Holistic Hearth: Father’s optimism, life perspective endure


Charles J. Kaiser and daughter Anne enjoying a walk on the beach at Sanibel Island, Fla., May 2004.

At a recent visit to the library, a white-haired gentleman approached me and shared an innocent desk calendar cartoon. The stranger held the torn-off piece of paper out for me to see, his eyes twinkling. Laughter mixed with words as he commented, “In life, now this is what really matters; the rest is work.”

Though surprised by this unusual encounter, I appreciated the serendipity of a fleeting burst of humor. I returned to my writing, smiling, my thoughts uplifted. I wondered whether this elderly man might have been placed in my path to convey a message, lesson or reminder about life.

I sat quietly for a time, then thought of my dad, Charles James Kaiser, and how he loved to care for and bring happiness to others. I reflected on Dad’s warm smile and genuine laughter and his ability to transform even difficult situations through his optimistic outlook. Dad offered encouragement and an uplifting comment or thoughtful gesture whenever I faced a challenge or felt discouraged; his words were a spiritual balm that remains with me still.

I’m thankful that my dad and I were blessed with a close, loving and supportive relationship. In addition to our love of fine art, travel and family, Dad and I shared a sense of humor and optimism about life. When I create art, sit quietly or walk by the lake, Dad’s words of encouragement and good cheer enter my waiting mind.

I think often about how Dad taught eager students at Mount Mary College “how to see” in numerous art classes throughout his professorial career. In so many ways he also taught my brother and me about how to see the world, to understand people, to cherish and embrace life with love, hope and enthusiasm.

Late in March 2011, Dad approached an unexpected diagnosis of a rare cancer with the same courage and optimism that he had applied to the rest of life. Throughout his final weeks, Dad continued to look to the future, to appreciate and nurture the loving presence of his family and to speak of his artistic goals and inspirations with determination and passion.

As I approach the anniversary of my dad’s passing, I think about the many ways that my family and I are able to keep Dad’s spirit alive through our memories. Though it’s never easy for me to contemplate my dad’s death, it’s somehow less painful to return to favorite memories during this season of fragrant blooms, expansive skies and a reawakening Earth.

The world begins to seem full of possibility again, and though I know that daily life will never feel quite the same, I remember to greet life with hope and joy as I begin to more fully accept this new chapter.

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