How I wish I could shake the hand of every person who wrote to me after the death of my father. The empathy and concern shown by readers of this newspaper was overwhelming. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

But there is more. Within the outpouring of support and grief was a light that broke through the clawing darkness. It was the fact of our common humanity. We tend to focus on what divides, but when genuine pain occurs we see that the essence of life is not difference but similarity.

What I mean is, it takes something as agonizing as a death to remind us we are all related.

I received letters and flowers from Liberal, Conservative, Alliance and New Democrat politicians. I received wonderful notes from leaders of the Jewish and Palestinian communities. I was given support by black and white, Catholic and Protestant, heterosexual and gay. Heartfelt, profound words from all sorts of men and women who on other occasions would argue until the sun went down.

So what should we construe from all this? Hey, I’m a realist – just like my dad. I understand the faults of human nature, but I also appreciate the glory of human love. We are capable of so much more than mere disharmony and dispute.

Dad would have revelled in this. Kindness sometimes made him cry. Like some character out of Charles Dickens, he would be moved to tears by an act of selflessness or unadulterated grace. Actually, the ability to weep was always important to him, as it is to me.

I did so when I was looking though his papers and found things that, well, broke my heart. There was the real estate agent’s printout for the first home my wife and I bought. It was a small house in a poor neighbourhood of Toronto. But dad had kept it because he was so proud of his son and daughter-in-law.

There was the Christmas card I had made him when I was small. A picture of Santa on the outside and on the inside a message than had nothing to do with the Christmas season but the soccer season: “Up Spurs, down Arsnil.” Spurs was the team dad taught me to love, Arsenal was our bitter rival. The fact that I mangled their name delights me. As it must have delighted him.

He came to Canada in May with my mum, and thank goodness for that. I found leaflets about Niagara, the CN Tower and other tourist sites in his desk. Stuff you and I would throw away. But dad had kept them. It was the very smallness of these things that made them so large. Here was beauty within pathos.

There was also a letter my cousin had written. “When I was a rather insecure teenager, Uncle Phil took me out and got me a fashionable haircut. Then he took me to a store and bought me modern clothes. He made me feel very, very good about myself. He changed me.” That teenager, by the way, is now one of the more respected professors of law in the English-speaking world.

Well done, dad.

When I went to see him after his death, I was in pretty bad shape. I went into the room where he was lying and I swore. Yes, swore. At the injustice of it all.

Then I told him I loved him, told him I was sorry for not loving him enough, said goodnight and kissed his cold forehead. But he wasn’t really there, of course. This was merely the vehicle for his spirit and soul. Dad was Jewish, I’m a Christian. I asked a friend what this meant. “Michael, do you honestly believe you love your dad more than God does? Please! God tries to open doors, not close them. He wants more than anything else to gather his children to Him.”