Monthly Archives: February 2010

Good mourning.

My father experienced the world with his mouth. Sometimes by what he put into it and other times but what flew out of it. Anyone who knew him understood that his sense of humor expressed itself in words and in food. Once he found the internet there was no stopping him, a perfect arena to express himself in words about the things he loved. If you came into my father’s home for a meal you would experience his wit in your ears, your mouth, and deep in your heart. You would see his love for living well and the passion for his incredible partner and wife in Helen. But what my father tried to do was save people. He saved my life. He did it so often I took it for granted, and when I didn’t need saving we went through a lot of difficult times because he was still reaching out and trying to help and I pushed it away. I know that what caused him the greatest heartache was his feeling that everything he tried to do to help his daughter Eden wound up hurting her and he couldn’t figure out why. He had just started to learn to love her the way she needed, to see her as others saw her, without judgment. It’s so much easier to fix someone else than to fix yourself. If you found yourself arguing with my father you would know the shaking finger and the phrase, “you have to understand!” We understand, dad. We understand that the reason you told us the same stories from the past was to inform our present, that they weren’t just the same story they were parables, lessons, experiences, things that had deep meaning that you were exploring for truth. We don’t just understand, we know that you love us, that all you ever wanted was for us to be happy and comfortable, and without worry. We get it. We get it.

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Stuart Brian Miller, July 17 1944 – February 24, 2010

My father died at 1:30 am this morning following a five week fight with an acute attack of pancreatitis. It hit him the night of his mother’s funeral, which places his death five weeks to the day after his mother’s. My grandmother lived to 90 years old. Her eldest son made it to 65. My aunt, the second child, died ten years ago. Which means my uncle, the baby at 54, has buried his father at 25, his sister at 45, and now his mother, and older brother. Stuart was not alone when he died. He was surrounded and touched by family, told he was loved, and gently eased into whatever is on the other side of that process. My grief began as a feeling of having my heart torn out of my chest and then repeatedly being punched in the stomach. Today was filled with busy work – phone calls, emails, logistics, and the requisite horrible experience at a funeral home and being upsold while in grief. When I finally got to sit with my grief it was there but had already begun to change. I want to be present as it changes. There is a vast difference between knowing something intellectually and then understanding it emotionally. I believe there is a difference between our hearts and our brains, at least metaphorically. I was with my father when he died, holding him, touching him, and speaking to him. And yet the heart does not fully understand or accept what the eyes have seen. As I sit with my grief and am supported by my wife, family, and remotely by friends I remain open to the slow, plodding process of opening of my heart. It is so much slower than my brain but it has a depth to it that I would not want to miss exploring by accelerating its process. I do know that my father saved my life countless times, and that as a human being he sought to bring joy to everyone in his life. He was most happy when he could make others happy – be it with a joke, an idea, a relationship, or a meal. His life will continue to reveal itself to us if we remain open to its gifts. Though his body is not alive his inertia is carried in everyone he touched.


The difference between a sprint and an endurance race is that in a sprint race you keep your heart rate anaerobic the entire time, riding the edge of physical breakdown and peeling back your eyelids in discomfort until you hit the finish line. In an endurance race you keep your heart rate aerobic the entire time, rarely spiking into the red so as to go strong and steady for many hours. My father has been in the hospital intubated, sedated, and in very poor health since an acute attack of pancreatitis the night of his mother’s funeral service two weeks ago. His medical state has required us to respond in a sprint fashion while in truth we are looking at an endurance event.

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