“Death is nothing at all…I have only slipped away into the next room.”
--Canon Henry Scott Holland
We live in a very small house. The room where I write and spend many hours each day also serves as my son Evan's bedroom when he chooses to stay over. I am surrounded by collections of Legos, a baseball bat and glove hung on the wall near the window, and some of my favorite books of hope and inspiration. Hanging from one shelf to my left is my father's cane. He died a few years ago while I was away at a National Speakers Association Conference. He had made promises to my mom that he would leave a certain amount of money to my brother and me. He kept that promise. It wasn't a huge amount of money, but exactly what he said he would. My dad measured love that way. Not by acts of love but paid in installments in dollars and cents. Which in his own way was loving.
After his death we had the task of going through all of his belongings. Memories tucked away in small boxes, hanging on hangers in the closet and valuables hidden where no thief would ever find them...his underwear drawer.
Most everything is gone now, except for the photographs and memories no one can erase. And, oh yes, his cane. I found it in the trunk of his car when I was cleaning it out to sell. It wasn't the one he used in the last year of his life. But it was the one he depended on for many years prior. He stopped using it because he broke it while riding an exercise bike. Yes, even at 82, he had the strength to break wood. It slipped and fell under the pedal as he was going 240 on his way to nowhere in a place that was created to keep him here a little longer.
As any good handyman would do, he used duct tape to mend the fracture. But the doctor said he needed better support than that. A modern-day aluminum one replaced it. It was adjustable in case he grew taller, when in fact it was because life and poor health was forcing him to bend lower.
I won't throw that cane away. Here, look at it. I laid it on my desk as I write this. It is my dad and a reflection of his life. Perhaps a symbol of all our lives. It is worn and cracked. It reflects a life well lived. It still has a lot of use and could very well perform it's purpose of giving support to someone who needs it. There are splinters from times when things got rough, and these scars are constant reminders of battles well fought. It is taped where it was damaged the most. Perhaps that break shows he fought for his life with everything he had even when the odds were against him. Like you and me, we must stand up again, bandage ourselves and go on.
No. I will not give up that cane. In fact, I have used it in speeches as an example of strength and winning at life. But I regret one thing. I don't think I told him. Perhaps it's too late. But again, he's just "in the next room."