Beyond Wood and Stone

Rev. Elisabeth's Cedar Park Blog site

In Memoriam

On Saturday September 30, as my Sabbatical Journal records,  my father and I sat together for the last time.  For the past two years he had suffered from multiple mini-strokes, which robbed him, week by week, of more and more mental and physical capacity. For all of my life my father has been a fount of knowledge, with a vise -like grip on the intricacies of the English language, an encyclopaedic knowledge of British industrial history, Icelandic and Norse mythology,  ornithology, botany, astronomy, classical music… and more. He walked faster than most( a memory all of my children share – trying to keep up with Grandpa!),  and  he loved to be out on the moors, or in the limestone and grit-stone valleys of the White and Dark Peak on a perennial hunt for an orchid, a rare bird,  or traces of a long-forgotten cottage industry.

On September 30, most of that was all gone.  His body could barely transfer from chair to bed, one side no longer responding to any mental intention, and  his speech, once erudite and prolix, reduced to “Yes” and “You see.” Thanks to a wonderful book I’d found, filled with photographs of British fauna and flora, I was still able to connect with  the man within  that day.  Recognition of various animals and plants provoked memories for both of us, and for a while we could go, in memory, to places now beyond his reach.  I wasn’t sure how much of this reminiscing was my wishful thinking, and how much he was still “with me”, so  with a couple of bird photos, I deliberately mis-named them. Immediately his one good hand tapped the page, and the “yes” became a clear “no.”  Ever the professor, he was still teaching his daughter to correctly identify a rose-breasted grosbeak, not a pine grosbeak, words or no words.  That day was more gift than I could have known at the time.  On December 28, a chest infection allowed his body to release his intelligent spirit back into the universe he had studied all his life with such intimate precision.

The death of my sister nearly fifty years ago robbed him of any trust in a benevolent deity, much less in an institutional religion that dared to tell him that she was better off in heaven than with her family (something you will never hear from my lips, ever!)   When I was ordained nearly twenty years ago he declared himself to be a ‘religion-free zone,’  but remained  interested in the academic side of my vocation, and we both honoured the border restrictions he imposed.  That said, I believe that for my father,  his restless soul found its sanctuary in the cosmic wonder of the night sky, and in the furled intricacy of a budding harebell, in the deep resonance of a bittern’s call.  In keeping with his wishes, there will be no church funeral, nor will a coffin or grave confine his body. Instead, at some point in the Spring I will return his mortal remains to the moors that so shaped his life, and mine.

He will not begrudge me the need to be surrounded by those who share my religious faith in the coming days, and I am more grateful for your prayers  than you can know.  As I walk now into a valley shadowed by his death, and deepened by his absence,  I am grateful to keep company with others who have walked this road before, or walk it still, and trust that even here, there will be new mysteries of life to discover, new ash-born newness to burst forth in due season.

I pray for him: a peace of soul, a rest of body, an an eternal adventure of discovery of the reaches of the universe that has beckoned his inquisitive spirit all his life.  Rest in Peace, Daddy.



  1. What a beautiful memorial. I’m so glad you had that last visit with him. I share in your prayer: “a peace of soul, a rest of body, an an eternal adventure of discovery of the reaches of the universe that has beckoned his inquisitive spirit all his life.”

  2. Thank God for the beautiful memories of your time with your father. And thank you for sharing them with us, thus enabling us to hold each other in our grief. My prayers for you and your family continue as you walk along this new path.

  3. Rev. Takouhi Demirdjian-Petro

    January 5, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    Thank you for sharing this with the world, Elisabeth.
    May Peace continue to be evident.

  4. This is a beautifully expressed memorial Elisabeth. (He is so proud of you!)
    Thank you for sharing it with us.
    May you find comfort in the loving community that surrounds you and in your faith that you hold as precious.

  5. What a beautiful prose about your dad, my heart goes out to you as I feel your real suffering at the loss of a father.. As you know my dad was set free in the sea at Dawlish 6 years ago – who knows what continents he has visited since. Up on the moors your dads spirit will roam free released from earthly pains and struggles. All my love

  6. I was deeply moved by your beautiful words for your father. Thank you for glimpse in to the man you called daddy and the love that flowed between you. What a legacy you have with him. Peace.

  7. What a beautiful tribute to your Dad Elisabeth. Thanks for expressing these thoughts and sharing with us.

  8. What beautiful words—a fitting tribute for a man who loved language. Thank you for introducing this man to those of us who didn’t gave the privilege of knowing him. My thoughts and prayers are with you as you navigate these days.

  9. Dear Elisabeth, thank you for sharing in such poetic language the memories of your Dad and the news of his passing. All my sympathies and prayers for hope and comfort! May this shadow
    be lightened by blessings in the New Year.

  10. Your words about your dad are so touching and exquisite. My prayers for you and your family.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing these precious memories with us all. 💜

  12. Patricia O'Neill

    January 6, 2018 at 4:11 am

    Elisabeth, reading about your Dad my thoughts and prayers are with you and I’m sure with your belief you will know that peace that passes all understanding.

  13. What an honour to be permitted to share such a heart-melting, exalting memorial to such an incredible man who was so immersed in this incredible world of nature & progress. You ‘ve made him live for the rest of us. My Love & Prayers for you all. Dick

  14. He must have been a very special man to be father to the woman you are.

  15. Rowshan Nemazee

    January 7, 2018 at 7:12 am

    What an exquisite tribute to your father, Elisabeth! Your words and memories touched me deeply, and I grieve for your profound loss and pray for his peace and yours. Thank you for sharing these most intimate of reflections and musings. May you feel his warmth and love surround you in the days ahead, and always. Hugs, Rowshan

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