Ivan Flaschner, 1942 – 2008

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My dad died suddenly and unexpectedly this past Thursday. This is the eulogy I delivered yesterday.

I always knew that I if I lived long enough, the day would come that I’d stand up here to give my father’s eulogy. When I was younger, this thought scared me deeply, and would literally keep me up at night. What would I say? How could I honour, celebrate, and summarize the vastness of this man’s life in just five minutes?

When I sat down to start writing this last night, hundreds of stories started to pour out. So many memories, so many ways to approach this talk. I thought I’d pick a few stories to share, but looking at my notes, I realized that there were two very clear themes running through all the memories. These themes tie the myriad facets of my dad’s personality together. They drove him, and shaped him into the son, husband, father, grandfather, friend and colleague we all knew.

Take my dad, and peel away the details of any situation, and what you find are passion and love. Passion and love were the only things that mattered to my dad. Getting him to do something he wasn’t passionate about was tough. I’m sure we all have stories to illustrate this point. Luckily, he was passionate about everything. My dad was crazy about:

  • skiing
  • biking
  • hiking
  • driving
  • eating
  • drinking
  • music
  • reading
  • movies
  • traveling
  • politics – he’d be so upset he’s going to miss the outcome of the US elections
  • sailing
  • partying
  • but most of all he was passionate about his family

I can’t honestly think of anything that my dad would not do for his family. When he did something for us, it was with complete openness, with no strings attached. He took us places, he opened our eyes, and showed us how to live. When we needed help, he was there before we asked, and so long as we were following our passions, he never judged.

One of the things my Dad loved most was to share his passions with others. He took us to all the places he loved, and taught us to love them too. His own enjoyment was magnified by seeing others get a kick out of something he discovered. As a kid, I often resisted, getting annoyed as he read every single sign we passed on a 12 hour drive. The irony of course is that I now do exactly the same thing.

The desire to share his passion is a bit of a running joke within the family. It wasn’t enough for him to enjoy a movie. We ALL had to enjoy it too. I’m sure if he had his way, he’d want us all to get together after the service to watch Love Actually and Pulp Fiction.

My dad was the unlikeliest fan of cheesy hollywood romantic comedies. I never really understood why, but in the context of passion and love it makes sense. He was passionate about love. His capacity to feel and to give love were limitless.

If I could ask my dad “what do you regret about dying?” I know exactly what he’d say. He’d say “My life was perfect and there’s nothing I’d change, but I sure would have liked to have some more time to spend with Judy and the kids”.

In my own nearly 40 years, I’ve never known two people as in love as my parents. I don’t know how my mom is going to make it through life without my dad, but I know she loves him so much she’ll do it for him.

My dad’s greatest legacy is that he taught my brother and me how to be husbands and fathers. Our kids will always have the huge advantage of coming from a foundation of love and respect. My dad taught us how to love, and the best way that I can honour his memory is to love my wife and my children with the same ferocious passion and enthusiasm he held.

Listen, I’m very happy for my dad. He was in a very good place. He made the most of his life, and I think he knew how much he was loved. He certainly knew how lucky he was. I sure wish he’d stuck around for a while longer, but like anyone who’s the master at his game, he exited the playing field at his peak.

I know my dad, and I know he’d be tickled and more than just a little embarrassed at the fuss we’re all making here today. He’d honour the ceremony, but he’d be in a hurry to take off his tie and join the party.

So it’s in this spirit that I ask what can we learn from all of this? What nugget of good can we take from this tragedy?

  • we can remember how much we are loved
  • we can follow our hearts to the most unlikely of places
  • we can love each other with the same kind of “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” zeal that my dad showed us is possible
  • we can celebrate with abandon, as often as possible.

I do want to leave you with one very short story, that for me, sums up my dad. This summer, Krista and I had a party for about 50 friends. My parents were there, and it was perfect. There was no inter-generation awkwardness, no “I haven’t met you before” timidness. My folks were just there, being the absolute life of the party. One friend told me she’s marry me in a heartbeat, just to get my parents. My dad was the heart and soul of the party and EVERYONE loved him. In the end, I had to go to bed long before he and mom called it a night. And that’s the way I’ll always remember him.

10 thoughts on “Ivan Flaschner, 1942 – 2008”

  1. We heard about your father this morning……we are so so sorry and our thoughts are with you and your family….you have written a beautiful tribute to him….take care…..

  2. Highland scotch. The incredible pleasure your father brought to the table as he presented me with my first taste of this liquor was symbolic of that passion that I had the greatest pleasure of sampling firsthand from your father. His genuine caring, warmth and generosity will always stand as a benchmark for me.

    We should all be remembered this way…

    Beautiful eulogy, Peter.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this, Peter. It puts such meaning into a time that must be very tough for you and your family, and then reminds the rest of us to hug ours a little tighter and remember those we miss in our own lives.

    Carol, Liam and I will all be keeping a good thought for all of your family. Your father has been remembered well — and leaves the most important legacy: your family’s strength and love.

  4. We were so fortunate to spend a truly great weekend with Ivan & Judy during their September 5th -7th visit to NY.

    We did so many memorable things in the short,busy weekend, but mostly enjoyed seeing one another again, and spending time together.
    Although we didn’t see each other nearly enough over the last 40+ years, every time we were together, it was as if we were never apart.

    Your eulogy is a fine tribute to a remarkable man!

    He will always be in our hearts!

  5. Thanks everyone. Your support here, on twitter, via email and by phone has been truly heartfelt. I’m honoured to know so many truly kind souls.

    We’re all alternating between hurting very badly and feeling nothing at all. Shock is a useful mechanism. I’ve never been so completely drained.

    And still, there’s the warmth of sharing good memories, of connecting with people we haven’t seen in years, and seeing just how much my dad was loved…

    I’m going to be utterly comatose for a day or so.

  6. Peter and family,
    Thank you so much for sharing this remarkable eulogy about a remarkable man with a remarkable family. Although we rarely see the Torontonians, we Floridians keep up with you guys through Phyllis and Harrianne. We share your shock and you sorrow, and at the same time, feel truly fortunate to be part of such a wonderful family.

  7. we are so saddened by Ivan’s being called far, far too early. We love Judy and you “boys” and the grandkids so much we simply can’t express the depth of our sadness and sympathy Please carry on the way you know Ivan and Judy would wish

  8. Peter, first my heartfelt support, love and prayers. The post helps us all remember the values we were taught and the support we received from our own parents. So, know this, your dad, who I did not know at all, has touched me, thousands of miles away…and, so have you! Your friend, Donald

  9. Dear Peter:

    Not sure why I thought about your Dad today, but I did and thought I would google him. Needless to say, I was shocked to see that your Dad passed away in September. I worked for your Dad when he first started his law practice at Bloor and Spadina (1974) and then later at Kipling Medical Labs. Your Dad was a great Boss and a great friend. Although we didn’t keep in touch over the years, I have always had very fond memories of the time I worked with your Dad.

    My deepest condolences to you, Judy and your family.

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