It wasn’t the first time since dad died that I had visited the law firm he had shared with my older brother and their two other partners. I had been in the building on other business a couple of months ago, and I stopped in to see my brother. I remember walking into the office space and feeling the crushing weight of my brother’s daily life. He was steeped in loss five days a week – imagining my dad coming around the corner every day. Listening to their administrative assistants answer calls, “Did you mean William Harvey Jr or Sr? Oh, well I’m afraid I have some bad news…”
I didn’t go into dad’s office that day.
There we were, though, eight o’clock on a Thursday night, just Bill and I, there to pick up some files I needed. The files were in Bill’s office, so there was no need for me to go into dad’s…but the sunset was hitting the windows in his office in such a way that it gave the illusion that a light was on in there. A warm light spilled out the door, beckoning me.
Of course, the light wasn’t on, and he wasn’t sitting at his desk, ready to call out, “Hey, Bethy!” (the only person on the planet who has ever called me that). The tears poured down as I rounded his desk and sat down in his chair. I ran my fingers across his desk, took in the view from what had been his daily vantage point. I fondly remembered hiding underneath this huge desk as a kid, playing with the mini cassette recorder he used to dictate letters to his assistant. Six months ago my girls hid beneath the same desk, giggling and waiting to surprise him.
The office itself was in a state of half-life. His pictures still hung on the wall and his antique law books still filled the shelves, but my brother had been slowly trying to clear things out. I opened the desk drawers – what was I hoping to find?
In the top drawer, there were three silver letter openers, and his Notary Public embossing seal. I picked up the embosser, found a piece of paper and pressed it down, revealing the words William R. Harvey, Notary Public. I touched the raised letters. For a moment I considered taking it with me, that seal. It seemed important – a part of him. Then I realized how silly that was. I mean, of all the things dad was, “Notary Public” was not of particular significance.
It’s funny how we can get caught up in holding on to things – literal things, as if the possession of material items owned by a loved one will help us to remember. As if letting those things go will effectively strip away our loved one from us, item by item.
But it’s not true at all, is it?
My dad was not an antique law book, nor a silver letter opener. He certainly was not an embossment stamp.
The things he possessed that are worth holding onto are the bits of him that are found within my brothers and me, within his grandchildren – as we are all made from him.
They are found within my mother, planted there from fifty-five years of devotion.
They are found within every single person my dad touched with his kindness, generosity and grace, the stories of which are still unfolding, as people in the community continue to share their experiences with, and gratitude for, the wonderful man he was.
His indelible mark was left on us all.
No souvenir required.
New to this blog? Read what it’s all about here.