The Lighthouse

A Celebration of the Life of

When I was in fourth grade my class spent a month learning about lighthouses. I became totally fascinated by lighthouses — enthralled by their role as beacons, warning of treacherous waters, and as coastal chaperones, guiding sailors into safe harbors.

My dad always took an interest in my interests, doing everything he could to cultivate and nurture my passions. He took me to nearly every lighthouse within 100 miles. Together we admiringly circled each statuesque lamp, gazing upward, imagining how it illuminated obsidian night skies.

My interest in lighthouses dwindled when my fourth grade class moved on to California Missions; my dad, however, didn’t immediately catch on.

One of my dad’s standard Christmas gifts every year was a calendar for each of us kids, which he’d buy at a kiosk in the the mall by the T.V. station (I know this because it was tradition for us to go holiday shopping together, and he’d always head straight for the calendar kiosk, telling me to look away, as if what he was doing was any secret. Still, I played along.). For Graham, he’d usually choose an Elvis Presley calendar, for Britta a horse calendar, and for me…a lighthouse calendar.

I received a lighthouse calendar that year when I’d been so fascinated by them…and also the next year…..and the next…………..and the next. This continued for 5 or 6 Christmases until I finally got the nerve to tell my dad that my interest in lighthouses was, for the most part, isolated to one month in 1998. We both belly-laughed.

The following year for Christmas I received a lighthouse calendar. As I unwrapped it disappointedly, I looked up to scold him for not remembering the conversation we’d had one year earlier…only to see him giggling like a merry prankster, so impressed with his lighthouse calendar joke. And, even though I was a teenager who was not amused by anything, I laughed too.

I received a lighthouse calendar nearly every year after that. And though my amusement eventually wore off, my dad’s chuckles never lost an iota of enthusiasm as he watched me open a lighthouse calendar on Christmas Day for 10+ years.

It was only recently, when I stumbled on a lighthouse calendar in the grocery store, that I started thinking about lighthouses again.  I thought about their resolute elegance, their significance, and their near-extinction with the invention of GPS. I missed them. I missed him. I gazed nostalgically in realization that my dad was my lighthouse.

My dad was my beacon, illuminating my course, guiding me and encouraging me to keep moving no matter how unnerving and murky the night was, no matter how treacherous my course. When my dad became ill, I was heartsick with the thought of navigating the seas alone, without my lighthouse. I knew I could live without him, but I didn’t want to. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my choice to make.

So, there I stood in the grocery store aisle, staring, contemplating, thinking that, like lighthouses, calendars had all but become extinct in the age of technology. Like most people, I never use an actual, physical calendar anymore, and I didn’t need this lighthouse calendar. Even though I knew I could live without it, I didn’t want to. This time, it was my choice.





38 thoughts on “The Lighthouse

  1. Pingback: The Lighthouse — Hannah Jane Nancarrow | The Nancarrow Project

  2. That’s a beautiful memory you have of your father Hannah. A memory of a lifetime. It’s still difficult for me to realize that Loren is gone BUT never forgotten. Thanks for sharing this lovely personal story!

  3. I like this post & your precious memories a lot. I’ve always had a thing about lighthouses – have chosen a few of those calendars myself 😉 😉

  4. I know Patents often say that the worst thing they can imagine would be outliving their child. But losing a parent like your dad was, must be heart wrenching. I think of him and your family often.
    –Elly Dotseth

  5. Love and miss your father. Thank you for this flashback to his unique way of looking at life.
    You have the same gift, Hannah. I really enjoy your storytelling.
    Thank you for keeping in touch.

  6. Hannah…your beautiful stories always make me cry! I believe it’s because you and I share some of the same heart aches. Like you, I was extremely close to my father. He was my lighthouse. I didn’t think of him that way until I read your post! He passed away 10 years ago but it seems like yesterday! I keep thinking and hoping the hole in my heart would fade away but it’s always there, he’s always there. I was fortunate enough to have him guiding me and helping me through some of my most foggy days! What has helped me get through the cloudy May gray days is knowing and believing that I will see his face again. My faith is strong and God has promised us that” to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”. The day my father passed away Un expectantly he had a bible in his car. He too believed in eternal life. Just know that you too will see your father again if you just BELIEVE. Love you !! Sofia

  7. All I have to say to this, is your Father had a BEAUTIFUL daughter and I am sure that he always felt, very blessed. Your Father was your light and always will be. Amazing

  8. oh wow made me cry~ Lost my dad in March 2014 from a brain tumor as well. He too was my lighthouse, my guiding light, my go to guy. It has been a tough two years. I have more good days than bad now. But oh how I miss him and his guidance. Even at 55 I still need my dad and his words of wisdom. Its been awhile since I’ve had a good cry. Thanks for sharing this story. We were both blessed with wonderful dad’s and wonderful memories. Hugs to you Hannah!

  9. Your dad would be so thrilled that with your words, you’ve become a lighthouse. Thank you for this lovely post.

  10. Such a sweet story! I have always loved lighthouse. I think of your Dad often, especially in Spring. 🌿

  11. We never know what seemingly small event will make such a deep impression on our lives, so we must be ready for anything. I can see him laughing still. Now, breathe a deep sigh and continue on your journey.

  12. Is there a better metaphor that the lighthouse? I don’t think so unless it’s one I heard while your Dad and I were talking to an iconoclastic surfer at a furniture store in Solana Beach about 8 or 9 years ago. We three guys were trying to hide from our mates who seemingly wanted to engage us in furniture talk and possible acquisitions and we weren’t into it. It was classic avoidance behavior and the conversation got around to being a martyr. Your Dad and I, playing the elder statesmen we thought we were, had just told much younger Surfing Guy, (who had just moved in with his girl in Leucadia and needed furniture — just not this “bloated stuff”) that he probably needed to just take one for the team and be a martyr. So surfer guy gets this Yoda look on his face and says and I quote, being a martyr is a lot like peeing in a wetsuit. At first no one knows you’re doing it and it feel nice and warm — but then, it cools down and you begin to chafe … and stink.

    So your Dad and I thought this was about as wise and funny as anything we’d heard for weeks or months and started laughing hysterically and this prompted stink eye from our partners. It was a moment I’ll never forget. It was just a spontaneous moment of pure bliss and I got to share it with someone I’d admired from afar for so many years. Life is rarely better than it was in that magic moment.

    Truly your father was a lot of people’s lighthouse – I still use the “Dead Snails” gardening book he wrote and I’ll always remember how generous he was to share his final journey and how to do it with love and grace with us through his writing thus showing us the way as someday we’ll be there too. What a gift.

    And just to add my amen, Hannah … you have a tremendous gift and it’s been an honor and really a thrill to “watch” as your voice has become so distinct and clear and evocative and your facility with telling a story has gone from good to great. And in that way you too are a lighthouse now. Thank your so much for shining and sharing.

  13. I believe that because of the years you had with your dad and the things you learned from him, he is still your lighthouse. He planted a beam of light in you that will continue to guide you even though he is no longer here physically.

  14. Hannah,

    It has been nearly 8 years since I too, lost my “Lighthouse”. It doesn’t get any easier to navigate but the sweet memories do make it more bearable. If you want an amazing lighthouse picture, there is one that is pretty amazing at Family Bible Bookstore and it depicts a lighthouse with a 20 foot+ wave coming down on it and the bike leaning against the wall untouched by water. That is how I saw my Dad. Protecting me and taking on life’s challenges to keep me safe and dry. I believe that is what we do as parents. Thank you for sharing this, it just proves that your Dad’s legacy lives on. Blessings! Jill

  15. Dearest Hannah,

    I’ve been a subscriber to your blog for a few years, I just wanted to tell you that you always bring tears to my eyes with your stories of your father. I lost my dad about 4 years ago, and just like you so beautifully put it, He was my “Lighthouse”. Thank you for sharing your memories with me, I am sure that your father is still watching over you, as mine will always be for me. I will never get over losing my own, but he guided me well enough to carry on from here. I thank you for putting into words what I never really realized he was to me. I loved your father, his smile, his gardening tips, just everything about him, and you are a shining example of his goodness and strength. All my love.

    Lorrie Willis

  16. You write so beautifully. I can feel your words and they are always touching. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m so happy you have such wonderful memories of him.

  17. I love the memories you share. I visualize and feel what you write. You are a very gifted writer. Your father was such an amazing man. As a community, we have lost such a treasure. I often get tears in my eyes when I read these memories. I lost my father to cancer almost 14 years ago. It is painful, it hurts. Time does not heal wounds. You just get used to life without them. I miss him always. I am learning to celebrate his life and the time we had him. Thank you, this was beautiful 💞

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