Friday, October 24, 2003

Marking Anniversaries: It Was Seven Years Ago Today

Percy Alexander Inglis (1922-1996), my dad, taken on my 41st birthday, in May 1996

:: My adopted dad, Percy (Ping) Alexander Inglis passed away suddenly on October 24, 1996. Today marks the seventh anniversary of his death. I am suddenly so terribly aware I have so few pictures ....

Below is the eulogy I delivered on at a local chapel in a gathering of about 100 friends and family, Sunday October 27th, 1996.

Tribute by son Alexander Inglis

Although "Inglis" is of Scottish origin, had it been an Indian name, I'm sure it would translate as "Still waters run deep". My dad personified this idea: he was a man of great strength and quiet dignity. He strode through life with a rare gentleness and distinction. And he was the quintessential devoted husband and father.

Dad loved to laugh and had a sly, wry sort of humour and a kind of quirky smile -- you could see his natural playfulness peeking through. That playfulness is evident in many pictures. This past summer, my mum and dad took a trip to Nova Scotia and returned to visit the place they originally met. During the trip, a snapshot was taken of dad sitting at table with an absolutely enormous lobster in his hands. That characteristic look of fun was captured to a tee.

As an unflagging optimist, he was always able to find the clear-headed view. Yet though he held some ideas strongly, I never heard him force his views on anyone. His quiet optimism emanated a self-assurance that easily put fears to rest that those around him might be feeling. A few days before Christmas one year, the family home caught fire and needed extensive repair. What might have been a hugely stressful experience for many, dad helped us treat as an adventure.

As an engineer, he had a rational, logical way of looking at the world. He was always to curious to know about new things and ideas. I always think of how calm he seemed to be most of the time. Growing up, especially as a young teenager, I certainly gave him reason to be angry and frustrated with me. Yet he was always understanding: it was a very rare moment in which he even raised his voice.

Dad loved to travel: it was part of his constant quest to learn new things. Mum and he had the opportunity to take a number of journeys to many parts of the world. Whether exploring some of the byways of Europe, the Middle East or travelling through Asia to see the Great Wall of China, he engaged his mind and heart to examine new ways of doing things.

My father was a man of relatively few words. If he didn't have something to say, he said nothing. He measured his words with some care and always waited for the right moment to share them. And dad was the last person to blow his own horn.

Love for his family was an absolute with dad. There was never a time - never a single moment - in which I didn't feel his unswerving, deep love for me. My sister and my mother, his partner for 50 years, knew that same love each day.

These days, to say someone is a "moral person" can have a pejorative twinge to it. My dad was a "moral person" in all the best senses: he knew what the right thing to do in a given situation was and he unfailingly did it. He led by example: he would never tell his children that "this is what you should do and it is what you will do". He was able to step back and let us fall on our faces, if necessary, but be there whenever he was needed.

My father always encouraged us to do the best at whatever felt right for us. My sister fell in love with horses at a young age; I developed a strong taste for music. He let us explore those things, with his encouragement and deeds. I don't think dad had a judgmental bone in his body. If neither of us aspired to become Prime Minister, he was content to know that we were happy in our own pursuits.

I have always admired dad's relationship with mum. Different personalities to be sure, they made a uniquely satisfying balance. One always knew how deeply they cared for each other, how deeply they shared each other. I have often commented over the years -- in wonderment -- that I never saw them have a major rift. Sure, all families have moments of disagreement. But as a couple, they always managed to find an easy consensus, a path both willingly went down. I know mum and dad have had an unusually satisfying time together. In my view, they are an ideal example of spiritual soulmates.

Although I've focused on the immediate family, dad had a solid group of friends. His quiet nature meant he didn't go out of his way to make new friends. Yet when he made them, there were strong bonds there, many of which lasted a lifetime. Years after selling the cottage home he built for us on Lake Kushog, he and mum remained in constant contact with the lake crowd. Other friends, made in school or during their time living in Niagara Falls in the early 50s, remain friends for life.

There are ways in which my father makes me think of him as the embodiment of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Rational, calm, always optimistic, joyful, a wise, quiet self-assurance, beautiful on the surface, and always so much more below -- "Still waters run deep in the sparkling sunshine."

Dad had the good fortune to remain amazingly healthy throughout his life, allowing him to enjoy his work, his family and most definitely his retirement. And even when the end came so early and so suddenly, in a graceful way which was so characteristic of him, dad gave us a few hours to adjust and make peace before passing on.

My father's spirit, which touched so many of us more deeply than he'll know, will live on in all of us for the rest of our days.

We'll miss you always, Dad.

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