A light is extinguished.
My father was diagnosed with cancer at the end of April. He died on July 6. We had the blessing of time to say good-bye to him, but only just. He faded rapidly and was gone before we were ready.
My fabulous father. My hero. My True North.
Donald Richard Aubrey was a man of superb integrity, unwavering morality, fervent patriotism, supreme faith, unselfish compassion, and innate wisdom. He was a task master and the world’s greatest mentor. I adored him and craved his approval, which he gave unreservedly.
One of two rock-solid pillars of our family has died. Mom alone stands for us now. We, the children, must step forward to stabilize the base. We have circled the wagons around Mom, drawn together in our pain and loss.
We bid farewell to Dad with a Rosary vigil and a Catholic funeral Mass. His mortal remains are inurned at the Old Mission Santa Barbara, a place he loved, a fitting everlasting resting place. Mom will join him when her time comes. Several of us children are thinking we might buy a place near them in the crypt. A final family home for eternity.
Intellectually, I know my father has died. Emotionally, I still expect to see him, to hear his voice, to delight in his smile and laughter. He has been my comfort and my refuge throughout my life. It didn’t matter where we lived, moving every year or two: wherever Dad and Mom were, there was home. Our location was fluid, but our foundation was solid.
My father was a thinker, a man of enormous intellectual curiosity. He taught me to love learning. He modeled a love of reading. He encouraged mental stimulation and intellectual challenge. God had gifted us with intellect, he cautioned, and we weren’t to waste it.
I used to dread taking my math homework questions to Dad. He never simply gave me the answer, but rather made me figure it out, all the while providing excruciating explanation. Oh, how I would grind my teeth! But I learned.
At the dinner table, Mom and Dad encouraged conversation. We never listened to or watched TV while we ate. All were expected to sit at the family dinner table every evening and participate in conversation. If you voiced an opinion, you had better be able to back it up with fact or reason. Dad couldn’t abide parrots or sheep: we had to be our own thinkers and support what we believed and opined. From an early age, I knew I had to be able to back up my beliefs, or Dad would carve the ground beneath me. People laugh about how opinionated the Aubrey family members are. It’s true. But let me tell you, we can back up those opinions!
The Aubreys are also risk takers and doers. Mom and Dad always told us we could accomplish anything we set our minds to, our only limitation being our own fears and hesitation. They modeled success for us, always stepping forward as leaders in any group they joined, any endeavor they undertook. Mom and Dad were always at the forefront, not seeking accolades or applause, but getting things accomplished. They taught us that if we were going to participate, then we were to participate fully. Anything else was a waste of time and effort.
Most of all, Mom and Dad have modeled a life of faith for me. Attending Mass, assisting the poor, reaching out to the marginalized and ignored, opening their arms and their wallets for those in need of love or sustenance…these were the actions they modeled for me. It meant nothing to be at the top of the wall if you didn’t reach down to help others ascend. Life isn’t about what you get, but rather what you give. Pass along the blessings you receive.
Mom and Dad were an awesome pair. Holding tightly to one another, they faced the world and all of its challenges. Heads high, hearts open, minds actively engaged, they welcomed life and all it had to offer. They taught us to do the same.
I miss my Dad more than I can express. I ache at his loss, and can only imagine the emptiness within my Mom. But I take great comfort in the knowledge that I will see him again, that I will have eternity at his side. Our time on earth was just a taste of what we will enjoy, the joy and love we knew here is but a foreshadowing of what we will know in the hereafter.
Thank you, Papa. You are adored. You are missed. You are loved. Rest in peace.