Friday, March 27, 2009

Something to Shoot For


It's been ten years since we lost my father. Ten years to the day since our family's final goodbyes at the bedside on a warm spring morning. And ten years since his hometown lost a man whose devotion to his community and neighbours was second to none.

And the city of Ottawa loved him, too. Trying to run even the briefest of errands around town with Drew Shouldice always took at least twice as long as one would expect. It seemed impossible for him to turn a corner anywhere in town without running into an old friend.

I have been wanting to write something about my father to mark this anniversary, but have been unsure as to what form it should take. This certainly does not need to be an obituary, and there is already enough written out there by people who lost loved ones at too young an age. I don't need to tell you that life is short and that each day should be lived to its fullest. Instead, I think I'll pass along what remains the most enduring lesson I took from the 18 years I had with him.

Granted, there was a lot that I picked up in observing how my dad lived his life. The importance of shaking a hand over throwing a punch, why we should remember people's birthdays, and how wearing a tie and walking with purpose can get you past almost any security guard on the planet were all tidbits I picked up along the way that have served me well to this point. Still though, there is one lesson that stands out above all others.

I have previously said that my father knew a lot of people, and this is certainly true. He also knew a broad cross section of folks - from cabinet makers to cabinet ministers - and never stopped making friends as he went. However, no matter who he was dealing with, and no matter what the context, my father treated everyone he came into contact with the exact same way. That is to say that his levels of respect and compassion never varied. This is the most enduring lesson I took from my father, and if it doesn't speak to the character of a man then I don't know what does.

Indeed, be it the cable guy, my friends playing road hockey or the mayor of Ottawa, Dad gave everyone the time of day, and was never too good to be friendly or too busy to be kind. If I were to read a transcript of my father's side of any conversation he ever had, I do not know that I would be able to tell you if he was talking to the new kid working at the grocery store or a decorated veteran of the second world war. And yet, he somehow managed to always be genuine as he did this, without talking down to people on the one hand or being too familiar on the other.

If this sounds like no big deal, I would ask you to do the same while you go about your day. The reactions you will get and the connections you will develop as you treat everyone you meet - everyone you meet - with the same respect that you would wish for yourself will show you that it is, in fact, a very big deal. That my father lived this way every day for his short-but-wide 52 years explains to me why there was a line stretching down the block from the funeral home in the days after he died, and why he is still sorely missed.

And so today and everyday I reflect back on this lesson, among others, and the man from whom I continue to learn. The path I have chosen differs from his, to be sure, but the principles remain and for that I am grateful.

Thanks, Dad. Tonight I raise my glass to you.

Peace,

Hart

15 comments:

Chris said...

I can't believe it's been ten years.. I remember the times like they were yesterday going to football games and hockey games and lake placid. Your dad taught me a lot along the way too as we hung out. I always had a great time when he was around, he was always able to bring it down to our level full of laughs and fun, with some lessons along the way. Drew is truly missed but his memories live on and the lessons he taught me I still apply to this day.

Your mother said...

Beautiful, Hart. You learned the best lesson.

mchen said...

I'm a friend of Liz's, and have a much better understanding of why she is who she is. This is beautiful and inspiring, and your Dad sounds wonderful. Great for both of you to carry on a wonderful way of life, amongst all the other things he passed along. Thanks for sharing.

greg michaud said...

He was simply one of the best.

Greg Michaud

Elizabeth Shouldice said...

Hart, what a lovely tribute. So, so true and something I think of everyday. Dad always said he learned that lesson from Hap and now it's been passed on a third time. Thanks for being able to articulate what I wish I could. --Zib

Peter Loewen said...

I don't have a hard time picturing what it is like to act like this: I've spent a good bit of time around you.

Becky Watchorn said...

Your dad truly was an amazing person. I think of him often and am still learning life lessons from him. I didn't realize it at the time, but in the last few years I've come to realize what a busy life he must have led, and how remarkable it is that he always had time for the little things, and as you said, always made each of us feel valued.

I always thought he was a very special person, but back then I didn't really understand what a community builder was; it is only in retrospect that I've realized that his biggest legacy wasn't all of the great things that he accomplished, but the impact he had on all of our lives.

Lori Connors said...

I'm sad I never got to meet your dad but am so glad I've gotten to know his kids so well. From reading this I can tell that both you and Liz are just like your dad!

Hthrj said...

Hart, you are a fine tribute to your father. Hthrj

Butterfly Girl said...

Hart, I didn't know your dad, but if the person you have described in this tribute was unnamed, I would have thought someone was describing YOU. Talk about a meaningful tribute. I am honoured to know you and even more grateful to call you friend.
-cara

mchen said...

I have come back to read this a number of times now, Hart. It gets me every time. I just revisited now because I figured your 'When I'm 64' fb post had to do with it... and again: tears tears tears. Happy birthday to your Dad.

Unknown said...

I knew your Dad when I articled for his firm in Ottawa in 1990. He was truly a wonderful man. I left Ottawa shortly thereafter and now live in the US. I did not know that your father had passed until I just googled his name as he entered my mind today. I am terribly sorry for your loss but he would be extremely proud of your tribute. Well said, Hart.

Tamaya Garner Sculptor said...

Hart,

I did not have the privilege of knowing your father, I do however know your mom :). I really like what you wrote today. This simple gesture of writing of someone that was very dear to you is heart warming. Reading about your dad gave me a wonderful glimpse to some of his qualities. I complexly agree with how your dad interacted with everyone. My late husband used to say, there are no stupid questions and you can learn something from everyone. I will see if I can follow your blog and keep reading the things you chose to speak about. Again, thank you for sharing this. You make me feel proud and I don't even know you hehehe.
Tamaya Garner

Suzanne Denney said...

He always made you feel important!

NANCY MCNAMARA said...

Beautifully composed, Hart. You really hit upon all of the wonderful characteristics I remember about your father. His HUGE 'hart' and his larger than life persona. His goodness, his genuineness and his love for all he met no matter their walk in life. What a difference he made in the lives of everyone he touched.