It’s been a rough week.
Last Sunday we got a call that Rob’s Dad was not doing well. He had been in the hospital for close to a year and a half, suffering from dementia, that seemed to be triggered by surgery following a hip fracture and tremendous stress over family discord. We spent the day with him on the Sunday, but he was sedated. Rob was very appreciative of the fact that several days earlier he had decided to take the day off work to go spend some time with his Dad. His Dad was alert and awake, though only intermittently seeming to be in reality. But he knew Rob was there. And knew of Rob’s great love and admiration for him.
He passed away quietly on Monday night.
As much as you expect it when someone is ill, when it is your parent, it still comes as a shock. Losing my own father, I have the understanding that it is not the “79 year old man who was ill with dementia” (as Rob’s dad was) or the “73 year old man who was ill with cancer” (as my dad was)…it’s your DAD. The man who was your hero for all those years, the man who played with you, counselled you, laughed with you, cried with you, supported you, disciplined you, fought with you, embraced you. You vacationed together, had celebrations together, shared interests together, shared meals together, drove miles together… long before anyone in your current life was ever a part of it. He had a huge part in shaping who you are. He gave you his name and family history. You carry similar traits and you learned through his example. It’s loss and it brings back all those memories and you reflect on your relationship and hope that you made your father proud.
The funeral was held yesterday. As much as no one looks forward to funerals, it was especially sensitive because of the family discord that has been happening over the years, in particular the past recent year and a half for the most recent bout. Rob has been troubled by this particular round of discord, not because of the impact on him (which I admit has been great and has been difficult for him), but because of how it robbed his Dad of being able to leave this life in peace, and robbed him from experiencing the joy of having a full extended family in his later years.
There were several speakers who paid tribute to Wayne. Rob’s uncle (his mother’s brother, John) spoke of him from the perspective of being a friend. He was a man of extreme humility, loyalty and steadfastness, with a great sense of humour. Rob’s brother spoke outlining all his worldly accomplishments – his academic brilliance and his contribution to the world of economics. He also highlighted his personal attributes of being a quiet man, but filled with humility, love, gentleness, generosity and his role as a father and a family man.
Rob’s tribute was especially touching. Obviously, I am biased as I think the sun rises and sets on Rob, but that was not why. Everything he said about his Dad perfectly described him – who he was as a man and father. It also happened to perfectly describe Rob. Brilliance, humility, generosity, supportive, caring, “the rock”, and most importantly, meekness. Rob is a son who truly took after his father – in all the good ways. I think there is no greater tribute to his Dad. Even the way Rob presented his eulogy: quiet, thoughtful, filled with emotion and humility – it was perfect for his Dad. Rob even captured the lighter side of his Dad – his passion for cars, and even managed to slip in a toy/model Saab car into his Dad’s casket. As Rob said, “I was able to give his car back to him.”
The after part was shaky given the tenseness between his brother’s family and ours. It’s has been a interesting journey with the whole family dynamics. While Rob and I have certainly made mistakes and contributed to the dynamics at play, we have for many years tried to bridge gaps and open communication channels. Families will always have their battles, differences – and some may seem unforgivable and unsurmountable. Some probably are. But not these problems. These problems are easily solved with one of Wayne’s greatest characteristics: humility.
As much as the years have been trying and upsetting for Rob’s family, there have been blessings for our own immediate family. Our kids have been able to watch what happens when pride gets in the way. They have been able to watch as binds and ties that were once so strong, can easily be allowed to be severed over mistakes, hurt feelings, unwillingness to communicate and avoidance of conflict. We have talked endlessness of the importance of sticking together as siblings, supporting each other, and putting family first. When there is conflict – which guaranteed there always will be – the solution is to keep on talking. Keep on communicating. Keep on sharing. Keep on apologizing. Keep on forgiving. Avoidance is never the answer and creates a bigger divide and builds higher walls because things get taken out of context, misunderstood and fabricated. I write this blog post partly to remember Wayne, and partly to remind my kids of the lessons they have learned during this time in our lives (and I think we need to keep it real and share how difficult families can be.)
So, while Wayne may have passed with great sadness over how his family was torn apart, I know it is with much happiness, that he sees that his grandchildren are learning valuable lessons and learning from his wisdom to alway have humility and that family is number one. Wayne was never happier than with his family.
They had a series of photos playing on a loop during the reception and visitation. I was able to get some screenshots and make some copies, so while not perfect, I think they capture some very happy times. And of course, the happy times are always with his family. I came into his life late, only 9 years ago, but we had a wonderful trip shortly after to St. Marten and I am so glad that we were able to share some good memories there. I am also so glad that we were able to share many meals, conversations, and holidays. We were able to share a lot of everyday stuff as he was always a great help when the kids were little, and Wayne was one of our greatest supporters when we merged our lives together.
He was a great man. I am honoured to have known him. I am so grateful for the father he was to my husband, as he helped make Rob who he is today. Your greatest accomplishments are reflected in the character of your child. Well done, Wayne. Til we meet again.