When the dawn seemed forever lost, you showed me your love in the light of the stars.
- Dante's Prayer, Loreena McKennitt
I was sitting gloomily before a fire in the backyard of the house we had been renting, one night shortly after my father's death. I looked up at the stars, and felt the orphan's searing pain: these stars had been explained to me by my father; now, there is no one left to teach me anything more about them. I had lost my only teacher.
Soon after I heard the above words from McKennitt's song. It was as if it were a message from dad. I am away from my father until I can find my way out of this inferno. But the stars, the stars, he had left for me to find my way to him, as God had left them for Dante to find his way out. It's not a metaphor in my case. The stars are what connect me to him, for in them I grasp the communion that remains with him now that he is dead and gone so far away. Try having a father so much like you, but who on paper bears to you no similarity. Try to come up with the reasons why he was given to you as your father, and the reasons not to believe that he is gone, never to return, never to remember you, even as you cannot forget him.
And then there are the stars that never seem to fade away. They will remain almost utterly unchanged in the night sky ten thousand years after I am gone. Some day my sons too will be asking the questions about me that I have asked about my father. Will I have hung there for them in the night sky the very stars hung there for me by my father?
A photograph now hangs on the wall of my office of a man I never met, my paternal grandfather. My children were blessed to have known all of their grandparents well. I knew all of mine but this man, Vincent Kerr. Tragedy touches the whole life of man, but it is not undignified. It is wonderful! For I am a creature made to hear of his father's love in the light of the stars, stars that will remain there long after I have finished needing them. And the day will come, ten-thousand, thousand years hence, when I will gather with my father and my father's father to gaze upon the stars altogether.
Dr. Stephen Roy Kerr (pictured here with my older brother, Kevin), Nov. 15, 1939 - Sept. 27, 2008