Friday, July 01, 2011

Back in Banja Luka

I can’t believe I am already back in Banja Luka. These last two and a half weeks have passed by in a whir of activity. It was so good to be with my family during this time. We were able to grieve and laugh and remember together. Dad’s Memorial service was memorable: despite the sadness and the obvious loss that we all feel in our lives, it was a celebration of all that he was and the legacy that will live on in all of us.

My Dad had an extensive collection of beer mugs – over 200 of them. So, we decided to distribute them to people at the funeral. It took some aback, but most realised that it was great to be able to leave with a reminder: and for us, it was a good way to get them to people who would appreciate them.
My brother, Kevin, did a fantastic job with the eulogy. He wasn’t able to get through it without choking up with emotions, but I think that made it even more special. Here are some of my favourite parts:

“My Dad taught me that in order to survive in life you need to have a sense of humour. It’s one of the earliest pieces of fatherly advice I can even remember him telling me. And he was right. He had the best sense of humour of anyone I have ever met.  I think if you had to pick one defining characteristic about Ron Chaplin, his sense of humour would be it.  Whether it was the singing fish, the endless jokes, the silly toys he collected, or those joke emails he would spend hours putting together, dad always like to make people laugh.  Nearly everyone that has written to us about dad in the last few weeks has mentioned his jovial nature, his sense of humour, and his fun attitude to life.  He always enjoyed himself, but more important than that, he liked to make other people laugh.  It was one of his greatest pleasures in life to entertain someone with a funny story, a new gizmo, or a funny movie. He never took himself, or life too seriously.

He taught me that many of the greatest pleasures in life are the simple things.  Having a cold ginger beer after mowing the lawn. Jumping in the pool after you had finished cleaning it. Walking beside the ocean and watching the waves crash. Catching a fish. Finishing a crossword puzzle. Eating an ice cream cone after supper. Hiking in the mountains and finding a good walking stick. Finding a treasure at the flea market. Fixing a broken toy. Having a nap on the garden bench.  Winning the feet-first swimming race. Some of my happiest memories of my dad are of him just soaking up one of the simple pleasures of life.

He taught me to be hospitable, as any visitor to our house would know.  Over the years he and my mom hosted hundreds of guests at their house.  Starting with the fantastic birthday parties we had as kids, to the youth group events we had at our house with hundreds of teenagers.  My dad was always excited to have people over enjoying our house and as kids, ours was always the fun house that people wanted to come over and hang out at.  As our family became more international, we had a steady stream of visitors to our house, from all over the world.  My parents have always been such generous and hospitable hosts, and my Dad loved to take visitors all over Cape Town, on his “Ron Chaplin tours”.  He was so proud to show people around and take them to all his favourite places in Cape Town.

He taught me that love is not just something you say, it is something you do. He constantly showed his love for us by all of the things he would do for us.  He was not a man of many words when it come to love, but through his actions he more than told us how much he loved us.

Dad, we will all miss you now that you are gone.  Thank you for everything you taught us through your life, whether you meant to or not.  You lived life to the fullest, and were a great example to us in many ways.  You will be remembered fondly, happily, often and always with much laughter.”

I think that sums up my Dad really well...

I mostly spent time with my family, but did manage to see a few friends. Including some school friends – I realised that we hadn’t got together, the 4 of us, in about 20 years. Scary.
Hel, Bel, Mel and Tink aka Helen, Belinda, Melinda and Justine (and Justine's daughter, Kai)
It was fantastic to see them and catch up (even with their - between them - 6 children!). I also realised through their recollections how unusual the situation was that I grew up in. For me it was normal that Mom and Dad were always home and our house was always always the one to whom people came and how available they were for lifting or whatever.  I realise now that isn’t necessarily the norm for everyone. I think I understood for the first time how special my parents made my growing up and how privileged I was then.

It was so good that we were all able to be there for Mom and help her with a LOT of stuff that needed to be done or decided. It is hard now not being there, but I know that she will be fine. She has already booked tickets to come visit us children in August and September. And now I will try to figure out how to get back to my life here, while still processing my Dad's passing.

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