I am because he was

man at St. Andrew's

It's been a minute since I've written. It's been an unbelievably difficult minute.

On December 29th I received a phone call that altered not only my travel plans, but changed my life forever. My mother had called to tell me that my father had been looking a bit ill and a visit to the doctor had found a mass on his pancreas. Another phone call a few days later, revealed it was cancerous.

I spent the first days of the new year in a haze. A swirl of thoughts and emotions, each taking their moments to rise to the top, had me a topsy-turvy mess. Moments of wonder and joy in the beautiful city that is Tel Aviv, mixed with times of sadness and extreme loneliness. So far away from those that matter most, so alone in a strange land. Where once I found joy in being solo, now I felt lost.

Then on the 14th of January, I got the call ... it was time to come home. Twenty-four hours later I was on a 19-hour journey back to the States.

I am so thankful for that call. It gave me the chance to spend two weeks with my family as we helped my dad make his way into the next life.

My father, James Bryce Flory, lived a life full of passion, creativity, zeal, sincerity and love. He peacefully passed on, on the afternoon of January 31st, 2023, barely a month on from that first phone call.

How does one properly give back to someone who gave so much to so many?

A few days ago, a gathering was held to celebrate the life of this wonderful human being. It was a Venn diagram of people from all walks of life, with my father sitting squarely in the center. It was a beautiful tribute full of shared stories, tears, laughs and plenty of "jimmy-isms."

Saying goodbye to a parent is an incredibly difficult thing to do. I'm so grateful that my choice to own my time has allowed me to grieve the loss at my own pace.

Over the course of February, I slowly began jotting thoughts down, in preparation for speaking at his celebration. Given how monumental my father was in my life, I could have written volumes.

Below are the words I spoke the other day to a room full of those that knew him best. I've decided to share them here, as they are as much a part of my journey as anything else I've written about.

I leave them here, unaltered and as raw as the moment I wrote them.

I am because he was

Love over fear. When I was still an infant, at a time when divorced single fathers didn’t get custody of their children, he wanted nothing more than to be with me. He risked social stigma from his peers, ostracization from his family and the loss of all his material possessions. He ignored it all. He chose love over fear. He chose me. I would not be standing here today without his bravery and infinite love.

I am because he was

When he and mom married, the term “blended family” was not in the lexicon. But their love for each other and their children shone above everything.

And while I certainly made it hard on everyone in the early years, we never saw ourselves as anything other than one family. Father, mother, sons, daughter, brothers and sister. One family, our family.

This beautiful foundation gave each of us the freedom to explore and express who we are, secure in the knowledge that we had his undying love and steadfast support.

We are because he was

I was 27 when my son was born, the same age as my dad was when I was born. I was full of so many of the same worries and insecurities about my ability to raise a child. I soon realized that I silently absorbed all I needed from him. His unspoken wisdom was simple. Family first, love unconditionally, listen before speaking and be the safe space for your child to grow.

He was a master of riding that fine line between friend and parent, between discipline and tenderness. He knew when to listen, when to let you cry and when to lighten the moment with one of his trademark “jimmy-isms.”

Always knowing when to put an arm around you but also when to tell you “thems the breaks.” He set the fatherhood bar incredibly high and I can only hope that I am half the father that he was.

I am because he was

When I attended Pacific, I made a point to take all his classes. Sure I had been tagging along to his classes for years as a child and already enjoyed photography, but it was my opportunity to see him in a new light.

He was a natural-born teacher, always eager to share, never hoarding his knowledge. So many of you here today can attest to this. He had a way of relating to every student, with honesty and affection, as if they were all his children.

And while he taught the technical aspects of photography, his true lessons were in HOW to see the world. And those lessons were as much about life as they were about photography.

No amount of words can articulate what he meant to me. I wanted to be just like him. To do all the things he did. From photography and whiskey to golf and travel. But most of all to be a father and raise a child as he had raised his.

He taught me how to be strong yet vulnerable. He encouraged every endeavor I ever pursued. Taught me to be tenacious in the pursuit of life and relentless in the effort to be my best self. He showed me it was ok to fail because sometimes that’s where the real growth happens.

A hero is someone who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements and noble qualities. He is my father AND my hero.

I am because he was

And if you look around this room, you’ll see him everywhere. In his family, his friends, colleagues and students. Above all else, he was tireless in his desire to help all of us become our best selves.

We … all of us in this room. We are because he was