My father passed away the morning of October 29, 2012. He had received a diagnosis of lung cancer in early March but had been doing well with it. His hip, which he had been complaining about for years, finally shattered earlier in his final week and he was being treated for the pain with morphine. He slowly began to sleep more and more often until finally he stopped breathing. It was rather sudden and shocking. As a family we came to terms with it by agreeing that if he had remained alive he would have been in an awful state of pain and psychological discomfort from being bedridden.
My sister Gwen and I gave a joint eulogy with each of us presenting slightly longer reflections. My dad's long time friend Wayne McCallum gave his own eulogy and my niece Abigail Bloomfield read a lovely poem she wrote a couple of days before. Here is my eulogy for my dad.
There are so many memories, thoughts and feelings swirling through my mind that to attempt to catch them like so many fireflies in the night defies any possibilities. The best thing to do is to grab one, let it glow then release it to the air and then see which one comes around next.
The first one that comes is sharing a laugh with dad. He had, for me, the most incredible sense of humour. It is probably the one trait above all that I admired most. It could be a strange sense of humour, occasionally black and biting, but I found it incredibly amusing. He wasn’t really a joke teller, but he had an ability to make a sharp comment or off-hand remark that cut to the core of the conversation at hand. He would then seal it with a certain look on his face followed by his great laugh. Sometimes it was inappropriate but that just made it even more funny. What was wonderful to see was my mom’s appreciation of his sense of humour. She would chuckle or laugh along even if she knew she shouldn’t. If ever she didn’t like what was said she would scold him with her “Oh, Dennis!” and dad and I would just laugh some more. At the same time though, dad loved mom’s humour. Mom has a pretty dry sense of humour too and he was her biggest fan. I like to think I inherited this trait and many of my friends would probably agree with me. I also have a suspicion it has been passed on to my own children.
Dad and I both really enjoyed reading the Far Side cartoons. We would be reading it and be almost in tears laughing. My Grandma Cook, who lived with us, couldn’t for the life of her understand what was so funny. For her it must have been like trying to find a chair funny. Of course this made us find the situation even more hysterical. While she didn’t get the jokes in the cartoon she was a great sport about it all.
If there is any one thing I’ll truly miss it will be sitting around my table in Cambridge after dinner with Trish, mom and dad and a rum and coke chatting about daily life and having a good laugh.
Dad wasn’t a church-going person by any stretch of the imagination. He’d go when duty called and when he wanted to. But he was a religious person. Whenever he took to something he did it religiously with a lot of consideration and dedication. He was religious in his spirituality. He didn’t talk much about it but it was something I gleaned from him. I am not bringing this up because it is a religious service we are at in a church but because I think it is integral to who his is and what it influenced in me. Living away from Dryden like I do has meant that for the last 15 years my visits with my parents have been short and intense. I feel that I have gotten to know my dad more in these past years than at any other time in my life and I have learned valuable lessons about life in this span that are practised each and every day. My dad was a man of simple needs, his only splurging being on cross-country ski equipment and his Jettas. He lived by a simple code: treat everyone, no matter of their station in life with respect and dignity, and everyday give thanks for your blessings and spare a thought for those with less than you. These are simple suggestions but hard to carry out. I have witnessed my dad put them to practical use with humbleness and integrity. His summation of the Christian faith was “We’re all in the same boat.” Many people talk about the natural world being their church and go out looking for God in the trees and lakes. For dad this was a reality. Being on the ski trails with the moose and wolves, watching a mighty Northern river roar down a chasm, feeding his birds and watching them flock together, he wasn’t looking for God he knew he was witnessing and being a part of God.
While I know he was brought down by his diagnosis as anyone would be, I was moved by his stoicism and the grace with which he carried himself through this time. There were no heroics and no self-pity or anger. He knew the end was coming and was happy with the life he had led and the blessings he had received. For me, he presented a model to strive for in times of personal adversity. I know it sounds like I am portraying my dad like some sort of saint. As everyone here knows well he was by no means a saint! But he is my dad whom I love so dearly and will miss terribly. I am so proud of whom he was and thankful for the gifts that he gave me that allowed me to become who I am today. In 2004 at my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary I was moved to write a poem to share at the celebrations which expressed these sentiments. I would like to share it with you again.
Within a blink of an eye
that lasts a lifetime,
time passes by
the ghosts of the present
in its endless search of those yet to come,
leaving us to collect the riches
left upon our private trail.
We journey on,
but never forget our spring.
It will never run dry as it
nourishes the future
with its own mysteries of the past.
That is why we all return with
our treasures, which belong to you
In a flurry of red and gold
we tell you of our love
from four decades of
but also letting us
search out our own pathways.
With the air crisp with promise
we head forth once again, and for that
we thank you.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.