My father, Noshir Clarke, died earlier this month. His death was a result of several health conditions, the most significant being kidney disease. He had been on dialysis for over a year, on top of the comorbidities of heart failure and multiple myeloma. Below is a paraphrasing of the eulogy I delivered at his funeral. I had a few notes with me at the podium, but nothing like a script. I’m posting it here for friends and family who wanted to attend his funeral but could not. I’m grateful for all the words and actions of sympathy and support I have received over the last several days. Thank you.
My father had a few requests for his funeral. One of them was that I not do what I’m doing right now. He didn’t want a lot of commentary at his funeral, and he didn’t want the service to be drawn out or dour. But I thought it was important to at least say a few things to commemorate the life he lived, and to share a few stories that exemplified his character. I’ll still try to keep my remarks brief.
Another request he had for today was that there be music. He chose a sitar and violin duet as the song to play as guests entered, and several others he enjoyed will be played after my little speech here.
The first story I have comes from my days playing little league baseball. My dad loved sports, and he passed that on to me. When he came to my games, he was always very vocal from his spot in the stands, always loud in his cheering of me and my teammates. But nine-year-old me found his exuberance embarrassing. I went to my mom and asked her if she could talk to my dad and maybe get him to tone it down a little. So she did. The next game, my dad came over to the dugout and announced to my team that he would not be so loud because I found it embarrassing, which of course did nothing to alleviate the embarrassment. But I think about that story now because my dad’s cheering was typical of how he approached many things in life – he had no inhibitions when it came to expressing happiness. I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate that at the time.
My dad also tried to create smiles in tough moments. When my mother underwent cancer treatment, he accompanied her to appointments and treatments. This is a story he liked to tell. At one of my mom’s appointments, they took a number and sat down in the waiting area. The number turned out to be one. After patients 97, 98, and 99 were called, the call came for number one. My dad jumped up and exclaimed, “We’re number one! We’re number one!”
Many of you can probably imagine him doing something like that. He was typically smiling and jovial and animated. But maybe something you didn’t get to see was his understanding of when it was time to have stillness. I remember the night that my mom died. When I got into the car with my dad, he said, “We’ll have a quiet drive home.” No radio. No music. No words. It was different for him, but I think he did it because he understood the importance of quiet and self-reflection, because in that quiet you actually have time to feel. Really feel. Even if it’s not a happy feeling.
But my dad did give me plenty of happy feelings. My favourite photo of us (shown above) was one I took inside Cape Breton Highlands National Park. While I was living in Halifax, my dad came to visit one spring, and we took a road trip to the park. It was my first time there. As you approach the park’s entrance, the highlands start to rise and you can see a road snaking up through the hills. It’s such a stunning sight, and it left me in awe. After we paid our entrance fare, we drove up to the first lookout point. We could see the Atlantic Ocean on one side, and the highlands on the other. And in that moment, I remember feeling unadulterated joy. No thoughts of the past or the future. No worries or plans. Just joyful presence.
Have you ever seen that decorative pillow that says “Collect Moments, Not Things”? And then you realize the irony because a pillow is a thing? Anyway, one thing my dad liked to do was jot down phrases and sayings that he liked. As I was going through some of the papers on his desk, I noticed he had written down that catchphrase, collect moments, not things. I’m so grateful to my dad for giving me so many happy moments, and I hope you’ll remember and hold on to some of the moments you shared with him.
I’ve heard a few stories of happy moments from friends and family over the last few days, and I’ve seen smiles because of them, so thank you for sharing them. I think it’s proof of a life well lived when even after you’re gone, you can make someone smile.
I’ll share one last story. When I was going to university, I would typically leave home around 8 or 9 in the morning, and my dad would still be asleep, enjoying his retirement. But I always wanted to say goodbye to him, and my uncle, before I left for school. So I’d knock on his door and wake him up to let him know I was leaving. We’d wish each other a good day, and do a little handshake/fist bump thing that maybe you’ve seen he and I do when we say goodbye to each other. And I’ll leave you today with the two words he always left me with.