Flights of Angels

Toward the end of this afternoon’s session on Open Broadband, I got a text message from Margaret. It didn’t say what was up, just told me to call her — which I knew was not a good sign. My father, Donald Geikie Adam, apparently will not come out of the sedation that has been enabling him to tolerate having a breathing tube; sometime tomorrow, the life support machinery will go off, and Dad will die.

Christmas Time 2007

I don’t have garlands of ornate rhetoric to offer in his honor. Give me a few weeks, and I might be able to compose myself and such a tribute. He will not have left a big footprint online; he was an early advocate of digital technology in education (I remember my recoiling in horror when he described the possible benefits of a spelling- and grammar-checker; I sniffed that people should just learn that!), but he didn’t share my involvement with the internet. But look at me: he was the one who lauded the Apple II to me back when I was a mainframe snob, and now I’m going to tech conferences about the Freedom to Connect. He was a lifelong teacher of English literature and composition, and I’m an Anglican priest who teaches interpretation theory and emphasizes writing skills. He taught a comedy seminar for years, and I. . . well, my preaching comes to a great extent out of what I learned from him about stand-up. Four decades of Chatham students learned from him how to write better, how to read with deeper joy and more expansive understanding. When I visited him this summer, he was teaching summer exchange students English as a second language. At Christmas time, he was grilling my kids on what they’ve been learning in their various studies. Once, when he came to visit me in college, my classmate John Cunningham described him to somebody who hadn’t met him before, saying “He looks exactly like AKMA, cut off at the knees” (my sister did call him “Stumpy” sometimes, for his short legs).
Seventy-threetwo is too few years, especially when he gave so many of them to teaching others. I’ve been plying the family trade for almost twenty years myself, and this spring I stand at the edge of turning in my professorial card. I can’t give a good reason, but his dying will make that harder to do. There’s so much left to do.
The Phone Call did not come as a shock; Pa had been in the hospital for ten days or so already. But knowing the odds and hearing the news are two different things. Tomorrow Margaret and Pippa will swing down to Maryland and pick me up to drive me to Pittsburgh, to be with other family members. Between now and then — and for a while after — I have some weeping to do.
Almighty God, look on Donald your servant, lying in great weakness, and comfort him with the promise of life everlasting, given in the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

37 thoughts on “Flights of Angels

  1. “I don’t have garlands of ornate rhetoric to offer in his honor.”

    this garland serves well, and from it we know that he is as proud of you as you are of him. may god bless.

  2. Amen to your prayer, and another Amen to the life of your father. This can’t be easy at all for anyone. Your father (and you, and your entire family) will be in my prayers.

  3. Your post was a beautiful honor to your father. You and your entire family will be in our thoughts and prayers at this time, and I will have Ethan add your father to his bedtime prayers.

    Loads of hugs to you and yours!

  4. we’re thinking of you, AKMA. Our hearts are right there in the car with Margaret and Pippa when they come to pick you up.

    jeneane, george and jenna

  5. Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our
    understanding: Deal graciously with AKMA and his family in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be
    overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your
    goodness, and strength to meet the days to come; through
    Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    My prayers continue…

  6. AKMA,
    Laura called with your sad news. I am so sorry. May you be carried through these coming days in the strong embrace of the Eternal Arms.
    How much more precious that Christmas visit has become!
    Our loving thoughts are with you, Margaret, Si, Pippa and Nate.
    Carol and Doug

  7. I remember meeting your father at Bowdoin. I thought he was so cool for a dad and an adult! My prayers and thoughts are with you.

  8. Nice posting, Andrew. You aged him a year (he’ll be 73 in Nov.) but that is unimportant at this time.

  9. Thanks, Mom; I just subtracted 1935 from 2008, neglected the month-of-year aspect.

  10. Oh, dear. We are doing much the same thing right now, albeit on a slightly slower timetable. (This is why I’ve yet to answer your last email, although I’ve directed many thoughts about it’s topic in your direction.)

    We are thinking of you and your family, and sending our best from a little town in Oklahoma.

  11. I’ve learned and stretched and grown from reading your post about your father. And seeing his picture! Thank you for sharing his legacy of good teaching and constant interest and curiosity with the rest of us who didn’t know him.

    Our prayers are with you.

  12. O merciful Father, who hast taught us in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of your servants for whom our prayers are offered. Remember AKMA and his family, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of thy goodness, lift up your countenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  13. I’m so sorry to hear this news. Thank you for the lovely tribute to your father and the ways he has shaped your life.

    You and your family are in our prayers. Ruth and Dan

  14. We’ll pray for him and your family from northwest Louisiana.


  15. My prayers for your father and for you and your family. In the words of Christ at his first Easter, peace be with you all.

  16. I keep you and your father and all your family close in my prayers. May God sustain and comfort you. Peace.

  17. AKMA, we are only new friends (Derrida @ F2C 2008), but I join this group in lifting you and your family lovingly into God’s care. Beginnings and ends. Horizons. I experienced waves of hurt when my father died. The waves remain, but with time I’ve learned to ride them, and my father comes back/remains with me as I have need. Condolence. -mg

  18. AKAMA, I studied with your father at Chatham (class of 1972, same as your mom, I believe). He was the quintessential tweedy, erudite professor, a very caring human being, a strong proponent of education for women, and a supportive mentor. His support didn’t end with graduation. When I gave a job talk at Chatham about 10 years ago, his questions and comments helped to clarify a few points I had left a little murky. I didn’t get the job but I got the next one, at the School of Medicine, partly due to the input I received from him. When he spotted me at his retirement party, he came over and gave me a big hug and said he was so happy to see someone from his early years at the College. My connection has another dimension: April 2 was the first anniversary of my mother’s death. It seems like only a few minutes have passed, and it seems like decades. You and your family are in my thoughts.

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