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It Takes a Village / Community / Tribe
by Cheryl Rompa
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Beltane 2004, Vol 3-3
MatriFocus, a Cross-Quarterly Web Magazine for Goddess Women Near & Far
family group at Thanksgiving tableWhere I Learned About Community

I learned about the meaning of community from my father, to whom I am dedicating this column. Dad just died from pancreatic cancer, not too long after we learned that he had an inoperable, malignant tumor on his pancreas that had spread to his lungs.

The diagnosis, when it came, was not a surprise to me. Dad had been very ill over the holidays and I knew as far back as last Thanksgiving that his time on this planet was limited. At Thanksgiving, my Dad organized what was to be one of the last community events in his lifetime -- a Free Thanksgiving Feast for anyone who wanted to attend. Close to a hundred people shared food and laughter that day and I was glad to be part of the celebration, an event put together by Dad and Mom (with a lot of help from others) through their Christian ministry, Circuit Riders Ministry.

My Dad was born Martin Leo Parish on October 27, 1930. His parents were Elsie and Delbert Parish from Richland Center, Wisconsin. Dad's folks were farmers their whole lives and even though he left home when he was 16 to take a job in town and make sure he got his high school diploma, his roots are in the rural community and farming.

My Dad was a man of great generosity and warmth. He could charm and entertain a bunch of strangers who would be friends in a matter of minutes. Dad's eyes twinkled with delight whenever he made the rounds at his favorite local restaurants. He was a salesman all of my life and is still probably trying to make the best deal for anyone who seeks his counsel (even for some that don't). Throughout his life he had several bouts of returning to farming but his true calling was with people more than animals.

Dad was a loving and kind man, who was only disappointed in himself when he was short-tempered and crotchety. He used to say that Mom helped save his life and that without her, who knows where he would be. I think Dad's heart has always been in the right place and because of that he has made the right choices -- one of which was to fall in love with and marry my Mother. Dad was a very smart, intelligent man with a great sense of humor. I can see how he easily charmed Mom with his laughter and his wit. He was also a dreamer, a visionary in a way. My parents always looked for new ideas and ways to be healthy in body, mind and spirit. More than anything, Dad was a seeker, someone who always sought for more ... more anything. He was quick to share any newfound formula and enjoyed the hunt for more.

Dad was a Christian. His faith in God was strong, and this faith was the backbone of his ability to believe in his fellowman. He looked for the good in each person he met, and with this charity of spirit came his devotion to his family. Dad's greatest gift was that of welcoming. He welcomed the stranger to our dinner table, the tired to our home, the needy to our hearts and the weary to our souls. He taught us children to love and honor other human beings, and also to laugh from our bellies.

My parents are both born again Christians and have struggled with the fact that I am pagan. Many times, especially recently, Dad would talk with me about his concerns for my soul. He didn't want to be in heaven without me. At my Mom's 70th birthday party we had a conversation that indicated my Dad's acceptance of my spiritual beliefs and practices. He took my hand, looked me in the eye and said, "Isn't this great that a pagan and a Christian can sit here together and celebrate like this."

I believe we all come from the same creator and that in that universal energy we return to the Goddess (or God) of our understanding. What is most important is that we believe in a power greater than ourselves and in the love of our fellow human beings. The Goddess I believe in will wrap her loving arms around me and hold me gently to her breast as I grieve the loss of my loved one.

Toward the end of my Dad's time I experienced one of the most beautiful sights in my life: I witnessed the loving cooperation it took for seven members of my family to lift Dad and care for his physical body. I cried as they worked together to reposition him and make him more comfortable in his chair. I noticed how each person was so respectful of his dignity and loving in their touch. I wish all of you that gift in your lives and share these words from my Dad. He said, "Don't grieve, don't grieve, it's got to be a celebration of me." May every day and every moment be a celebration of each other and our love.

Graphics Credit
+ Thanksgiving Dinner, Marjory Collins, photographer, courtesy of American Memories Historical Collections, National Digital Library (Library of Congress) [fsa 8d10757].

Contributors retain the copyright to their work; please do not take art or words without permission. All other graphics and reference materials are used and attributed as per the Fair Use Provision of The Copyright Act and individual terms of use.
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