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Memories of our Dad

Hello.  As Most of you probably know, my name is Ben and Stephen was my father. First of all, I would like to thank you all for coming out to this memorial and celebration of his life. It means a lot to our family to know that my Dad has so many people who cared for him and are here for our support.  I am here today to say a few words in tribute.

All throughout my life I have looked up to my dad for advice and intellectual strength and have always admired his adventurous spirit. 

However, not only did I see my dad as a parent and teacher but I also considered him a true friend

As a boy I would constantly ask him questions… about stars and space, about electricity, circuit boards and computers, why the flame and shape of a candle is the way it is… he would usually go above and beyond the detail I ever expected and would leave me a with lasting knowledge of the world.

Later on. My mum would tell me about my dad’s ability in reasoning and clarity of thought when they took their Maths degrees together.

I really only appreciated this when I came home from university one weekend, quite stuck on a method of proof for one of my upper level math courses.  I showed the problem to Dad, who almost immediately said “Oh neat! I’ve never seen this before, it’s a rather interesting way to look at things.”

Almost instantly, he showed me 2 different ways I could solve my problem using what he learned just moments ago, and taught me how to understand the principle and use it for myself with clarity and ease.  

It wasn’t only in mathematics did his intellect shine but in everything he did.  He had a great ability to see the big picture yet grasp all the minute details without getting lost and it is something I try to emulate to this day…

Luckily for my brothers and myself we each got to spend time with Mum and Dad on their adventure around the world on their boat Dignity not as parents and child but as companions.  I have many fond memories of the 6 months I spent in the Pacific with them and I feel my dad and I became quite close friends during that time.  We spent many fruitless nights on our quest to find lobsters in the spiky coral at night.  Usually we would come back empty handed and hungry but it would just increase our desire to find the best spot for the next hunt. We would spearfish together under the boat in the early morning to catch our lunch for the day.  He taught me how to navigate by the stars, by projecting circles onto the earth from the angle and known orbits of points in the night sky.  In the evenings we would get quite drunk of the super cheap but delicious Central American rum that was stashed in the hulls, and discuss logic puzzles with themes such as “how to catch a spy on an infinite one dimensional line” or “how to escape from prison using light switches”.  I got to see parts of the world that I would unlikely see otherwise and I was and still am greatly appreciative of this time I got to spend with my parents as companions.

Not only was my father an intellectual mentor but he had a fearlessness, curiosity and strength when dealing with the physical world.

He once told me that when growing up, he would see James Bond on the television and say to himself, I want to be able to do all of that!  I’m pretty sure he achieved his goal.  He learned how to snowboard, how to sail, scuba dive, skydive, abseil, ride speedboats, get a black belt in karate and has even flown a fighter jet.  Once on a snowy night in America we were driving home, we were about to pull in to the driveway and he looks at me and says “don’t tell your mother I did this” and proceeds to do a handbrake turn spinning the car 90 degrees and slides perfectly in line with the driveway.  Somewhere in his earlier life he taught himself to drive like James Bond as well.  However, there is one Bond adventure he wanted to experience but never managed to do and that was to go to space.  I’m pretty sure that if he lived longer the technology and price might have been right and he would have made it up there, but it’s definitely something that I plan to do and when I’m up there looking down on our blue planet I will be thinking of him and thanking him for all he did to get me where I am.

I will not only miss the sense of adventure and intellectual curiosity that my father brought to my life, I will sincerely miss him as the caring and devoted man he was to my mother and our family.  Probably the best decision of his life was falling in love with my mother, Helen, without whom his adventures in life would probably never been as great.  While he never came off as the romantic type (at least to me) he did do great things to show he cared for my mother. For her 50th birthday he secretly flew all her brother and sisters into Central Park in New York city and had each of them sing to her a custom verses of Elton John’s “Your Song” while she was blind folded and in complete surprise.  My parent’s marriage has shaped my view of a good relationship and I will continue to look to them as a role model for my marriage as well.

Words cannot begin to express how much I miss my father and how I will continue to miss him.  It is shocking to have someone you know and love lose their life, especially when you feel like they had so much more life to give the world.  However, I do find solace in the amazing memories I have of him and that he has a place in my heart and also in hearts of each and everyone of you.  I truly believe that my father lives on in all of us.

I would like to end my tribute with a quote by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn –

Some are bound to die young

By dying young a person stays young

in people’s memory.

If he burns brightly before he dies,

His brightness shines for all time

 

I love you Dad and I will never forget you and our time together.

 

***************************************************************************************************************************

By Sam Southwood

The best way to describe anyone would be to share memories…as it’s certain acts in certain scenarios which best narrates who a person is.

There’s certain memories that really stand out when I think of Dad,  which seem to always hit me all at once…associations, if you will, that attaches to so many different aspects of life.

The earliest of which would be weekend mornings up in mum and dad’s room, sitting on dads back, and with a pair of tweezers I’d draw imaginary pictures or write words on his back and he’d try to guess what it was.

I remember from so long ago I thought he was this invincible giant, immune to pain and could conquer anything.

I remember the periscope he bought for me so I could see out the back windows of his dark green Alpha Romeo cos I was too small

I remember the maths times table he coded on the computer to teach John, Ben and I how to solve multiplication.

I remember the Simpsons!  Two episodes back to back on Thursdays…and I’ll always associate that cartoon with him.

Watching Star Trek – playing “there!” when certain credits appear

I remember being taken to America…seeing the legendary towering skyrise of New York City with him for the first time.

I remember the lectures about my grades in school

I remember his amazing analogies…from whales in jars being thrown from a balloon to describe how gravity works, to the elephant in the box to describe objective critical thinking.

I remember snowboarding – riding as fast as I can only to see his bright yellow jacket fly past us…waiting for us at the bottom of the slope.

And the Friday night movies then Outback Steakhouse, going home to watch a TV show or documentary.

I remember that more than half of the videogames I’ve played were HIS videogames.

I remember going out for night drives in his Audi, with the roof down, blasting Rob Zombie and going to absolutely nowhere specific just for the fun of it.  All his idea as well, of course.

 I remember being at the dinner table, listening to him and Ben talk mathematics like speaking another language, not having a clue what they’re saying but just being amazed by Dad always having an answer for everything.

Christmas mornings, playing with presents Mum and Dad bought us….Him, playing with presents Mum and Dad bought us.

The travelling.  The hikes, mountains, beaches, scuba-diving, adventures….and being spoiled with experiences, lessons, and skills.

His reasoning for learning how to sail a boat before I could drive a car.

I remember his embodiment of being proactive and hardworking to a level that I’ve never seen in anyone else.

I remember why it’s not about the right answers, it’s the right questions.

I remember that everything is difficult the first time, and everything gets easier the more you practice it.

I remember that it’s not about memorizing why things work, it’s understanding how it works.

Oh…and his puns – you can never lead a pen, but a pencil always needs to be led.

I remember that it’s certain acts in certain scenarios which best narrates who a person is.  That who you are and what you do are the same thing.  It’s our actions that define us, and it’s our eternal echoes that immortalize us.  I remember Dad in almost everything I can do or see, and I expect I will continue to do so – which leads me to believe that Dad may no longer be here, but he’s not gone because he’ll never leave my mind and heart.

This is where I’d like to end it, but then again, there is no end to his memory.

 

1 comment to Memories of our Dad

  • lew randal and Tracey M.

    hello Sam, Ben. We have never met in person but I have met you thru Steve & Helen. I am so very sorry that you have lost your wonderful Dad. Lew and I shared such a tiny time in your folks lives but we came to love and admire them both. We recognised ‘special ‘when we saw it and I guess because of who and how they are, we have been incredibly impacted by Steve’s death and Helen’s loss. Thank you for your memories shared. It fills Steve out for me and confirms that his ‘hero’ status in my eyes, is absolutely warranted. You boys are blessed, so blessed to have had a father like Steve, I know you know this but I sit in, well, I want to say envy but negative words don’t fit anywhere near Steve so I will say awe as I am painfully aware the impact bad parenting have on our youth
    . You lucked in both ways because once again I have to say your mum was the perfect mate with Steve. A warm loving generous gracious woman , salt of the earth , so brave and strong. If he was my 1st real live hero, Helen has become my second. So young men, thank you for sharing your mum and dad with us. We are a product of our parents so where you go Steve goes. Fantastic! Much love to you all. It goes without saying , your mum is safe in your hands. And, pls pls pls, if you are ever in Auckland you must come and at the least break bread with us and at the most, stay a while. We have just bought a 5 acre lifestyle block up at Mangawhai Heads, right by the beaches etc etc….does that tempt you? P.S. My little forever memory of Steve. I am not the sharpest knife in the block but in debate with your dad I would state an opinion (usually not very well thought out or researched) and he would say (with a twinkle in his eye) Well Trace, yes and no……. and then go on to educate me a tad! I did love him. I do love him !

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