Dr. Gerry Turcotte

FIGURE OF SPEECH

June 9, 2014

Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Matthew 6.9

I never got to speak to my father as he lay dying. Quite simply, he was the most important figure in my life, a humble, funny and deeply honourable individual, a unique person who could discipline without anger, inspire without fanfare, and who kept the ship afloat no matter how bad the seas.

Despite a desperately poor upbringing and a difficult life, he managed to steer his family through good and bad times and to ensure that we had all the necessities of life.

More importantly, he provided me with a powerful moral base where it was never acceptable to do harm to others, to discriminate against anyone because of race, values or belief, and he loved his little family of three until the day he died.

As an only child caught by the travelling bug early in life, and ferociously independent, I left home young and spent most of my life away, though always in touch with my wonderful parents. I always felt guilty that I did not live nearby to help them as they aged, and it was always my goal to return to them in my thirties to provide the support they needed when they retired.

By then I was in Australia, as far away, it seems, as I could get, and beginning to think about returning. As I prepared for a rare visit to celebrate Christmas one year, I received a frantic call from my mother that Dad had had a heart attack, and so began a desperate effort to book flights during the busiest holiday season.

In the middle of my return, my progress was interrupted by one of the worst snowstorms Canada has ever experienced, and after a 56-hour journey I finally limped up to the Sacré Coeur Hospital in Montreal, in the middle of the night, too late to say goodbye.

I often wonder what I would have said to him had I been given that chance. A million words go through my head, but it would have come down to these: "I love you. You have made me the person that I am through your goodness, and you have taught me how to love my children unreservedly.

"You have taught me to care for others, even when they do not care for me, and to see that what matters most is what lives in a person's heart."

So, there are two holidays that always challenge me. One of these is Father's Day, the other is Christmas when he died. There has never been a time since then when I haven't both dreaded and welcomed these important days.

JOY OF THE GIFT

Similarly, I always think about God's gift in an intensely personal way – whether that's appropriate or not. By this I mean that it is impossible to think of Christ being born, and the intense joy the gift represented for our Lord and for humanity, without also thinking of the devastating pain of Christ's death.

This is a story about salvation, but it is also the story of fathers and sons. That the Lord "so loved this world that he gave his only Son" (John 3.16).

So on this day that we have set aside to celebrate fathers, let us think of our capacity for love and sacrifice modeled on the greatest gift of all.

For the children: forgive our flaws and value the good. For fathers: cherish the gift that you have been given – to love, to guide and to inspire.

(Dr. Gerry Turcotte is president, St. Mary's University College in Calgary.)