Saturday, December 28, 2013

Remembering a Good Man

My father passed away in the middle of a huge ice storm here in Ontario. Being a geographer, he was always fascinated by climate and weather and so it seemed appropriate that there would be some noteworthy weather event happening when he left this world.

Just about the time I began this blog, four years ago, cancer started growing in my father.   I haven't mentioned my father's illness on my blog as this is my happy place, but with my Dad having passed away two days before Christmas he is constantly in my thoughts and that is where my heart is.

Although the cancer had spread from his colon to his liver and lungs and finally to his brain and he had two major surgeries, the cancer hardly slowed him down until just the past few months.  

It is amazing that as recently as this past March when we went to New York City he walked 10-15 kilometers every day.  W
hen my parents were camping in Florida this past winter, they went for long bike rides, sometimes just to get the daily newspaper.  He hiked up mountains in Arizona two winters ago.  

Even when he was no longer able to walk very far and didn't have much energy, he never lost his kind and gentle personality, his interest in other people, and his gratefulness whenever someone did something for him.

It is hard to pull my thoughts together to reflect on his life, so here is a collection of photographs and some more or less random thoughts about him.

Skiing near Smithers, BC in 1947 (Dad is on the right, 18 years of age)

Traveling home from Nigeria where we lived for two years (that is me standing in front of my father), 1967
Brushing Kate's hair, 1994
Dad in Smithers, BC with the Hudson Bay Mountains in the background, 2009
The Prairie on the Hudson Bay Mountain near Smithers, BC

Mom and Dad on Hudson Bay Mountain, Smithers, BC, 2009

Hiking on the Hudson Bay Mountain, Smithers, BC, 2009

Getting water from the lake at the cottage, March 2010

With my parents in Nova Scotia, August 2012
Skiing on the lake at the cottage, January 2013

With my parents at the Guggenheim, NYC, March 2013
Eating street food on the steps to the Met, NYC, March 2013
  • My Dad and Mom were married for almost 60 years and had one of the happiest marriages I have known.  They had a similar outlook on life and a mutual respect and love for each other that was lovely to witness.  They met in university and were married just ten months later.  They knew right from the start they were a team.  Their relationship had an awkward beginning, however. Dad, being the friendly sort he was, invited another fellow along on their first date; the other fellow happened to be Mom's old boyfriend!
Having breakfast in the screened porch he built
  • Dad's cottage diary consisted of two things: the weather, and a record of who was visiting.
  • He loved his home town of Smithers in northern British Columbia.  When we went back to visit Smithers together in 2009 for his 80th birthday he proudly told anyone who would listen that he grew up there.  He subscribed to his home town's newspaper, the Interior News, and loved to tell us local tid bits, such as a moose had walked down the main street of town, that sort of thing. All his life he loved to hike and ski. He started early, in his youth, in the mountains around Smithers.  At the top of the list of his favourite places on earth was the mountain meadow, "the Prairie", on the Hudson Bay Mountain beside Smithers.
  • Besides hiking and skiing, he loved to swim, and just generally being outdoors.  Without fail, he and my Mom went for daily walks, which I'm sure accounted for the good health my father enjoyed for so many years and which made him so tough even up to the end.
  • He was a high school geography teacher, so our family trips in the summer involved lessons on lateral moraines and glaciers and rock formations and things.  Until I grew up, I thought everyone knew that stuff.
  • He was a wonderful carpenter. He designed and built the cottage our extended family enjoys on Georgian Bay, and he re-designed and rebuilt the cottage in Haliburton that my parents bought about 25 years ago. His favourite thing to do was to plan and build improvements at the cottage.  As late as this past spring he completed the siding on the cottage and helped me build (well, to tell the truth, I helped him build) a railing for the stairs up to the cottage's parking lot.
  • He had a crazy worn-out hat that he wore when he was building things. It had patches on patches and was frayed and worn out.  The best part, though, was the strip of tape he would put along the back to catch those annoying horse and deer flies that buzz around your head that are an unavoidable part of cottage life.
Dad at his workshop at the cottage - doing what he loved to do - plan and build things
  • He loved to travel and was always  planning a trip or two.  He and my Mom traveled all around the world and went to every continent except South America and Antarctica.  They traveled across North America so many times that Dad knew where every bake shop, picnic stop, and liquor store was (he loved a glass of wine with dinner or a bottle of beer on a hot day).
  • His love for traveling and his love for building meant he was perfectly suited for working on Habitat for Humanity builds, which he and my Mom did all over North America.  They both even worked at an all-women's build - Dad was the only male allowed because they knew he wouldn't boss anyone around.
My parents' truck camper - they traveled all around North America in it for many years.

  • He was very egalitarian in his views on gender roles.  He cooked all the bread we ate when I was growing up. He did all the grocery shopping for the family.  Always.  And he supported my mother when she became a United Church minister.
  • He led a very organized disciplined life and always went to bed and got up at about the same time and definitely ate at the same times every day.  When it was 6:00 it was dinner time!  He always made sure the dishes were dried and put away, not just washed, and he took out the garbage and recycling every night.  Every evening he read the newspaper (the Toronto Star has just lost their most dedicated reader) and played a few games of Sudoku.
  • Despite leading such an organized life, he could not keep his desk tidy for love nor money.  All through my childhood his desk had huge piles on it so that he barely had room to work.  On the top of the desk's top shelf he had an ancient radio that he listened to when he did school work at night.  Classical music and a little Tia Maria got him through marking school papers.
  • Even the animals knew he was a kind soul.  One summer he made friends with a rock bass fish who lived under our dock at the cottage.  He would stroke its fins and could even gently lift it out of the water and put it back in again.
There are so many more stories and thoughts I could share about my father, but I think what I've written gives you a fair snapshot of the man he was.  I know I am one of the lucky ones for having had a kind, patient, and admirable man as my father and for that and for him I am forever grateful.  

Dad, you were a good man. I love you and I miss you.


  1. I am so sorry to hear the sad news of your father. I know from the blog that he was an important part of your life. I do hope your memories of him sustain you and your family at this sad time.

  2. Grace, This is such a beautiful and loving tribute to this important man in your life.Yes, you were truly blessed and I know the world was a better place for him have been here.
    Thank you for this glimpse of the great man. Your memories are precious and I pray that our Lord will give you and your family comfort and peace.
    Fondly, Ginger

  3. Dear, dear Grace ~ I am so sorry for the loss of this wonderful man who was your Dad. My heart goes out to your Mom as this time too as they had a wonderful, long, loving marriage.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  4. Oh! So very sorry to hear this news! I loved reading about your father....what an amazing man! I so wish that I lived closer so that I could bring you a meal and give you a hug! But please know that you are in my thoughts in the coming days and weeks. Your Dad certainly had a life well-lived...and that is something to honour and cherish forever! Love to you all! Angie xoxo

  5. So sorry about the loss of your dad- he seems like such an amazing man and you are very blessed to have had so many years with him.

  6. I am so sorry for your loss. Wow, he lived quite a full and wonderful life. Such a strong man and yet so gentle. I am glad you shared his story with us. Take care, Kit

  7. What a wonderful story! He sounded like a very admirable man, you were certainly blessed.

  8. So beautiful!! Thank you so much for sharing!!

  9. Sorry for your loss. Your dad really lived life to the fullest, how wonderful for him!

  10. I'm so sorry for your loss. You were blessed to have such a wonderful father. Hugs to you and your family.

  11. I'm so sorry for your loss. You were blessed to have such a wonderful father. Hugs to you and your family.

  12. So sorry for your loss. He sounds like an incredible, amazing man.

  13. So sorry for your loss! From your recollections I can tell that your dad was a remarkable man and lived a very full life. What a great example of husband and father that he is to you and your children. My condolences to your family.

  14. This is a beautiful tribute to your lovely dad. I am so sorry for your loss, Grace.


  15. When I read the title of your post my heart just sank as I knew you would be telling us this very sad news. After reading your lovely tribute to your father I wish I had had the chance to meet this wonderful man. I know his passing has left a huge hole in your heart and the hearts of your family, but what a legacy he has left. His kind and gentle nature, his intelligence, his love of family and the outdoors all live on through each of you!

    Thinking of you all!

    xo Kat

  16. So sorry to hear this news. You have some wonderful memories and those will not leave. My sincere condolences.

  17. What a lovely tribute to your father.
    May you find peace in those happy memories.
    My thoughts are with you tonight.

  18. What a truly inspirational person! I thank you for sharing this story of your dad. Staying active and loving as he fought cancer like that is remarkable. And what a beautiful marriage. My condolences to you and your mom.

  19. Dear Grace,

    Thank you for sharing your memories and pain with us, I know exactly how you feel as I lost my dear mother to cancer just over a yeaer ago. I watched an amazing, vivacious woman fade away and it broke my heart. My mother kept telling me not to cry but it is just so hard, a year and a half later it feels like it was just yesterday and I still cry often. I try to remember those good times though and your post has reminded me to get out some of the old photos of happy days and remember than she did have a long and wonderful life.

    Your father was an inspirational person, please remember those happy days, don't let the cancer take those days of good health and happiness your father had away from you. I know how hard it is at the end and how you feel right now but he will want you to remember him in times of good health and that is what you have done by these tribute photos above.

    Wiping tears from my face right now. My thoughts and prayers are with you and know I can truly feel your pain as I miss my mother every day.

    Lee x

  20. I am so sorry for your loss, Grace. Know that you and your family will be in my prayers.

  21. Grace, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I felt the emotions in your writing and tears came pouring out. I feel what you have gone through, my Father has cancer too and is near the end of his two year battle. Just yesterday he told me that he is tired and feels like giving up now. He made it through another Christmas and my sister's and my birthday. My heart and prayers are with you and your family.

  22. I have never commented on your blog before but wanted you to know that you painted a lovely picture of your dad. I lost my husband a few years ago and my mom before that. What gets me through is knowing that we all meet up again on the other side! Grieving is tough business - especially this time of year. Be kind to yourself and know that he is with you still!

  23. What a lovely memorial for your Dad. I hope you gained a bit of peace from writing it all down. It sounds like he fought the good fight and lived a full life..and clearly he was loved. Can't ask for much more than that. Bless you my dear friend. I will be thinking of you.

  24. You are blessed to be his daughter! What a touching tribute to a dynamic and kind man. I know that this has been a sad Christmas for you and your family. I've been thinking about you, and I will continue to send prayers your way.

    (((((hugs))))) from Alabama,
    Ricki Jill

  25. Hi Grace - I am sorry for your loss but I have to say what a lucky girl you were to have such a warm and wonderful man for a father. Your words paint such a vivid picture and show such love. Your loss is great but your lovely memories will soothe your heart. xo J