“Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.”Alfred Austin
This post is in memory of my father, Richard “Dick” Connelly Lyon who passed away on Saturday, June 27, 2020 at the age of 85 years. These are the words I wrote and delivered as his eulogy to honor him at his Service of Remembrance. He was an amazing man who was always persistent in being present in my life. I love him very much and his physical presence will be profoundly missed.
As a family, we can look at each other and see the physical characteristics we inherit from our parents and our grandparents. My square jaw and teeny, tiny fingernail beds definitely came from my father. In celebrating my dad’s life today, as his time in the physical world has ended, I would like each of us to shift our gaze inward to observe what essence of dad, or grandpa, you embody.
Both my parents have a love for the outdoors. Dad was all about the fun. His sense of adventure was conveyed to me through a multitude of ski trips, sailing voyages, bike hikes, and plane rides. His love of the outdoors was evident in all of his hobbies and he was eager to share his enthusiasm and expertise with his children and grandchildren. I see in my own children their deep, sacred relationship to nature, adventurous spirit, and love for water and snow. I know our family ski trips and the time they spent with their grandpa at Snowshoe, Keystone, and Mont Tremblant expanded their appreciation for the outdoors. In reflection, however, his love for the natural world was deeply instilled in me in the quieter moments of backyard stargazing. As a young child, Dad and I spent many a dark hour together on the back porch. He would recite the story of each constellation that we traced with our fingers in the sky. We peered through my telescope at the moon, or the North Star, or whatever celestial wonder we felt like observing that evening. Orion, with his signature Three Sisters belt, is one of the first constellations my dad taught to me and it is my favorite in the winter sky.
In my work, I facilitate a lesson where participants imagine themselves as a plant. A plant that most describes who they are – their personality and character, their essence. As I was thinking about the characteristics of my father that I most appreciate and seek to honor and emulate in my life, as well as exemplify in my children, I wondered what plants would represent him in my garden of life. There are three different flowers that come to mind. First, is the sunflower. Who doesn’t love a sunflower? They are cheerful and elicit joy and happiness. They represent longevity, optimism, and a sunny disposition. With his enduring smile, easy-going attitude, and steadfast positive outlook, he flowed through life as gracefully as the sunflowers turn to follow the sun through the sky. Sunflowers are big and almost animated. As they sway in the garden, sunflowers remind me of my dad’s love of the piano, music, and theater. As a child, I stood next to my dad at the piano belting out show tunes during our evening “Sing Songs,” a tradition that continued with my children and my sister’s two girls, performing hours of Disney song and dance routines with Grandpa accompanying them at the piano.
Secondly, is the red poppy. The red poppy represents my father’s colorful and vibrant zest for life, his exotic and extensive travels and adventures that he would share with his grandchildren upon his return through stories and trinkets. In addition, its rich color represents my dad’s deep love of learning and commitment to education, always encouraging his children and grandchildren in their academic endeavors. His bright creativity was evident in his landscape photography and musical talent.
Lastly, is the stargazer white lily. This flower represents his humility, generosity, patience, and quiet, but profound spirituality. My father was always grateful for any small task fulfilled on his behalf and time spent in conversation. In addition to his far-reaching community service, he shared what brought him joy through so many experiences with his children and grandchildren. He offered unfettered patience through hours of Calculus tutoring, ski lessons, and T-ball coaching.
The stargazer white lily has a distinct and memorable scent. It infuses a garden space with its abundant essence. Like the lily, my father left lingering impressions with everyone he met. He was all about connecting with people, establishing and nurturing the roots of strong and lasting friendships and community. He cultivated a joyful, authentic life rich in relationships and ample in adventure. In tending the seeds of patience, optimism, adventure, and connection to community and the natural world that my father sowed early in my childhood, those of us close to him, can honor and embrace his spirit.