For my father…

David Malebranche
6 min readJan 31, 2020

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This is hard.

In my line of work, I have mastered the art of how to give a presentation or talk.

Be poised.

Don’t lose your cool.

Teach the masses.

Never let them see you sweat.

This is not like my work talks. Today I’m going to speak about my father, Dr. Roger Malebranche. If you all can indulge me, I’d prefer to talk to him directly. And forgive me for reading directly from this paper — I want to make sure I don’t forget anything.

Dear Dad,

I know the past 6 to 7 years were particularly hard for you, especially the last few months starting in October of last year. Your 87 year-old body caught up with you. All your life you were the physician, the healer. Now your primary role was that of the patient.

I know how much that frustrated you.

You hated having to go to doctor’s appointments.

You despised taking your medications. It would cause fights between you and Mom.

You couldn’t stand hearing medical staff who could’ve been your grandchildren scream out “Roger,” instead of addressing you properly as “Dr. Malebranche” when calling you in for your medical appointments.

Didn’t they know who you were? And what you meant to this local community when all your faculties were intact?

They didn’t. And understandably that bothered you.

I got it.

You would often say “They just see me as some old Black guy” when u entered medical spaces.

You were probably right.

But they didn’t matter. You knew this, but being human, you would let them get under your skin from time to time. What really mattered was what was important to you.

I remember discussing the prospects of major vascular surgery with you this past October. When any doctor asked you what your goals were, for the surgery and beyond, you would always say “I want to make it through the holidays so I can be with my family and see my grandchildren.”

You knew this past holiday season would be your last one.

Though I hate to admit it, I knew it too.

After your surgery, I stayed overnight at the hospital with you one evening, giving Mom a break. She hadn’t left your side since the operation — and hadn’t had much sleep either.

After the horrible hospital dinner, you asked me to play a song for you on my iPad. A song called “Morningside” by Neil Diamond. I had never heard it before. I quickly found it on YouTube so I could play it for you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5suIibcRfo

The lyrics went:

Morningside
The old man died
And no one cried
They simply turned away
And when he died
He left a table made of nails and pride
And with his hands he carved these words inside
“For my children”

Morning light
Morning bright
I spent the night
With dreams that make you weep
Morning time
Wash away the sadness from these eyes of mine
For I recall the words the old man signed
“For my children”

And the legs were shaped with his hands
And the top made of oaken wood
And the children sat around this great table
Touched with their laughter
Ah, and that was good

Morningside
An old man died
And no one cried
He surely died alone
And truth is sad
For not a child would claim the gift he had
The words he carved became his epitaph
“For my children”

I remember as I sat by you on your hospital bed and played that song… you rested your weary head on the pillow, closed your eyes, and tears streamed down your face. I couldn’t help but wonder if you saw yourself as the old man in that song.

I’m here to tell you today that you are not that old man.

People will cry for you Dad. You didn’t die alone.

And you did get to spend one last Christmas with your family. That was the greatest gift you could have given us.

Your legacy is not in any material things you passed on to us — a watch, jewelry, property, or even a table with a carved inscription.

The legacy you gave us was in the lessons you taught us — the lessons I plan to carry with me until I take my last breath. The same lessons Mom, Michelle, and your grandchildren Skylar and Addison will carry with them as well as long as they walk this earth.

So on this day when we celebrate your transition… I am profoundly proud and thankful. More than that, I would say I’m happy.

Happy I was blessed to be your son and experience you as a father for 50 plus years.

Happy to receive all the teachings you gave me.

Happy I got the chance to spend more time with you when you needed me most.

I’m also honored.

Honored that I get to carry on your name.

Honored by the legacy you bestowed upon me.

Honored that you allowed me to come home these past 4 months and help take care of you the same way you have always looked after me my entire life.

You never stopped being a father. I want to tell you I appreciated that — even when I thought I didn’t, and sometimes even TOLD you that I didn’t.

I remember when we were all a bit younger, Michelle and I would come home to upstate New York for the holidays or other occasions to visit you and Mom — the two of you would be waiting at the airport to meet us. Both of you would be standing, smiling among other family members in anticipation of seeing their loved ones.

It meant the world to you as a father to be there physically so that the first thing your children would see as they walked through security was you, standing together with Mom to welcome me back with open arms.

It meant the world to me too.

Such a simple gesture.

Such a powerful expression of love.

For you to miss meeting your children at the airport after they deboarded the plane — something had to seriously be amiss.

As we got older, our airport ritual changed. Your health became frailer. It started with subtle changes. Instead of standing, both of you would be sitting on the side so I couldn’t see either of you until I fully got past the security check point. Over the years it became more of a challenge for you to physically come to the airport like you used to. Even for Mom, her nighttime eyesight becoming worse made it a driving hazard if my plane landed after dark, and made it challenging for either of you to come to the airport to meet us.

I insisted that I would rent a car, and make the 45 minute drive from the airport to the house in Galway by myself. I didn’t want either you or Mom to push yourselves or risk injury or an accident just to come and see me at the airport for the sake of tradition.

But the truth is, I miss those days when I would look forward to seeing you waiting for me at the airport exit. A feeling of emptiness gnaws at me when I arrive home and know that among all those people waiting, no one is waiting for me.

You gained your wings last week Dad. This earth couldn’t hold you forever, and I’m glad you aren’t suffering anymore. I love you and I’m going to miss you more than you could ever know. I’m going to miss your fatherly advice. Your words of wisdom. Your corny jokes. Your long, rambling stories. Your embarrassing tales of my childhood to your friends and acquaintances. Your booming voice shouting “Hey Dave!” when I enter the room. Your ritualistic morning and nighttime kisses as a daily reminder of what family love is really about.

I’m going to miss it all.

So fly high Dad. And safe travels. You have more than earned it. You and Mom did everything you could “for your children.”

I can’t wait to see you when I land on the other side.

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