And In the End

And In the End

The Love You Take Is Equal to the Love You Make

Dear Friends,

I’m writing to you after an unplanned hiatus. As many of you have heard by now, my father, Winfield Scott Daniels, passed away on August 24th. He was 68 years old. I have been telling you all about his struggle to recover from a massive heart attack on April 28th, and so feel that it is time to share this news here. I’ve been unable to write before now, and I’m not quite sure what to say except to tell you a little about his passing and how I am doing.

On Tuesday, August 22nd, my step-mom texted me and said that Dad’s time was limited. I was able to drop what I was doing here in Greensboro and drive to Canton to see him while he was still present enough to know we were all there. That night, we told stories and talked to him about our lives. Before I left, I read Psalm 23 to him and offered a short prayer. My dad was not very religious, but he was a person who believed deeply in loving and accepting others – he would often tell me his religion was what the Beatles talked about, “All you need is love.”

When Dad died two days later, we were all with him. It was peaceful but hard, a moment I won’t forget. In the hours and days that followed, I found myself going through many different cycles of grief; like waves that kept crashing into me in unexpected ways, I found myself one minute calm and clear-headed and the next minute breaking down and being consumed.

For those of you who have been reading my writing for a while, you’ll know that I already lost my stepdad in 2003 to suicide. That was a very hard death for its own reasons, and as I’ve written before, it took me about ten years before I was able to fully face it and deal with that grief.

This death, my dad’s death, leaves a very different hole and a pain all its own. I have spent a lot of time thinking through my own missed opportunities, wishing I’d called more, wishing I’d taken more time to go and see him play in his band, wishing for more opportunities with the grandkids, etc.

In all of this, I have been thinking again – and still – about time. The time we have with each other. How we spend that time with each other. How I can be kind of aloof about time. How I want to and need to be more intentional about the time I spend with others, but especially my children. I don’t mean for this to sound like self-flagellation. I don’t think that’s what it is. It’s mostly thinking about what I can learn from this so that I can lead the most full life possible.

The memorial service was on August 29th in our hometown of Canton, Ohio. In the funeral parlor that had served four generations of the Daniels family. Consequently, the funeral director remembered that my grandfather died the day of my great grandfather’s funeral (both from heart attacks).

On my way up to see my dad before he died, I called my friend and the minister of our Quaker meeting, Lia Scholl, to process the situation. One thing I knew I would not be able to do was plan and oversee Dad’s memorial. I knew the grief would still be too heavy. She quickly volunteered, saying she would be more than happy to do that. “You would do that for me? You’d drive from NC to OH for my dad’s memorial service.” She said absolutely. Lia was the right choice. She and her husband came up a day early; she spent time with the rest of the Daniels family and helped us put together a beautiful and very Scott Daniels-styled service, including some of his favorite guitars up front with his urn.

A couple of favorite things about his memorial service, if you’ll indulge me:

Opening with Bowie’s Space Oddity. Dad played music out quite frequently, covering some of his favorite tunes and artists. One of his favorites was Space Oddity, and he always played it really well. Opening with that song was moving (and relevant if you know the song).

A couple of my siblings (and sibling-in-law) and I shared eulogies, and each one shared was really beautiful, both in what was shared and in the vulnerability with which it was shared. I ended my Eulogy with the line from the Beatles (no one loved the Beatles more than my dad): “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.”Abbey Road in many ways, symbolizes who he was to me; it’s an album we listened to and discussed multiple times over the years. It was one of his favorites and I hear him in the music when I listen. I also loved seeing so many of Dad’s friends from so many different parts of his life I knew little to nothing about. He was a good friend to many different people and communities. Seeing all those he loved reminded me of the simple power of love and friendship.

Re-entry back into regular life has not been easy. When I dropped everything to go to Ohio, we were one day away from classes starting. I missed basically the first two weeks, relying heavily on my two colleagues at Friends Center to pick up my responsibilities while I was gone. In the time since, my concentration has been a funny and fickle thing. My mind often drifts, sometimes to Dad, sometimes to nothing in particular. I find myself humming songs he loved, scrolling through pictures of earlier times, and rolling a scene or story over in my head trying to remember a moment or experience we shared together. I find myself wandering and distracted. I’m doing my best to take my time and be easy on myself.

I’m riding my road bike more. Playing more music. And trying to focus on things that renew and recharge.

One thing that has brought me joy is a really special gift my dad left me: his 1989 Paul Reed Smith Custom 24 handmade guitar. He bought it on payments in 1989 (the receipts are still in the case). The “PRS” was one of his most often played guitars through the years and if you saw him play out anywhere in the last 30 years, you saw him play it. I remember years ago him telling me that he was leaving it to me, but of course, back then I thought, “Sure Dad, okay…” But here we are. He never said why or how he made that decision but I knew that it was meaningful for him and it’s really meaningful for me to. I look forward to brushing the rust off my guitar-playing skills and getting down to business.

That’s all I have for this week. I will write again, hopefully soon, but we will see.

Thanks for reading, for supporting me and this little newsletter, and be1ing part of my community.

Wess Daniels

Greensboro, NC (Haw River Watershed)

PS. For those of you paying for memberships: Please please please feel free to cancel memberships to the newsletter in the coming months. I expect that my writing is going to slow down quite a bit. And thank you again for supporting this work!