Goodbye, you nasty son of a bitch. I'll miss you.
DEATH be not proud, though some have called theeMy father always expected better from us. I recall one report card in junior high, two year SP, I was taking high school algebra and biology, where I averaged...averaged...98 out of 100, and was questioned relentlessly about those last two points.
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
He expected no less from himself. I remember visiting his mechanical drafting class as he tried to move from carpentry to contracting. I remember studying his library, and amongst the Len Deighton and Edgar Rice Burroughs books, being shocked to find a calculus self-study book.
A more determined, tenacious man I would never imagine existing.
Horribly injured fighting in a war to protect his homeland, shrapnel lodged within millimeters of his heart, he found the courage and determination to keep going when a lesser man would have succumbed to the pain and fear.
Not content with having stared death in the face and overcoming it, he and his young bride came to a foreign country thousands of miles away to start a new life with no guarantee beyond the promise of America looming in his ears.
Started a family.
Suffered the deaths of two infant children to raise three others.
Many in his position would have taken to a sybaritic lifestyle, surrendering to the forces of chance and nature, believing themselves to be pre-destined to failure, wallowing in self-pity...in short, Republicans!
One cultural trope that my father embodied and promoted here was “sisu”, a word that is not easily translated into English, because it means more than determination or tenacity, more than mule-headed stubbornness.
George Washington’s troops at the Delaware had “sisu”. “Sisu” is the guiding principle of the Finnish people, a people who needed that tenacity, ferocious determination, and courage, guided by the dreams of a better life, more than any other people on the planet.
My father was sisu incorporate. A more determined, tenacious man I would never imagine existing.
My father taught me the importance of strength, perserverance, persistance. The importance of resilience.
And for me, more than my siblings, the importance of being faster than the guy swinging the belt.
He taught me courage and determination. He taught me sisu
My father grew up in a world where horses were how you went from point to point, where planes didn’t exist and cars were for the filthy rich. Telephones were rare. Photographs cost enormous amounts of money. Computers would have been the figment of some science fiction writer’s dreams, if science fiction even existed. People lived into their 40s, 50s if they were lucky. A man who made a thousand dollars a year was well-off.
He leaves behind a world where man touches immortality on the Internet, and in bio-technology. Where I can see someone in China as easily as the person across the street in the window and e-mail him a picture of myself in the blink of an eye.
Where our children dare dream of conquering God himself, if only to prove His existence.
So, Death, be not proud. Our best man doth with thee now go, and after his short sleep, is awake eternally. And watch out for his sisu. He might end up taking your job.