Today, I watched as my Grandfather passed away.
Monday, June 28th, 2010 at around 12pm my wife, Sara, called me at work to relay a message that the time was near for my Grandfather and that as soon as Ian (my Uncle) arrived from Nanaimo, he would be taken off oxygen. My Mother had left the message and the gist was that if I wanted to be there for his final moments I could. It took me a while to gather the courage but I headed to the hospital to be there, where I had some private moments with him as he lay unconscious with my sweet Grandmother who was always at his side.
At the hospital, time seemed to move as a ball might on an irregular, steep, yet thickly viscous surface; one moment time seemed to barely move, and at times it flew but always with a sense of foreshadowing. Nearer to his passing time seemed to disappear altogether in a peaceful way. I won’t share any further details of his passing other than it was all that any family-focused person could hope it would be, because he was surrounded and held by his loving family to the last moments.
What I do want to share, are a few memories of my Pa (as my brother and I called him) that I treasure.
To begin, I want to preface everything about my Pa with one simple fact – I have always been in awe of his powerful bond with life. I imagine that sounds really cheesy but consider this: my Pa, Ken MacNeill, barely survived Polio as a child, had diabetes, suffered multiple heart attacks resulting in open heart surgery and yet, he made it to his late 80’s and he was still walking (partially) up until just a few weeks ago when the Post Polio Syndrome took his legs. Count the fact that he helped raise 4 children, built the house he lived in from the ground up and was a wonderful, active Grandfather to his many grandchildren… need I say more?
His strength and tenacity aside, my Pa and I spent a lot of time together when I was young. He and I would take his dog Freckles for a walk through the woods nearby his home and he would regale me with stories of the area and how different things looked. I was a very willing ear. In fact, I loved his stories because I was fascinated with old Victoria, BC, and what it must have been like to grow up when the city was so much smaller. You see, my Pa was born and raised in Victoria, BC, and had some pretty great stories about growing up around the very area that I grew up in.
Pa and I would also go fishing together in my small boat or his, and on other days we would go for a drive and he would take me duck watching. In most cases, I did these things with Pa because I wanted to spend time with him. I would never have admitted this to him, but I was never very interested in ducks, and when we went fishing he almost always picked the same fishing spots that I knew (or soon knew) were no longer worthwhile. That didn’t matter though, I just wanted to be with my Pa to hear his stories and be close to him. It was always worthwhile.
Now this eulogy of sorts would not be complete without a couple quotes/beliefs from my Pa that are still with me to this day:
- “Be kind to others”
When I asked him at one point to tell me what words of advice he would want to pass on to future generations, he deliberated for a moment and that was his answer. There is no doubt, this is far from unique but there is a reason for that.
- “When going outdoors, always wear more clothes than you need, you can always take some off.”
My Pa always said this to me before we went fishing and to this day I hear him say that every time I go outdoors. It is amazing how simple and obvious, yet helpful such wisdom can be. I can say with certainty that his wisdom has saved me from some very uncomfortable hiking conditions more than a few times in my life.
There are many more fond memories, thoughts and feelings rushing throughout my mind right now but I think I will stop at this point. Suffice it to say that I loved my Pa very much and I am so very glad I could be there for his final moments. It was hard getting the courage to be at his bedside but once I was there, it was clear to me that I was in the very place I should be to pay my respects to my truly grand grandfather.
I am very glad you got to meet my little boy. Rest in peace Pa.