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For My Dad

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Hi, I'm JOHN.


"My greatest hope is that every photograph I take is even more valuable tomorrow than it is today"

Today – Thursday, April 4th would have been my Dad’s 82nd birthday.

This is his first birthday without him.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been asked for a copy of the eulogy that I read at my Dad’s celebration of life back in January. As I work through my own grief and adjusting to this new reality – I thought I would just post it here for everyone – and then add a few of photos throughout.

Even though Dad was an actor and director; I was never on stage in front of him (other than “Roundup on the Moon” – the school play in Grade  8). So this was pretty much the first time. I hope that I did it justice…

Happy birthday Pops…


It’s showtime…

To Thine Own Self Be True

Windsor Wedding Photographers 1“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

The essence of this phrase is for all of us to be honest and true to oneself, to maintain personal integrity and authenticity.
It suggests that by staying true to one’s principles, values, and beliefs… we will lead an honest and fulfilling life.

This was my Dad.

It was Grandpa. Uncle Mike. Mike. Mr. Lyons. And quite often… just sir.

To thine own self be true.

Those words were echoed by my cousin James – in a moving video message to my father a few days before he died. I pray that my Dad heard those words and knew what an impact he had.

Growing up we were all encouraged to be true to ourselves – to create and find our own path.

Dad led by example as he was insanely curious himself – ping pong (yes ping pong), hockey, theatre, racquetball, model trains, photography, blogging – or most recently as an nerd – he wasn’t afraid to try new things and dive in head first into the next adventure.

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Dad always wanted us to be curious.

I’ve often wondered what my brother, sister and I have in common. A photographer, an actor (Andrea), a scientist and teacher (B.J.) – we all took very different paths in our lives – but we are all curious.

Dad was a gifted actor and director. He was respected as a director – not only because he was such a good actor – but – just as he did with us – he encouraged his actors to find themselves within their character.

Reading the hundreds of letters, cards and Facebook messages over the last 3 weeks – has shown me just what an impact Dad had on the thousands of students and actors he taught and directed over 6 decades.

I was – and always will be – very proud that J. Michael Lyons is my Dad.



Dad died on December 21st – at 4:32 pm – with extraordinary nobility and grace. And I want to tell you exactly what that means…

Dad went into the hospital on Sunday, December 10th and up until the following Monday morning, the 18th – we all thought he was coming home.

We knew it was going to be a long recovery – but we were ready for it – and planning on how we were going to sneak 13 people onto the 5th floor at Met hospital on Christmas Day.

But by late Monday afternoon – things were starting to turn rather quickly and the outlook was not so good. It was getting harder and harder for Dad to breath – and even the slightest movements sapped him of his energy.

Now there was talk of palliative care – which was a shock to all of us – and by Tuesday night, we started calling close relatives to tell them the news.

But even with all of this – we still thought we had a bit more time.

That is… until Wednesday morning rolled around – after our morning ritual of texts and phone calls… we all had a feeling that we better accelerate our holiday travel plans and get down to Windsor.

So we all did – by Wednesday night, we did in fact get all of 13 of us into the room for a visit. By this time – Dad has seen everyone – B.J., Owen and Charlotte, Andrea, Carson and Deryck, Meaghan, Mackenna and Don (meeting Don for the first time that night), Larisa and me. Even his Colombian grandaughter – Manuela – made it down for a visit.

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We left the hospital late that night – still laughing and carrying on – planning our return Thursday afternoon.

But Dad had other plans – after meeting with the incredible and compassionate Doctor Aoun early on Thursday morning – Dad told us that he was ready to go.

And as he told Andrea on that Monday, he wanted to leave this world with nobility – with his chin up and a smile on his face – and so he did.

We all got to Windsor as quickly as we could Thursday morning. By 12 noon we had all arrived. Mom, Andrea, BJ, Owen and Charlotte were there already.

Dad was quoting Shakespeare with Uncle Bob.

Larisa and I arrived – with Mackenna and Don, Meaghan and Carson right behind us. Uncle Jim and Lydia, David and Rae-Ann, and Deryck – not too far behind.

Dad wasn’t much different that day than the day before – he still laughed at our jokes (mostly Andrea’s because apparently she’s the funny one). And hummed along with his favourite songs while we laughed and told jokes to help keep the tears away.

Shortly after we were all there – though short of breath – Dad had the courage and the grace to have a one-on-one moment with each of us.

All 13 of us.

One by one – he held our hands and told us how much he loved us. We all did the same.

We are a very hug and kiss kind of family. We always hugged hello and kissed goodbye.

I hugged my Dad for the last time, kissed him on the cheek and told him that I loved him. The last words he said to me – were “I love you – have an amazing life.”

And now – there are no – “I wish I would have said” – or “I wish Dad knew how much he was loved”.

And as profoundly sad as we are today – we have found peace and comfort in this precious gift.



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If anyone has any doubts about what true love looks like – look at my mom.

In Dad’s final hours she crawled right into his hospital bed with him – snuggled up – and didn’t leave his side for over 4 hours. They held hands, whispered to each other, smiled together and cried together.

Windsor Wedding Photographers 5At 4:32, Dad took his final breaths surrounded by his family and in the arms of his one true love.

It was sad and yet so beautiful.

My Aunt Cathy – my mom’s sister – wrote a poem the night Dad died…

Today is the Winter Solstice
The darkest day of the year
But tomorrow the day begins with a little more light
And more light comes with each day

So let my Dad’s memory be your light… and of course, remember – To Thine Own Self Be True.

I miss you every day Pops…


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