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The Wandering Wizard

And a Little Bridge.

By Leeza CooperPublished 11 months ago 17 min read
Photography Pinterest; Mari Borlund, Leeza Cooper, using Videoleap.

My father wasn’t the archetype of a father in any way. Being a father was the last thing on his mind and his life’s purpose and mission.

Instead, he was my spiritual guide, my mentor and my guru and for that I was, and will remain, forever in his debt.

Through your blessing, grace, and guidance, through the power of the light that streams from you; May all my negative karma, destructive emotions, obscurities and blockages be purified and removed; May I know myself forgiven for all the harm I may have thought and done; May I accomplish this profound practice of phowa, and die a good and peaceful death. And through the triumph of my death, may I be able to benefit all other beings, living or dead.

As my father took his last breath, I held his spirit close to mine and then I closed his little Buddhist prayer book for the last time. Despite the fact that, as he lay in his hospital bed and he couldn't move, could no longer see me, could no longer speak to me and tell me how much he loved me, we were still as close as ever.

I knew my father could hear my voice; he always heard me even if we weren't in the same room, or the same town; but now the palliative doctors had assured me he couldn't; and as I read to him the Tibetan Dying Prayer, the most well-known of Buddhist prayers, I remember hearing the sound his last breath as he exhaled with the living air within him, not a tiny whimper emanated which, those who believe, is often the last voice of the dying.

There was no sound of breath after that, just the quietness of his hospital room, my own breath, and the usual bustling in the hospital corridors. It is widely recognised amongst palliative care nurses and spiritual believers that the spirit and soul of a person rears its face tenfold at the time of death. Whatever that person's traits or behaviours and intimate thoughts and feelings about themselves and others, they come to the forefront in an exaggerated and amplified obvious way. If they held any grievances or regrets, this is when we see it at its rawest, warts and all. What my father did was shed one solitary tear and wrap me in the warmest hug I have ever felt.

Now why would I want to write such a morbid story for the world to read; for what reason and importance should I, or you, share this Vocal challenge about our fathers? What do we all really care about involving each other's journey or intimate relationships? In a world full of fast paced materialism and instant gratification, if we aren't hooked immediately by the first words in front of us on a piece of paper or a tablet or even personally, we turn our heads and move on, looking for the next hit.

Of course it goes without saying that we are well within our rights to do such a thing, life is too short already and we must be discerning about where our attention and energy goes. And then there is energy, more specifically others energy and whether it enhances our lives, gives us joy or distracts and exhausts us. True, they are only just words we are reading but words are very powerful. The words we write or speak to others can leave a huge impact and create a lasting memory - either good or bad.

“Words are seeds that do more than blow around, it's up to each and every one of us to spread them about wisely and fairly, it's up to humanity as a whole to water them and cultivate them for harvest so we can all reap the rewards”. ~mpowerusleeza~

To what value does sharing the words of our intimate stories help us in our own lives?

And this is where the real verifiable beauty lies. Whether we realize it or not consciously or subconsciously, stories about humanity help us grow and evolve. They teach us how to behave or not behave through others' experiences. They offer us validation about cause and effect and the truth that our fathers come in a vast range of figures and energies, shapes and sizes, missions and positions, some good, some ok and some not so good, and some downright ugly and horrible.

How we choose to perceive or label a father to be is also directly linked to our own sense of self and personality and life mission. We can choose to remember a father’s inadequacies or faults and shortcomings or we can rise above our own importance and ego and see our fathers as a spirit, his own man, his own fragment of stardust and cut him some slack, or rejoice in the light of his divine energy and purpose.

No father is really perfect, none of us is perfect either, that's the beauty of self-discovery and the evolution of man- and womankind. No, what really matters is how we navigate the seeds we grew from and how we water our family’s history into our future.

It is with this understanding of the cosmos that I choose to celebrate my beloved father Martin and acknowledge my other father Jan, my mother’s long term boyfriend “who could quite possibly be my biological father” without criticism or negativity; after all I chose both of them spiritually for my human experience and I must trust that decision, for my life and evolution depends on it.

Martin Cooper; a rare picture of him in a suit.

My father Martin was a strong man well over six feet, he was handsome, rugged and tough from working on the land all his life. Despite his English upbringing as a child growing up in London he found his real home to be surrounded by the Australian bush, its heat and tribal people. There was nothing he couldn't do, craft or fix physically. At the end of a long day's work, he still found time to play in the yard or go exploring with me. He would build me the coolest go-karts and amazing tree houses, and he would teach me all about the birds, and yes even the bees.

We were two peas in a pod, two kindred spirits navigating our human experiences without the separation of strict father/daughter rules or your typical overprotective helicopter parental control. I was envied by my friends at school for having such a hands on, open minded, alternative, spiritually and musically creative father. Both my parents were unique and exuded a sense of carefree wonder and spirit; to me they were completely normal, with quirks.

I remember vividly my father reading Shakespeare and Macbeth, his long beard blowing in the wind and his passion for our great artists was obvious to us all. He was a shy and unassuming man but he was unforgettable in his performances and recitals. We would dress up as a family and put on plays together and see how many lines we could each remember. When he was feeling serious he read American Indian tales and legends around the campfire to my fascinated friends. The Tibetan Book of the Dead was always a favorite and I still carry a book with me today.

Sitting on a tree stump with his tanned bare feet grounded deep into the earth he would open his well-worn spiritual books and teach us all about ancient customs and cultures and specifically about “phowa” which is a Buddhist meditation practice. It's what I would describe as the art of dying consciously and peacefully. My father believed western culture missed the beauty of death and for that belief alone I have immense respect for him. The amount of grace and faith my father possessed when he passed away left an everlasting impression on my soul. His passing over to the stars at the age of 73 delivered to me a meaning of unequivocal respect. My mother, his wife of 30 years, had died aged 46 when I was only 16. My parents ran away to Scotland from Dublin Ireland, my mother’s birth place when she was only 16 and my father 18 to get married. My parents were quite obviously revolutionary hippies even back then breaking all the rules and strictures society and laws imposed on them. They then boarded a ship to Australia as newlyweds and never looked back.

Eventually my one-year older sister and I happened along and depending on whose story I choose to believe my path could have been and continues to be vastly different from that of others.

For years I called my mother’s husband Father and her boyfriend John, nothing more, nothing less. As far as I was concerned I had chosen my father and he had chosen me and that was that. When he went his own way and I went my own way after my mother’s unexpected death, we never placed unrealistic expectations or demands on each other, that's the way we were, free spirited. We didn't live in each other's pockets; he went walkabout and I packed my own bags and took my own path alone. I knew my father had given me all the tools that I needed to survive in the world on my own despite only being 16 years old.

I always choose gratitude and love and thank my father for ‘seeing me” whilst he was on earth and for erasing any fears I should hold regarding death. He truly had a heart of gold and despite it being his heart that failed him through no fault of his own, he was and remains a survivor and thriver in my own heart. A small heart defect at birth went undetected, a faulty heart valve that had slowly worn out. His invasive and painful open-heart surgery was successful, sadly it was a blood clot that killed him after he had been discharged.The truth is, I remember things the way I wish to craft them, how I want to hold them and keep them warm.

As my father gently closed his eyes for the last time mine grew wider. My whole entire being was flooded with so much love and gratitude, appreciation, pride and awe for him. I couldn't help but feel the ethereal beauty of the moment. Beauty?... I hear you gasp at such a preposterous notion. Don’t get me wrong, I cried, I cried a lot, I wailed, my only living parent, the one I loved more than life was now dead; but I also smiled, and shockingly I laughed too. I cried for the loss of such a kind helpful human being, I wailed at the pain in my heart for losing his unique smell and hearing his warm soothing voice, for the loss of not being able to sit on his lap for a hug despite being a 42-year-old grown woman.

And yes I laughed from deep in my belly at my father’s predicting his final demise and telling me exactly what and what not to do for him with absolute clarity. He had planned it perfectly, his final bow and curtain call, he had timed his departure with his second love with such precision I couldn't argue with him or the universe. What a miracle, what an undeniable truth about where our thoughts and attention go our bodies follow. Barbara was the second love of his life. He had swooped in and rescued her and her little children from horrendous domestic violence. At first, they were just friends as he was quite a bit older, but eventually they realized the gift to each other and became a couple. My father was the type of father those kids needed. Barbara was a stepmother to me but not so much in nurturing and guiding as in friendship as I was well on my way to accomplishing my life dreams and goals despite being only 16.

I held my father’s hand tightly as the palliative care doctors withdrew his food and water supply. The odds of him regaining his mobility, voice or sight were next to nothing after his 6 weeks floating in and out in this state. I knew it was what he wanted and so I did my best to make the gut-wrenching call with all its weight of singular responsibility, and then I took a deep breath and focused on replenishing his soul with all the love in my being so he could take his final steps as a human entity over to Barbara’s hospital bedside and gently kiss her cheek. They died peacefully together that day, my father choosing his love of Barbara and wanting to escort her to the heavens after a short battle with cancer. They floated back to the stars on the fourth of December, the same day and month my mother had died.

My father was a humanitarian, a horse whisperer, a lover of nature and extremely passionate about injustices. He stood his ground on behalf of the abused and the beaten and the forgotten homeless in society. Go into any pub or post office in the little town of Spencer or on the Hawkesbury River or Byron Bay or Yamba, far north Queensland or out west near Molong or Dubbo and everyone would have heard about Marty the medicine man or shaman healer. Marty was smart and not just in the conventional textbook kind of way. He was awake in the ways of our human existence and purpose, he understood nature and the cosmos, what truly matters in life, and I just happened to be fortunate enough to be the starseed gifted to him.

Despite the fact that we both lived a lie as to my real paternity thanks to my polygamous mother, it made absolutely no difference to me or to him. I could have been the milkman’s or the postman’s daughter, for all we cared:the undeniable truth was that we were joined together in unbreakable bonds and stardust no matter what or who claimed otherwise.

I arrived on earth not needing a father or even a mother, what I needed was nothing, what I desired was everything that he gave me.

“Look Bridge, over there”.

Squinting through the canopy of darkness under the pine trees I could just make out the little rabbit hopping around in what looked like a farmer’s trap. The poor thing was attempting to free itself to no avail. Its neck was pinned down tightly by the metal wire that had snapped down on it and its life force was being slowly drained from of it. I would have been about 8 years old at the time and I remember how I felt, shocked and angry at the savageness of man.

All the memories of my father sit in the vast library of my mind, they may grow a little dust over the years, but they are still there waiting for me to pluck them off the shelf and bring them back to life.

Most weekends were spent with my father rather than my mother who was proper and immaculately groomed. I preferred the heat and dust and often travelled out west of Australia to wherever it was he had drifted too to catch up and spend quality time together. In the plains of dust and heat many creatures were deemed pests and the fact that others in high out-of-touch places had decided that certain animals needed eradicating was irrelevant to me and to my father.

Marty and Me.

There is no doubt in my mind now that that little rabbit was a metaphor for both of our lives.

We were both trapped in our own ways. My father by my mother’s unexpected non-negotiable lifestyle choices, and me by the way in which I processed what life should have been like for my father and me, and yet it wasn't. Somehow, we had both been ripped off and we knew it.

If my father was sad, I was sad....if he was happy I was happy and visa versa. It didn't take me long to learn very early on what constituted my own morals, ethics, values and importance thanks to my beautiful hypercritical mother. How shocking, a daughter speaking negatively about her own mother!

My mother Dotti, me and My Father Marty and sister Sophia.

Before you judge me too harshly, let me quickly add that I loved my mother, I just didn't always love how my mother behaved, there's a huge difference. I respected her position as my mother, but I did not entertain that idiom very often. My mother was an extremely elegant and stylish dress designer. She sang and danced the night away in some fancy club wearing her favorite white rabbit fur coat, while I was busy trying to save the very thing adorning her body.

To me every creature great and small held immense value and purpose. I carried the little white foot of that rabbit with me everywhere, even to school. It was my good luck charm, it reminded me to watch where I trod, and it kept me linked to my father no matter where he roamed, and that is what my father did, he roamed and he roamed a lot.

Now this narrative isn't about me or my mother; she had enough of the stage when she was alive. This story is about the man who was left behind in the wings, the husband who endured tremendous heartache and pain in his lifetime at her expense, but he managed to transform it into something wonderful and magical for me and everyone that knew him.

My father left a wonderful blueprint and a legacy on which I could build my own life.

What my father taught me and others about life and death and everything in between could never be found in a textbook or a university lecture. His way of living free as a bird, unencumbered by society’s restraints and rules, strictures and orders was so profound he was called the wizard by everyone who knew him or knew of him. My father was a hero but not in the conventional sense that your average person would label him, that would have been too basic and pedestrian for him.

My father Marty was more of a powerful white energy than a person. He was larger than life despite being reserved and quiet. He was an extremely powerful spirit with his piercing green and yellow eyes. It was his eyes that communicated with you, not his mouth. Even after his death I can still feel his presence through certain mediums such as birds and feathers.

My school days were spent waiting to see who would turn up after school to pick me up. I used to hold the feathers that I had collected and manifest that day and wait, sometimes for hours. It was the seventies, the pivotal of moment of societal change, the world and its economic upheavals and post war economic boom had shown its face. Technology and scientific advances were ripping their way through society and influencing the way in which families should live and behave.

Parents back then were much different to the helicopter parents of today. Sometimes it would be my father who showed up, my mother or my stepdad, or the gardener, or farm hand, or sometimes no one turned up at all. I learned very early, how to take care of myself and sometimes I ran home even if it was an hour away, or I talked my way onto a bus for free, or hitched a ride with another school child and parent, no worries at all.

If it was my father that turned up, I knew that a wonderful new adventure was about to happen. School was important to my father but not so important that it overtook my common sense and destroyed my spontaneous spirit for adventure.

My Father Marty, my sister and I on a spontaneous outback adventure.

“Wow she's big, dad”!

After arriving at my father’s acreage property, I was shocked to see a gigantic catamaran sitting in the middle of a field, and when I say big, I mean gigantic; it towered over a nearby tractor and even the shed close to it paled into insignificance. I would have been 14 at the time I discovered that my father and a few of his mates had built it with their bare hands over the course of a few years. It was a magnificent piece of art.

The fact that my father had paid for me to attend catamaran sailing classes at Tamarama on Sydney’s coast during my summer holidays now made perfect sense. I loved sailing with my father, up and down the rivers and often with no plan or map. Together we sailed up the coast of Australia right up to the Sunshine Coast and up to the tip of Cape York.

My father was a landscape gardener and organic vegetable farmer by trade. He was also a real broncobuster, but not your typical cowboy; he was more reminiscent of an Indian chief. With long, long blond hair with shards of white grey hanging down the length of his back swept neatly back into a ponytail most of the time. He had a long but manicured beard, moustache and tanned skin. My dad was cool in an old-world spiritual way. It was his teachings and introduction to other cultures and ways of being that enabled me to survive on my own when he went walkabout at different times throughout my childhood, and finally when he passed away.

I remember late one night he arrived with a little black Arabian stallion for me. The dear little thing had travelled hundreds of kilometres to our farm and he was scared stiff, and despite my mother’s objections my father calmed it and within an hour he had me on its back. I broke that horse in with my father, to this day I haven't forgotten the joy I felt inside my whole being. Of course, I was thrown off a few times, but I just got up and got back on until he became the best horse I ever had.

Me and my yearling Silver Shadow. Pictures of my father and I are few, sadly I lost them all in a house fire. This one was salvaged, just.

When my parents separated when I was 13, I had to sell him and move from The Farm. That was its name. We owned and lived on a large organic vegetable farm in northwest Sydney. I supported my mother’s decision to leave but from then on my father moved away and kept traveling, going from town to town, state to state, and I followed him as often as I could. Whether he was living in the Daintree rain forest on the river in far north Queensland with the crocodiles, or in a monastery full of monks in the New South Wales bush or the Hari Krishna on Wiseman’s Ferry River, or a log cabin he had built in the Snowy Mountains or the best house of all....his historical haunted home on the Hawkesbury River only accessible by boat.

The Gentleman's Halt, my fathers house on the Hawkesbury River, NSW.

My father wasn't just a father to me, he was a father to humanity. His paper trail is the feathers that fall at my feet when I think of him. His legacy is infinite.

Photograph by Me ~mpowerusleeza~

And that is where his circle of life found itself, floating in my heart and the hearts of those he touched. His ashes floated peacefully and proudly out to sea in a hand carved wooden canoe off the coast of Byron Bay. And despite the fact it wasn't me who was able to set his boat out into the sunset made no difference to the sacredness of his life or my wishing him well on his future journey.

The truth is that death is not the end of anything, it's only the return of the soul to the stars, back to home.

"We are more alive when we are dead than when we are alive"

~Marty Cooper~

RIP; Keep on shining brightly father, I love you to the stars and back.

From your "Little Bridge" over troubled waters and connector to the heavens.

By Leeza Bridget Cooper.

My memoir is available through my Bookshelf



About the Creator

Leeza Cooper

Leeza Cooper, a devotee, artiste, creator of published literature & poetry; Studied Degree CU, founder/president of Wheels & Dolls SMC; raising funds for DV, lover of travel, nostalgia & anything vintage.

Ms Australia International 2023.

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  • David Milstein11 months ago

    Wow so much life in such a short time. So much family history that was brave and I bet hard to share so deeply with us. Thank you Leeza and hope it feels good letting it all out.

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