Nine Lessons I Learned from My Father by Murray Howe

I will not rate this book. It is not a book a chose to read for myself and one that I didn’t get to finish as it should have.

Unrated.
Paperback, 240 pages.
Read from August 2019 to December 2019.

I will not rate this book. It is not a book a chose to read for myself and one that I didn’t get to finish as it should have. This book means far too much to me now to rate it. I bought this book almost a year to the day for my dad on Father’s Day 2019. It was a day that I couldn’t physically be present for since I live halfway across the globe from my family currently. It had also just been, at the time, just over a month since my dad was given 6 months to live.

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My dad with the book I sent him on Father’s Day 2019 eating his favourite cereal and wearing his old-timer team’s shirt. We would often get this cereal for him on father’s day as a treat because he would always share with us and it wasn’t something we were regularly allowed to eat.

My dad was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer in August 2018. His cancer had spread to his bones despite him doing all the right things like getting regular doctor’s check-ups. Even with the late-stage diagnosis, we all thought my dad would breeze through treatment and we would have a good and solid two or three years with him, especially considering how young and healthy he was, it’s what all the doctor’s told us too. Unfortunately, after a variety of failed treatments that nearly killed him, twice, he opted to enjoy the remaining time that he had left. Sadly, that time was short, a mere 6 months.

Anyone that has lived with someone who has cancer or has had cancer knows the difficulties. It’s something that can’t be explained if you’ve never experienced it. The utter exhaustion, the despair of not being able to do more or relieve the loved one’s pain or take their cancer away, the frustration of unfairness, the denial of how bad things will be or are going to get to shelter yourself and the cancer sufferer, and for myself, the guilt of living so far away. I lost count how many times I flew home to support my family between August 2018 and November 2019. Some of those times were terrifying, having almost lost my dad then, while others were wonderful, albeit still difficult as my dad declined. I planned my wedding in two weeks so that my dad could be a part of it in the spring of 2019 and spent a month and a half over that same summer with my family.

It was during that summer I spent with my family that I started to read this book aloud to my dad. He rested while I read and sometimes my sister would come and sit and listen too. I had never read aloud to anyone, I can’t even remember what gave me the idea to do it. As I read this great story of Murray Howe recapping his childhood and talking about what a legendary man his father was, I couldn’t help but make associations with the qualities of Gordie and my dad.

My dad loved hockey and most team sports. He played football growing up, was even a quarterback despite his small stature. For most of his adult life he played baseball in the summer and hockey in the winter, he was also a runner. We ran our first marathon together. My dad was a leader who had a sense of justice and fairness that couldn’t be taught. He was passionate and caring about people so it was no surprise that he was a leader in nearly everything that he did. He was a manager of a credit union for nearly 40 years, he was the president of my swim team when I was a kid, he coached my sister and I baseball and soccer, and he would eventually come to run the old-timers hockey team that he played on for more than 20 years. Past his professionalism, he also had an endearing and absolutely goofy sense of humour that followed with a kindness that is hard to come by. My dad would help anyone.

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My dad and I at the Kelowna Marathon, October 2012.

Gordie Howe wasn’t only a good hockey player, he was a man of honour and he lived his life by his own code. Each chapter in this book is an example of a lesson that Gordie taught his son as he exemplified it in his own life. As I read the remarkable story of Gordie Howe’s life to my dad and the impact Gordie had on so many people, I couldn’t help but think of the lives that my dad also touched throughout his life and how my own dad lived honourably. Some passages were beautiful and really struck me, to the point where I had to swallow tears to continue reading. Sadly, I only made it to page 98 before my dad passed away, a page that will forever be bookmarked.

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My dad at The Heritage Classic in 2011.

My dad passed away at the age of 58 in November 2019. All the people he loved most in the world were present in the room when he passed. It was peaceful. It was beautiful. We were lucky. Murray Howe wrote an amazing tribute to his father. Murray may not have been the hockey player his dad or brothers were but he is a fabulous storyteller. This book came to be while Murray was writing his father’s eulogy and it was a source of inspiration for me when I also wrote my own father’s.

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My dad; happy, handsome, and healthy. As he should be remembered.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to but in December 2019, I decided to finish this book. Not only did it help remind me of happier times with my dad but it also helped to remind me of the lessons that my own dad taught me and process some of my own grief. It’s only been seven months and this is my first Father’s Day without him. I saved this review just for Father’s Day in hopes it would help bring me back to better times when he was still here and to make the day a bit more bearable for me.  

My dad was too young to pass. I am too young to be without my father. However, I am still thankful as many are not as blessed to have what I did or that I was able to be loved and love so deeply. No one deserves to die from cancer or to be taken before their time. I feel robbed in so many ways. For myself, for the children I may yet have, for my mom, my sister, and especially for my dad. Grief is ridiculously complicated, and in this instance, also prolonged. Grieving started from the moment of my dad’s diagnosis. Reading has often provided me answers and so it was one of the things that I turned to. While I received no answers this time, it was books like this one that has helped to ease the sorrow.

You don’t have to love hockey to appreciate and enjoy this book. Despite the circumstances that made start reading this book I’m glad that I did. The story is light, full of love, and really about the man that Gordie Howe was both on and off the ice. Even for those of us who know little of hockey, this book is still an enthralling read as it’s a story that is showcased in such a concise and loving manner while also breaching the topics of life, love, death, dying, old age, and grief. Gordie Howe was one hell of a character and it was a pleasure to read his story. Especially with someone who mattered so much to me.

A Moth To The Flame by Debbie Sands

I knew Amy. Lots of people I grew up with could say that but did anyone know her struggles?

5/5 stars.
ebook, 162 pages.
Read from September 14 to 15, 2016.

I knew Amy. Not as well as I would have liked or for very long, but we grew up in the same town and had solid year together in the Studio Theatre class in our high school, the very one mentioned in this book. Her death hit the community and anyone that ever knew her hard. Perhaps this review is a little biased because of that connection but I am thankful that Debbie shared Amy’s story and her struggles.

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Amy as I remember her in 2003 – Studio Theatre – Foothills Composite High School -Okotoks, AB

Amy passed away in the summer of 2012. She was shot through a garage door with a bullet that never should have been shot and was not ever intended for her. She was 27 years old. Amy was eccentric, fun, independent, beautiful and confident. I’ll never forget some of fun times we had or the few inside jokes we created together. I remember envying her. However, few would have ever known the struggles that she dealt with and the problems it would cause in her adult life. Even more, few would have known about the struggles Amy’s family went through in trying to help her.

Amy had borderline personality disorder (BPD). A mental health condition that is characterized by overt and unstable emotions as well as abnormal behavior and relationships with others. Sufferers often have an unstable sense of self and extreme sense of abandonment that can often lead to dangerous behaviors.

Amy’s condition drove her to abuse drugs and mix with a crowd of people that ended up resulting her death. The book details the intimate struggles that her family had to endure while trying to deal with Amy. I cannot fathom the amount of pain and how trying it would have been trying to manage Amy. Her family loved her dearly but at the same time did not want to be enforcers to her behavior. They knew she was troubled but it wasn’t until after Amy’s death that they came to determine that she had BPD. The book spares no details and gives the deep down trauma of living with BPD and what it does to loved ones. While the book was heartbreaking to read, it is also immensely insightful.

I had the pleasure of working with Debbie on during a Dewdney theatre production of The Importance of Being Ernest around 2005. Debbie made a stellar Lady Bracknell and she never ever showed any signs of the potential turmoil that was effecting her private life. I am so glad that she wrote this book. Not only has she shed light for all that loved Amy but she is spreading awareness of about BPD. I hope that the writing process has been a healing one for her. No mother, or family for that matter, should ever have to endure what she went through. It was very brave of her to publish this book.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone with BPD or has a loved one with BPD. Or for those who have had mental illness effect them or someone that the have loved. And especially for anyone that loved or knew Amy.