My Father The Humorist and Poet

–You Are Not My Son

My Irish Canadian Catholic father wrote poetry usually after loved ones died.

In July of 1986, I wrote a letter to my parents about my decision to recognize Bahaullah as the latest of God’s Messengers and become a member of the Baha’i Faith. The Baha’i Faith is the newest of the world’s religions with over 5 million followers. https://www.bahai.org I followed up with a visit a few weeks later, I was met in the kitchen of my childhood home with mother and father yelling at me.

“How could you be so stupid!?” They asked.

“You’re crazy!” They proclaimed.

It was only later I was able to understand that my parents were speaking to me out of love and fear. Fear that I was going to hell for my decision to leave the Catholic Faith.  My father went so far as to invoke disownment saying,

“You are not my son!”

This was an extremely painful moment and his words cut deep. My mother (God love her!), pushed back against my father and said,

“He may be an idiot, but he is my idiot.”

My siblings who later heard about the incidents and rallied to my side, not agreeing with my decision to become a Baha’i but were upset at me losing my family franchise. They reminded my father about the care and love I gave to him. My father, the infrequent poet, also had a well-known sense of humour. On the inside of an Export-A cigarette package, he wrote the following poem and gave it to me.

I know I am old

And I about to die

It is not death that’s abothering me

It’s my son has gone Bahai.

~J.E. Ward

Upon reading the poem I broke out in laughter and this helped us deal with some of the newfound estrangement we had with each other.

My mother passed away on 1st February 1988 and along with my sister Maggie eulogized her at St. Benedicts in Sarnia, Ontario. It was the church my entire family was baptised and raised in. I included in the eulogy writings and prayers from the Baha’i Faith on the special role of parents and the departed. This was another time of healing.

His comedic flair on the topic continued, a few weeks before we were to move to the Cayman Islands. We were going there to take part in community development activities and help strengthen the small Bahai community.  He told us that he had something to tell my wife at the time Christina, and me Christopher. Since you were no longer Christians, I decided to remove Christ from your names. From now on, you will be known as Ina and Opher. Again, a little more healing through the medicine of laughter.

In December 1988 he wrote to us to say he was planning a trip to visit us. It was a total surprise; he hated the heat and had skin cancer and did like to spend money.  He arrived at Georgetown/Owen Roberts Airport Grand Cayman on December 26, 1989, having purchased a one-way plane ticket. We looked tired and pale but after a few days rebounded as toured the island with his grandchildren Nick and Eilish.

I did not know it at the time, but it would be the last 2 weeks of my father’s life. He had anticipated his death and although was not diagnosed with any illness prior to travelling to Cayman. Before he left Canada, he visited his close friends and told them this was the last time they would see him. In those two weeks we spent together he was able to see his grandchildren Nick and Eilish and see the school they attended and where we lived. He had a chance to speak to Mr. Clark whose was a Jamaica-born Baha’i close to his age about the Bible and the Baha’i Faith.

Speaking with my father about the Baha’i Faith had been too difficult for both of us since the “disenfranchisement” conversation two years previous. And while in Cayman he wrote to my sister Cathy saying don’t be surprised if I come back to Canada with IV drips in my arm.

On 16th January 1989, he came to my room and told me that he needed to go to the hospital. He had been hiding that had significant blood in his stool. We immediately travelled to the hospital in Georgetown. The hospital at the time did not have the necessary scope to investigate the cause of bleeding. The decision was made to contact the air ambulance and rush him home back to Canada.

The healing for me was completed a few days before we flew back to Canada in an air ambulance. He said the following, “I guess this Bahai thing is okay for you.” I got my Eddie Ward franchise back.

Eddie (my father) died on 19th of January 1989 peacefully with his 9 children at his bedside

Now that I know am old

But I am  not about to die

And nothings abothering me

I am glad I became a Baha’i

~J.C.Ward 

Chris Ward
Chris Wardhttps://www.empathynorth.com/
Chris is the Client Success Officer and co-founder of Empathy North. Chris brings nearly 40-years of enterprise client experience to the table. He is a master of process, design thinking, and empathetic business communication. Chris is deeply committed to relationship selling and creating value in every interaction. His business leadership success has included his own purpose-driven approach and commitment to leveraging technology in the genuine service of people.

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  1. Thank you Chris,
    This was written so beautifully and shows forgiveness lasts, but love is forever there.

    Is it easier to love than to forgive
    Is it harder to forgive the ones you love
    It is harder to love when you don’t forgive
    It is easier to forgive when there is love

    Religion aside there is love to abide.
    It is a great paradox…
    It’s a sad thing when ones faith faults them in the true essence of all faith…. and most teach of love right?
    Thanks Chris. This opens the doors to thoughts!
    Have a great week
    Paula

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