This is the eulogy that I wrote for my father who passed away a week ago Saturday.
Dad was born in St. Anne Manitoba on March 29, 1940. While most kids would spend their whole lives dreaming of leaving a small prairie town for the big city, dad was different. He must not have thought St. Anne was small enough because as soon as he graduated from university he headed straight to a remote native reservation in northern Ontario. To make sure that mom wouldn't run away, he chose a reservation that was only accessible by plane.
In all truthfulness, mom would never have wanted to leave - they were made for each other - soul mates as she likes to put it. They were committed: not because of location, not because of life circumstances, and not because of vows. They were committed because they loved each other and wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. In earlier years they worked together, teaching as a team. In later years they worked together to support and nurture the family. Never in my life growing-up did I ever fear for them separating, and I didn't realize until much later on how much of a gift that was. Thank you dad for being the example of a devoted husband.
As we kids grew up, that togetherness we saw between our parents became a togetherness shared by the whole family. We did stuff together, the kids were almost always included in all aspects of family life. We were taught by example, encouraged in our gifts, supported in our endeavors, and of course, disciplined in our disobedience. Thank you dad for being the example of a loving father.
After teaching at native reservations for 11 years dad decided to try a stint in the white man's world and moved our family to the small town of Veteran Alberta. I guess Veteran was still too big. After 3 years, romanced by the time spent on native reservations, we packed-up and headed for the woods of Rocky Mountain House where dad began the process of building us a log home. From selecting, cutting, and hauling the trees out of the bush to building kitchen cupboards and my sister's bed. Dad devoted the next 8 years to constructing our home, while the woodpeckers and squirrels devoted themselves to deconstructing it. What impacted me most by this whole process was that there was no task dad wouldn't attempt. Thank you dad for teaching me what it means to have a "can-do" attitude.
Growing up, I never was afraid of being without. We always had food on the table, clothes to wear, a warm house, gifts on our birthday, and vacations in the summer. While I was able to sense when things got difficult financially, I trusted my dad's ability to care for us, a role he took very seriously. While dad's work was necessary, it didn't rule his life, he was always able to strike a balance between providing for us and spending time with us. Thank you dad for being the example of a hard worker and family provider.
Life wasn't just all work, it was full of play too:
- going to the waterslides at Sylvan Lake
- going to Vancouver for Expo 86
- house boating on the Shuswap lakes
- hosteling in Banff and Vancouver
- skiing in the Alberta Rocky Mountains
- chasing bats in the house with a badminton racquet
- fishing along the MacKenzie river (and protecting us kids from being carried off by the mosquitos)
- camping on Vancouver Island in our tent-trailer
- deep-sea fishing along the west coast
- taking the train to visit family in Manitoba
- hanging out at Crimson Lake beach
These are some of the memories that I hold most dear. Thank you dad for showing us how to have fun.
On the day before he died, dad assembled us all together around the bed. He knew his time was almost up and he knew how he wanted to spend it, surrounded by his family. It was in these last moments that I saw a new side of dad that hadn't been revealed in the past: his spiritual side. The night before, he had been touched by God and said he was no longer afraid. He said that if he got better, he wanted to devote the rest of his life to helping others. He asked us to sing songs of praise and worship, he asked us to hold hands and pray. Thank you dad for giving us so many wonderful memories, and giving us renewed hope for the life eternal.