02.15.2014 09:38 AM

Happy birthday


Many guys will understand what I mean when I say this: your father is both a bit of light, and a bit of shadow, over your path through life.

Mine, T. Douglas Kinsella, MD, OC, would have been 82 years old today. Almost ten years after we lost him, he remains a constant in our lives. He still illuminates some of the path. Without even being here, he still quietly persuades me to examine the choices I have made.

Me? I have made bad choices. I have been reckless and cruel with the hearts of too many. I have not lived by the single rule he left us.

“Love people, and be honest,” he said to us, and I often feel I have done neither.

He saved many lives as a physician, and he won accolades, and he was a member of the Order of Canada. But for us – my brothers, my nephew he raised, my closest friends – he was the man we aspired to be. Not for the distinctions he received, but for how he was, in his soul.

He was unfailingly honest; he was kind to everyone he met. He married his high school sweetheart, and was with her every single day for 50 years, and my God how they loved each other. We would sit there at the kitchen table in Calgary or Kingston or Montreal, and we would listen to him. He’d listen to us, too, and persuade us to try and figure things out. There were some great times, around that table.

The best thing is having a father like that. The harder thing is knowing that you will never be like him.

I had a dream that he died in 9/11; I don’t know why, but I did. I woke up weeping, and remembered that I wasn’t a boy anymore, and that he has been gone for almost ten years. I don’t think he would like what his son has become. I know I don’t.

So I put on my pants and shoes, and went out into the day, looking for what’s left of the path.

Happy birthday. I miss you.


  1. Ryan Spinney says:

    That was beautifully said. It was a moving tribute to your father.

  2. Marc-Andre Chiasson says:

    Very touching testimonial to a man who sounds like he was a great dad. All I can say is love your life partner, your kids, your grandkids (once you have them) and your true friends like it’s your last day together, and you will be on the right path. Oh, and be kind to animals and wayward politicians…in that order.

  3. Kre8tv says:

    “Without even being here, he still quietly persuades me to examine the choices I have made.”
    Thanks for sharing this, Warren. My relationship with my dad was different from yours, and yet this still strikes a familiar chord. My dad would have been 73 this month, but I lost him even before he had a chance to become a wise old guy. I live with a constant inner conflict of both aspiring to be a better person like my dad was, and yet, in my case, avoiding his choices.

  4. Arnold Murphy says:

    Inspiring, introspective causing me to weep with you and mourn my own father’s loss. To share a moment is a powerful gift, never forget that as an author, you engage the strongest gift man has in the intellect. I am sure your father is proud of your achievements, and honesty is something we all struggle with from time to time especially honesty with ourselves. The path is not lit by the present but the past, it is that worn road our fathers hand first guided us down, have faith they have left us all we need to guide our own children with such confidence. Like Issac, I would have laid upon the stone for my father and I trust this to be true with you as well, we did not deserve these good men but God granted us their grace we should carry on in good faith we can make right what has been made wrong.

  5. Matt says:

    Warren, if it’s not too personal a question: Just wondering if you ever had thoughts about following your dad into medicine?

    Only rwason I ask is because we have several family friends who are doctors, one of whom is the current head of North York General, and in every case, not a single one of their kids followed them into the medical field.

    • Warren says:

      I wanted to. Had the highest mark in biology at Loyola, by a long shot.

      He didn’t want me to be a doctor. My mom did.

      I wonder the same thing. Have heard the same thing from the other kids of doctors.

  6. Ridiculosity says:

    You may not be perfect, Mr. Kinsella. Not by a long shot. But, I’m guessing your Dad was very proud of you and still would be today.

  7. KenzoS says:

    A beautiful and eloquently wrought little tribute. And this praise, stated without envy, from someone whose father is basically ‘no good’.

    And one last thing: his hair rocked!

  8. George says:

    Whatever we (as we are all children of mothers and fathers)have become ,and we all hav failings our parents are always proud of us as we are of our children. Our parents and ourselves do our best to equip our children and hope they make sound choices and even if they don’t all children deserve unconditional love.

  9. Bill Templeman says:

    Warren, not a week goes by when I don’t hear my father’s voice coming out of my mouth. Fathers cast a unique shadow over the lives of men. These guys –our fathers– gave us, through their lives, all we know about how to be men in the world. Your tributes to your dad are so moving, in part because they make us all look back at our own fathers. So thank you for that.

  10. MississaugaPeter says:

    We all err. That’s what repentance and confession, followed by daily struggle (which becomes easier the longer you do it), is for.

    With my millstone, I will be trekking many millions (if not more) of miles in purgatory. Only then, will I hope to meet those who had fewer failings than me. Everyday, I try to do a few miles here on earth. The wisdom that I was blessed with in youth I failed to follow.

    As a father of four (like you), I commend you for what appears as a great and beautiful commitment to your children (something your father is most surely bragging about when talking to others about you)!

  11. Paul Brennan says:

    great message…my dad is still alive and not a day goes by where I dont think of him , lessons he taught me about goodness, fairness and backbone …

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