Council of Dads and My Own Team

Have you read about author Bruce Feiler’s attempt to create a “council of dads” for his young daughters, after finding out that he had cancer and might not live a long life?  If  you haven’t you will soon; these guys and this beautiful idea are everywhere, as is the book about it.

The idea is that he wanted to insure that his daughters would know him, even if he didn’t live long, so he set up a group of the men who know him best and asked each of them to represent an aspect of him to his girls as life marches on.  There is a childhood friend, a camp counselor, a college roommate, a business partner, a confidante and a romantic poet friend (all men need one; not all men have one, in my experience).  Each man knows  him in a different way and will be able to share life lessons with the girls.

Feiler’s website helps others create such councils in their own lives.  I love the idea.

I’m feeling exceedingly grateful that I don’t need such a council today.  When I had cancer 16 years ago, my own children were 3, 5 and 8.  There was never much concern that I wouldn’t live, as my diagnosis was as good as one can get and still have (as my doctor put it when I asked expectantly if I had “pre-cancer”) “garden variety breast cancer” (i.e. real cancer).

Yet I do remember a particularly helpful book, by Bob Stone (soon thereafter dead from his own cancer) called “Where the Buffaloes Roam.”  Its concept was about our networks and friends and families coming together to help us in crisis.  It was a novel idea pre-internet.  Not that families haven’t pitched in forever (Cave-women delivered casseroles, right?), but the ability to organize them was touted in that book, and it felt novel.

Anyway, my children are grown and would not suffer from my death now in the same ways that they would have 16 years ago… but I still am touched by thinking about the various people in my life and what I would want to ask them to represent about me if I were gone, what aspect of me I’d want to have them keep alive.

And it lends weight to the fact that our friends know us with specificity.  None of my nearest and dearest would describe me in exactly the same way as another would.  They each know aspects of us, don’t they?

Yet there’s extra beauty when they all come together, appreciating our multi-faceted selves.  I remember a quote from C. S. Lewis from The Four Loves. Here it is:

“But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best.  And the reason for this is important.  In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, ‘Here comes one who will augment our loves.’…We possess each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases.”

So here’s to our councils of friends, our teams assembled, our legacies, our loves.

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~ by Cary on May 8, 2010.

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