A week ago, my father, Bruce Bellamy, died at the age of 82. I am so thankful that he died in the arms of my sister, who has been his primary caregiver for the past two years and with whom he was very close. While I am sad to lose my father, an interesting thing has been happening. Quite unexpectedly, I began receiving emails from long lost cousins, family friends and mere acquaintances—kindly sharing their memories of my father. Suddenly, I am getting a picture of a man who was so different from the flamboyant and disconnected Dad that I experienced most of my life.
I have learned that he was the most admired uncle in a large family of uncles. As the youngest, he had a lightning fast wit and an irreverent sense of humor that younger family members relished. He was a magnificent entertainer—always the life of the party with his guitar or piano or harmonica—laughing, singing and repeating unrepeatable limericks. I knew this about him and spent many an evening tucked behind the curtain in some dusty theater waiting for the ‘fun’ to stop so I could go home to bed. What I didn’t know is that friends and family alike turned to my Dad for advice, compassion and a willingness to listen, no matter the issue. I have recently heard him described as having a ‘fierce intellect,’ a wit matched only by his ‘calm reason’ and a trusted coach who would go to his grave with anyone’s secret…and apparently he did. So, it is with great humility that I admit to you all, after years of pleading with anyone who would listen about the importance of capturing legacy, that I missed the magic of a legacy that bloomed around me.I will be gathering with my family this summer to celebrate my father’s life and as I raise my glass to toast his memory, I will be thinking of both the man I knew, and the man that I will never know. This is a powerful reminder that even when we think we understand legacy, there is so much more to learn.