The three sacred days of August for me are the 12th, 16th and 24th.
The 12th marks 17 years since my mother, Virginia, ended her life. The 24th marks 25 years since I was held-up and shot in the head. The 16th marks the 40th anniversary of the biggest hit I’ve ever taken in life, the death of my father at age 55. I was 15.
Now, if you think this essay is steeped in sadness and heartbreak, then you don’t know me. It’s not. The sacred days of August are days I plan honor. They are days etched in pristine unblemished memories. They are days I intend to celebrate in an uplifting way.
On the 12th I will celebrate and honor my mother’s life; on the 24th I will celebrate the blessing of keeping my life; on the 16th, I will celebrate the greatest gift life has ever given me: my father. While my father left the world far too soon, his presence in my life has kept me going during some of the darkest times and allowed me to share some of the best of times with him.
And how, you may be wondering, will I celebrate these days? I plan to climb a Catskill Mountain on each of these days and, as my custom has it, leave a twig on the summit. A twig you ask? Yes, a twig.
Some years back I was visiting my father’s grave in New Jersey. It was more than 20 years after his death. It dawned on me that by this time his body had begun to decompose and so had become part of the soil.Realizing this it dawned on me that his body was now part of the soil that was feeding the oak tree the grew right next to his grave which meant that my father was present in this beautiful tree! Trees shed small branches from time to time. And so I gathered some up to take with me. By having these twigs with me, my heart knows I have part of my father with me.
And so, when I reach the summit of the mountain on these three days, I will leave one of the twigs there. My father deserves to reach the summit. After all, he is now, always and forever the summit of my life.