Saturday, August 12, 2006

August 12--Memorial Day for Dad

My father passed away on August 12th, 1998 in Harare, Zimbabwe of a heart attack. He had had heart disease for many years but had kept very active in his own work as a geologist and in his various Baha'i activities. He was 75 years old when he died. something that the dearly beloved Counselor said to me on the day of his funeral has stayed with me and I treasure it. He said "Your father was the most pure hearted man I have ever met."

He had a very rich and colorful life of service and adventure. I am working on a timeline of his life but will need to get around to interviewing my uncle and my brother about some of the details and post it later.

My father loved the African bush and the African people. He loved wearing and making bolo ties.

this was probably a connection he maintained with "native american" episode in his life and his time spent working in the southwest of the US. bolo ties became his signature item.

he loved collecting interesting rocks and fossils during his geological survey work and he displayed his collection on the windowsill of his study. He liked the music of Glen Miller and the African marimba and the paintings of Norman Rockwell (suspect because the latter reminded him of his New England childhood)...


one of his avid interests was constructing charts of changes in indicators of human progress over time such as technological innovations of different kinds, and seeing how for thousands of years the line was flat and close to zero and then just around the advent of the Baha'i revelation in the first half of the 19th century how the chart would suddenly make an upturn and increase exponentially

He was a very cheerful man. I can still hear his bright voice in my mind as he responded to the little children in the villages who would excitedly shout hello to the white man... he would shout back with a bright cheerfulness and enthusiasm "hello hello"... he was "Uncle John" to his African friends of all ages and he would frequently address others teasingly as "Dr. so and so" whether or not they had even graduated from college. his work as a geologist out in the field enabled him to visit Baha'is in countless villages and also teach the Faith countless others. He had blue blue eyes.

his standard response to the question "How are you?" was a cheerful "terrible... how are you?" accompanined by his ever present laugh... my mother has a story of the time she first met my father at the International Convention in Haifa... she had locked her suitcase and lost the key and had gone to my father for help. in her charming broken english she said "I have a problem" and my father responded "What!? Only ONE?" when we were driving and he made a wrong turn i would say "where are you going?" his response was "crazy baby, wanna come?" When we were waiting at an intersection he would always say "Nobody came along this road for the last five hours until we got here"... the British love the word "schedule" and seem to use it all the time, only they pronounce it "shedule" and my American father would never fail to quip "Hey where did you learn to say shedule, in shool?" If he was trying to fix something or do something and i tried to lend a hand he would often say teasingly "are you helping or becoming part of the problem?" Sometimes he would sing to me "Yes sir that's my baby, no sir I don't mean maybe, yes sir, that's my baby now"... he had a myriad of these little sayings that he would use repeatedly and i often told him i was going to write a book of the sayings of John Sargent.

he took me on trips into the bush with him, he brought me home exotic pets, he subscribed to World Magazine (national geographic for kids) for me, he enlisted my help in sorting through emeralds and told me stories about snakes and lions and elephants, he was very proud of any of my academic achievements and his aspiration for me was a phd in molecular biology. he taught me how to play chess.

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My father's favorite prayer:

My God, my Adored One, my King, my desire! What tongue can voice my thanks to Thee? I was heedless, Thou didst awaken me. I had turned back from Thee, Thou didst graciously aid me to turn towards Thee. I was as one dead, Thou didst quicken me with the water of life. I was withered, Thou didst revive me with the heavenly stream of Thine utterance which hath flowed forth from the Pen of the All-Merciful.
O Divine Providence! All existence is begotten by Thy bounty; deprive it not of the waters of Thy generosity, neither do Thou withhold it from the ocean of Thy mercy. I beseech Thee to aid and assist me at all times and under all conditions, and seek from the heaven of Thy grace Thine ancient favor. Thou art, in truth, the Lord of bounty, and the Sovereign of the kingdom of eternity.
- Bahá'u'lláh
(Compilations, Baha'i Prayers, p. 18)

Excerpt of a prayer for the departed from bahaiprayers.com:

"Lord! I bear witness that in Thy servant Thou hast reposed Thy Trust, and that is the Spirit wherewith Thou hast given life to the world. I ask of Thee by the splendor of the Orb of Thy Revelation, mercifully to accept from him that which he hath achieved in Thy days. Grant then that he may be invested with the glory of Thy good-pleasure and adorned with Thine acceptance....
Grant, then, O my God, that Thy servant may consort with Thy chosen ones, Thy saints and Thy Messengers in heavenly places that the pen cannot tell nor the tongue recount. "
- Bahá'u'lláh

"O my God! O my God! Verily, thy servant, humble before the majesty of Thy divine supremacy, lowly at the door of Thy oneness, hath believed in Thee and in Thy verses, hath testified to Thy word, hath been enkindled with the fire of Thy love, hath been immersed in the depths of the ocean of Thy knowledge, hath been attracted by Thy breezes, hath relied upon Thee, hath turned his face to Thee, hath offered his supplications to Thee, and hath been assured of Thy pardon and forgiveness. He hath abandoned this mortal life and hath flown to the kingdom of immortality, yearning for the favor of meeting Thee.
O Lord, glorify his station, shelter him under the pavilion of Thy supreme mercy, cause him to enter Thy glorious paradise, and perpetuate his existence in Thine exalted rose garden, that he may plunge into the sea of light in the world of mysteries.
Verily, Thou art the Generous, the Powerful, the Forgiver and the Bestower."
--'Abdu'l-Baha

2 Comments:

Blogger sashwee said...

Thank you for sharing these memories.

4:05 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger george wesley said...

A fitting and lovely commemoration. My father liked bolo ties, too. I have one, a Navajo-made bolo, which came to me after my father's passing in 1992.

12:31 PM, August 14, 2006  

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