Of all the events that I was not expecting to see role modeling in action, it was at the funeral that we attended. Jim and I attended the funeral of the father of my very good friend, Coralie. Here is a brief background on Bob, Coralie’s dad. Bob was an alcoholic. He had a very difficult childhood and alcohol became his coping strategy to deal with that pain. Over time he abandoned his role as father as he struggled with his addiction. He eventually all but lost his family, his wife and daughters, and he became homeless. Occasionally he made contact with the girls, but they would only agree to see him if he was sober. This made the visits few and far between. Because Bob had exceptional skills as a carpenter, even though he was homeless, he was able to secure day work with several large construction companies who picked up workers from a downtown corner to work on jobs. On one such job, Bob fell and was paralyzed. This led to an eleven month hospitalization and then a transfer to an assisted living facility where he lived for the final 7 years of his life, sober.
Bob, or Robert, as he preferred to be called after his accident, had not made many friends along the way. His daughters rekindled a relationship with him, visiting him weekly and caring for his needs. He was not always the easiest of patients.
As we drove to the memorial service for Robert, we wondered what in the world we were expecting to hear about his life. We had known him for 35 years and we did not have the usual collection of fond memories and funny stories that we have for other people in our lives. Robert had dealt and been dealt so much pain, it was hard to imagine that this would be a typical memorial service. And sure enough, it was not.
Robert’s two daughters, Coralie and Deista, planned the service and it was the two of them who delivered the eulogies. Deista’s husband performed the service and Coralie’s husband, who is reluctant to speak in public told us that he was ‘security’:)
I have been to many, many funerals and memorial services. Without doubt, it was this simple, beautiful service for Robert that ranks as perhaps the most healing service I have ever attended. When each of the girls spoke they simply told the truth. They told us what it was like to have Robert as a father; during their growing up years, during his homeless years, and during his sober years. They talked about his struggles and how those struggles affected them. They told what it was like to live with him. They told what it had been like to live without him. They told about the demons that he chased. They told about the lessons he taught. Never did they glamorize him. Never did they demonize him. Never did they justify his actions. Never did they show resentment toward him. Never did they blame him, nor did they blame the people who had caused the hardships in his early life. Always they simply stood in front of us and told the truth.
These daughters of Robert, Coralie and Deista were incredible role models to each of us in attendance that day. They modeled for us the power of speaking the truth. They taught us that Robert’s life did not need to be either embellished or diminished. His life was simply that; his life. By sharing it with us they gave us each the gift of somehow being able to accept our own lives with more grace. By listening to them we understood that we each have the choice of how we show up in this world. That day, these two sisters showed up as incredible human beings, modelling grace, hurt, love, healing, humour, honesty and forgiveness. Deista’s husband eloquently said in his sermon that ‘When we refuse to speak of our brokenness, our brokenness will speak for us’. By sharing the brokenness in this story with such graceful honesty, Robert’s daughters gave permission to each of us to own our own story. What perfect role models.
Today I have many mundane little jobs to take care of. I need to return a dress, attend a meeting, pick up a gift and buy some groceries. I’m not planning to be a role model in any of these situations. However, I don’t think that Deista and Coralie were planning on being role models when they spoke either. The truth is there is always someone who notices our actions. I am choosing, as I go about my little tasks to recognize that I am a role model. I have no idea how the smallest of my actions may have the largest impact on someone else.
This week I challenge you to choose your actions well, knowing that you are serving as role model to someone else.