I'm Not Mourning, I'm Celebrating His Life.

August 4, 2009
By Chelsea Bates SILVER, Carmel, California
Chelsea Bates SILVER, Carmel, California
5 articles 0 photos 0 comments

As I stand here today, and reflect upon the time I spent with my dad, I can't help but to be thankful that I was chosen to be his daughter. My dad lived a life that was based on spontaneity, adventure, and, of course, comedy. Everywhere he went, he was always the quote unquote "funny guy", but to me, he was just "dad". I know everyone will remember him as the great artist Bill Bates, but I hope that everyone will also remember that he was a man of his community, whether it be local or global, and a man of his family, an excellent dad. I am honored to be sharing with you some of the experiences I have had with my dad that I think define his character.

His ability to lighten anyone's mood was great, but his ability to care for the underdog was even greater. I remember when I was ten years old, we had just started a new life in South Africa, we were foreigners, strangers, and were unaccustomed to every aspect of South African living. It had only been a few weeks, but my dad being himself, was already out on the streets, talking to and sharing laughs with anyone who would listen. One day, as I was walking beside him, a homeless African man walked up to us and, instead of asking for money right away, said to my dad "Francisco! My friend, how are you?". I only found out later that Francisco was the name the man had given my father after hearing he was from a little town near San Francisco. Talking to this African mendicant became a daily routine, and by the end of the first month, my dad was well known by the Camps Bay community as well as the Camps Bay homeless community. He accepted and treated everyone as an equal and thats just how my dad was. But to what extent to which he helped those less fortunate is not a well known fact about him. You see, that homeless African man had had a deeply infected wound on his leg, which grew worse as the days passed. My dad noticed this and took it upon himself to bring this man to seek medical help. He walked him into the hospital, paid for the man's treatment, and brought him back to Camps Bay. The next day, my parents and I brought the man and two of his friends, three pairs of brand new shoes. I will never forget the looks on their faces as they slipped their soft new leather boots on their tarnished feet. The locals of the community were astonished. A foreigner, a white foreigner for that matter, had the sincerity to care for the well being of these homeless black men. But to me, that act of generosity was just an everyday matter.

As I had said earlier, my dad's ability bring laughter was great, his ability to care for others was even greater, but in my eyes, his power to love his friends and his family was his greatest ability of all. You see, my father was no ordinary dad. At times, I felt like his age limited him in many ways, and it did. But the one thing, and the most important thing, that was not limited by his age was his wisdom. Conversations with him were always filled with laughter, politics, and, of course, advice on how to deal with boys. In fact he was keen on warning everyone that if they even had the slightest thought of hurting me, he kept a nine iron by the door and was more than ready to use it. Though at times, this may have been a bit embarrassing for me, I realized it was only out of love and out of humor. My father was my role model and my best friend. Whenever I needed guaranteed support for anything, he was always there. He liked to boast that he was not a soccer mom, but a field hockey dad. He cheered me on at every one of my games, cried at every one of my performances, and cracked up the whole room at every one of my school functions. Since kindergarden, he dropped me off and picked me up from school everyday. He liked to kid that he was not my dad but rather my "chauffer", with a lazy french accent of course. Whenever my mother said no to buying me something, I always went to him and got what I wanted, soon I just figured it would be easier to ask him first, and whenever I was torn between two choices, whether they were about school, friends, or life, he simply said "Choose whatever makes you happy." He was proud of me and through his example, I learned to accept everyone regardless of race, religion, or gender, I learned to savour the different cultures and foods this world has provided, and I learned to enjoy life no matter what obstacles I may face. He was the ideal father, and although I was only given 17 years with him, they were and forever will be the most unforgettable and irreplaceable years of my life.

My dad was not only a role model to me, he was also an inspiration. Witnessing his approach to life has inspired me to bring happiness to all those around and to be grateful for what has life has given me. Everyday was a happy day for him, and everyday I spent with him was just the same. My dad gave me the opportunity to explore the world and through our traveling together, I have learned that although our world is diverse, we all share basic commonalities. He taught me to enter new worlds with an open mind and an open heart, and to always follow that one simple rule; "when in rome, do as the romans do". No matter what country he was in, he was never treated as a foreigner. My dad appreciated life like no other, and because of this, I appreciate him.

One of my dad's favorite prayers was the Serenity Prayer. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." These shorts lines encompassed the philosophy of my dad's entire being. At times, I felt like it was unfair to have lost a father at such an early age, but then I realized that the amount experiences we shared in 17 years, could surpass the amount others experience in an entire lifetime. I have no regrets and I am sure my dad doesn't either. He lived a spectacular life, with a group of friends that span over 5 continents, and he was only blessed to have been found by a beautiful woman like my mother. I am so proud of my father, and what he has done. And although luck was not always by his side, he constantly felt like he was the luckiest man on earth.

It is sad, today, that I am spending my first father's day without my dad, but I feel fortunate that I am spending this day with all of you. Because of this, I am taking it upon myself to make choices in my life that will make my father and my community proud. It will be hard to lead a new life without my dad by my side, but as they say out of the mud, a lotus will grow, and I know that mine is on the verge of sprouting. I will always remember his thin lipped smile, his open heart, and the feeling of his hands on my shoulder, with him saying "Go for it". My family and I am so grateful for people like you and I thank you from the deepest part of my heart. Thank you.

The author's comments:
This was the speech I had to write at my dad's "Celebration of Life". He suffered for 10 months in the ICU of 5 different hospitals. His will to live never failed him; it was his body that gave up. I love you daddy.

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