 Warren Buffet had put all of his money in the Euro and doubled it. Even moneyed members of my family failed to do so and lost out as a consequence. When the 2008 economic collapse happened in the USA he rejoiced. I imagine he strongly imagined it a powerful extension of the colonial empire he was descended from, admired but in some sense deeply rebelled against because of the world oppression. Central to his life experiences was the sense of being an outsider, a smaller person in a world of big players, which enabled him to identify strongly with the oppressed.
He often called into CBC radio over the years and could have been known as the “other voice of Cross Country Check Up”. He had a deep, loud, booming voice and the depth of his knowledge about the history of politics was almost unprecedented, even among CBC radio jockeys of the 70’s and 80’s with all their research, equal to the likes of Ralph Nader or Chomsky. Many of his friends, with high degrees themselves found the depth of his knowledge to be profound. My father spent much of his time researching his beloved political topics and verbally addressing the dollar imperialism and mercenary actions of the USA. He seemed to be able to bring every topic on CBC back around to Cuba and socialism. A subject which the conservative Rex Murphy didn’t appreciate, but CBC’s other hosts seemed to like and professionally tolerate.
But my father had other battles to fight in Canada that prevented him from travelling. My eldest brother got in trouble with the law in a very unusual case, with an indefinite sentence, which deeply grieved my father and kept him in Canada to the very end. Though he did make periodic trips to Cuba, his heart was always with the family he longed for. As my brother’s case became more convoluted and extended, my father’s calls to Cross Country Check up did too.
He ran for the NDP a couple of times. In one humorous encounter, he ran against another John Williams to confuse the constituents. Later we met John Williams and his wife, an African woman and nurse, at a church my father and I attended for a spell. He was very polite and kind to the slightly more hostile and guarded John Williams.
My father had accepted that he was outside of society and would have preferred to be in Cuba, where a real socialist revolution had occurred, but felt the tug of the need for the family he was now somewhat estranged from in Edmonton. All of his children were in Los Angeles, Detroit, Nova Scotia and BC, while health concerns and friends kept my father in Edmonton, along with a steady pursuit of the release of my brother.
When I came to back Edmonton a few years ago, I came to look after him but became ill myself. And he looked after me, he helped me. We had very painful, infamous arguments about our family’s past. But my father, our whole lives, no matter how ill equipped, had always been there, always reached out and has continued to learn and grow in earnest. I know of no other earthly father like him. He frequently told me that he was waiting all of these years to have a relationship with me and my sisters. He said often: “Those who stand and wait, also serve.”
He was a highly unique and special person who was very much ahead of his time. He was gentle and humble and very self sacrificing to me in these last years. I have had serious chemical poisoning and a madness that he has tolerated even in his illness. He found me a place in nature to go riding to improve my health. He could be wilful and crotchety, but mostly, he was gentle and kind and patient with me. He was generous, withheld nothing from me and put me before himself in all things. He told me he was very proud of me. I learned to understand his limitations due to his past. But we still argued, he still liked to control things and so did I. He was telling the doctors what to do to his dying breath. And even in death he was self sacrificing, he would not burden my sister and I with any decisions surrounding that, but went quietly on his own, surrounded by friends and family. It was an honour to spend his last day with him and to have called his family and best friends to his side before he passed. Even my eldest sister spoke to him before passing and seemed to move beyond the past.
As I mentioned before, he had attended Church with me many times but found one he liked with pastor Emmanuelle. I had not been raised with Christianity, but became one upon reading a bible left at my mother’s home in Jamaica. I always had a sense of the eternal and a God. As a child I would ask my mother where we lived and she would say, in Edmonton and I would say, and what’s outside of that, and she’d say, Alberta and then Canada and then North America and the world… and the solar system and the galaxy and the universe and I would ask, and what is beyond that, and she would say “infinity”. I would wonder at the thought of infinity and say, “infinity!” But my father had no sense of God. Ever. When we looked back and examined his life and say how he would have never had the compassion he had for the poor or persons of other ethnicities had he not spent that time alone, or his sense of adventure and ability to travel and easily meet people and get along with them.
As we discussed God he recalled the sense of peace and belonging he had in Church as a child, but attributed it to the war and everyone being drawn together under a crisis. I wanted him to go to church, to know God. He had many of the conventional notions about church and the bible… that the bible was written by men and altered over history like a chain letter. Eventually he attended Alpha with me and learned that the bible was the greatest book of antiquity whose accuracy was affirmed by the other great books of antiquity. Eventually we went in search of a church he would like.
He wanted to attend an African church. He preferred other cultures. We had many debates about religion and God’s own hatred of religion and ritual. I told him many times of the parable of the wheat and weeds, where God warns of false Christians in the very church to beware of, of false teachers preaching godliness as gain and about the darkest place in hell being reserved for ministers of unrighteousness. But ideas were not enough for him in this case. His own relationship with his father had been so strained and remote, he could not trust in a loving, forgiving and compassionate father. He did think God would understand his bad choices and sins. But when I asked about justice for the sins of those he felt had done such reprehensible things in the oppressed people around the world, the discussion would end. He could understand how some nations jailed people, wiped people out in the name of equality for all. He had to admit there was a right and wrong in the world, after all, what had he been fighting for all these years. But all this was intellectual. He wanted to know the mind God and was excited to have all of his questions answered when he passed. But it was only his and our love and the love and power of God that could close the wound between him and all of heaven. In his last months he felt a sincere love from my sister and I, who had been estranged from him for years. And it was his faith through that love that finally allowed him to catch the hand of Christ and be drawn across the chasm that is eternity into the arms of God.
My father was always an explorer and remained, in some ways, that 9-year old boy, at heart. We had a large 4’ X 3’ photo of him as a boy posted at his funeral. All of his grand children sat around it at his funeral reception. My father’s legacy: five grand sons and two grand daughters, all very creative, intelligent, and unique thinkers. The boys are all strong, kind and peaceful. All of the kids are enjoying high grades or high honours in some area of their lives, all brown-skinned.
His friends knew him as a man with a great heart of compassion who had served many of the poor and disadvantaged in South and Central America. He did his best to serve us as a father, also, in his late years when he was finally able to. He served his many friends too with knowledge and information. He would be excited to know that the NDP had finally become the official opposition, but very un-happy about the conservatives… and he would have had something to say about it.