A Door For My Dad…and a Small Confession

This past September, long before I’d seen The Gnomist film (and quite a while after my bits of filming in it) and with the anniversary of my father’s death approaching (followed by what would’ve been his 70th birthday 20 days later), I distinctly didn’t want to be sad. I needed hip revision surgery, but that took two trips out of town to even get sorted out anyway, so I put on my brace and started walking the path again. Joyfully. I didn’t want to be sad, I wanted to live life as a celebration, celebrating a man who died too young, not letting myself get down about it. I wanted the joy of the Firefly Forest, the hope, the discoveries, the happiness, which I find without doors or houses already, but there was quite a bit more of it when there were doors and houses, as readers here well know!

My Dad died in 2003 of a brain stem glioblastoma, a very aggressive form of brain cancer, which took his life within 7 months of diagnosis. He died at home, at the top of the the ridge to the trail itself.  My Dad never really acknowledged or allowed us to talk about the fact that he was dying, and it was very fast. Glioblastomas are merciless, brutal killers. One moment stood out to me. He had never read J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but had fallen in love with the films. The first two, that is….the final installment was to come out that December…he would never get to see it, never get to learn the ending. One day, already paralyzed by the tumor, he asked me how the epic story ended, worried about his favorite characters, wondering what would happen, and wanted me to tell him everything. So I did. He smiled, he was content. That was the closest to saying goodbye we really ever did. A scene in the final film always brings tears to my eyes, as the character Gandalf describes death to the Hobbit Pippin in a beautiful way, “Death is just another path, one that we all must take….”. 

This was a man who, without a diagnosis but with increasing double vision, joined a gym because he was starting to stumble on his morning jogs…he could hold onto a treadmill, you see. He had his glasses fitted so that he could still drive to work, he kept fighting right to the diagnosis, fought some more, then accepted his fate. Then, in the ultimate bravery, was able to face the news that the tumor would eventually cut off either his respiratory system or heart and he would die; he faced this without fear, and took care of us all, even from his hospice bed. All the age of 57, working for Hallmark in a state far from home for us.

Realizing that he would have turned 70 this September, I wanted to do something to memorialize him, give him a space, closest to where he left his mortal  life. I took to the trail, and I suddenly knew what to do. I must add, I’d not seen The Gnomist at that point, I didn’t know if I’d ever see it with hip surgery looming, to me the magic had mainly just gone. I wanted to bring some of it back for everyone, for those who missed it, those who still needed hope, those who, like me, didn’t want to face the world with sadness, but with hope and laughter, like my Dad had. I wrote some messages on rocks that first day, one I later found in the purple door someone else had built, that read “The Magic Never Left!”, but I also took measurements at a tree Robyn had used briefly, but abandoned after the door was taken too many times. I turned, briefly, from The Watcher to the builder.

Across the street and down the hill from where my father passed away, this tree became a space for him….and for anyone. For everyone. I decorated it with harvest materials at first, waiting to add something else I had made for his door, waiting to add his initial. I wanted it to seem like just anything, wanted people (as more activity picked up in the woods of this type) to just think it was just another door, something to peek inside of, something I’d have to make it to, even on days my hip said no, to replace my little bottles with messages of hope, love, heal, smile and share.


I felt actually quite terrible when I posted it here, as I was posting new pieces of Forest Art as I found them, as I don’t post what I made–but I never meant to make anything! I just kind of….did. My head was in my hands, I had broken my code! I didn’t want recognition for it here, I didn’t want to blog anything I’d made just to fade into the background with the purple door someone else made, but as time wore on, I wanted to finally tell the story not of what I did, but of my Dad. Because no one else was going to. For all those who remember him, they remember him well. They love him still. He was a remarkable man, and deserves a memorial far surpassing my second rate door making skills, but this was, in that moment, what I was able to do, and I do hope it cheered some up on their bike rides, walks and runs, as they passed by, or even looked inside.

Right before surgery, I finally added the initials I had meant to from the beginning, on the door a “G” for George. On a little pot inside, I added one of Tolkien’s runes for the character Gandalf, also standing in for “G”. Then I added something else, a box I had made with a line from Tolkien’s poem concerning the character Aragorn, my Dad’s favorite character, painted onto it:

“Not all those who wander are lost”.

(“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.” )


I have friends and neighbors watching over my Dad’s door now, while I recover, but I posted this story in brief in a beloved Tolkien group I am in, and finally decided to add the story to this blog here. The Firefly Forest, my beloved Dad, a dash of Tolkien (the master of woodland magic!) and a tie we had together, the space closest to where he died….the woods where he ran….I wanted to make it happen, and please excuse me for telling the tale before going back to being The Watcher once more.

And please remember that that door has a story, too, as do all that others have put up, everyone and everything has a tale to be told. George’s Door. I’m no great carpenter, I broke a neighbor’s bandsaw just trying to make this. I have a bum leg for now, and am no artist as Robyn was, but I did what I could for my Dad. For George, for others to be able to see and ponder for a moment who the “G” stands for.

Finally, I just told the tale here. As The Watcher, I hope to bring many more of these stories out and post them here, this is just the only one (perhaps) I could tell myself.

And, I Still Miss You, Dad. I hope you got to see those white shores, and beyond, a far green country…..maybe I will someday see you there.



6 thoughts on “A Door For My Dad…and a Small Confession

  1. Thank you for sharing this with us, the Watchers from Afar. I will likely never be able to visit the Firefly Forest but because you have shared your story and your Father’s door with us, we can enjoy it along with others that will actually visit it.

    • Thanks for reading! As the stars left when the old project was taken down read, “Create your own magic”! I’m glad there are other Watchers out there, please send anything you find it enjoy where you are my way, I’m interested also in watching from afar, and sharing it with the world! Keep the magic alive!

  2. A friend just sent me the YouTube video of the Firefly Forest. You and your sons have brought a tremendous amount of joy into the hearts of everyone who sees this video.
    You and your family are in my prayers during this holiday season.
    My parents divorced when I was in the 3rd grade. It’s a very difficult time for children and spouses.
    My mother and father died in 2008 ten months apart. One of the last things my mom said to me on Feb 14, 2008 was “I will always be with you, call upon me & I will be there. I’m as close as the air you breathe.” When she spoke these words to me, I was looking in her eyes and I knew that she was certain of what she was saying.
    The following Mother’s Day, I was with other family members on a picnic. I walked down a trail and a red cardinal flew in front of me, led me down the trail & I felt my mother’s presence. I’ve had many experiences with cardinals since 2008 and every time, I feel the presence of my parents and our Creator.
    I planted a garden in memory of mom & dad a few years ago. God helps me see the areas of my life that need changing and he helps me to heal in that memory garden. There is no time for regret, resentment or fear. There is only time for love, hope and healing in my life today. What I’ve come to realize is exactly what mom said. The love we share, the lessons we learn, the acts of kindness & love live on forever in us.
    The difficult times you and your sons have gone through have brought healing, forgiveness and love to thousands of people around the world.
    God bless you all.
    Thank you for your acts of kindness and love.
    You made a difference in my life!

    • Oh, I’m not Robyn, the woman in the film, I was the one blogging about it in the film. I’m sure she’d enjoy your comment but have no way to get it to her! I believe she has started a site herself, I just made this on my own after continuing to blog the other efforts people were still doing here after she left, and after blogging what she had done. Look for her site at the Facebook page for The Gnomist film, I believe it is there linked.

      She left stars, see post below, asking, “What will you create?” And “create your own magic”, so I did a little part, along with many others out here, the above post is just the story behind the door I built this year. Please leave these kind words at the film’s page or website just so they can be seen by the woman you’re addressing, in case she doesn’t look here. I’d hate for her to miss your thank you!

      • Thank you so much. The firefly forest is a beautiful place. My friends were very touched by the video. I see the non profit foundation that was formed. I will go on Facebook too.
        Merry Christmas and God bless you.

      • I’m so happy you enjoy it! Stick around and see updates, check out the Flickr of other views of it I added as well. Wonderful work by the Fisher family for brain cancer research, which you can now I’ve been impacted by and is a cause close to my heart. I believe the facebook page linked a site Robyn has started, but I’ve been out of state for more surgery and have been out of the loop. I did see right before or after surgery that she has started making replica doors and selling them, but a hazy memory right now. I think that was on the Facebook Gnomist page.

        I only added this post after much urging from quite a few people, and will miss being able to get to this place these next few months. Making doors is quite fun, actually! It wasn’t as difficult as I expected, mainly difficult to get to with a bum hip! Making one for my Dad, right by where he died especially, was special on so many levels. He deserved a place there, and that’s where we used to get to the trail from his house, he loved these woods very much and would’ve loved all the Firefly Forest project!

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