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March 5, 2012

It has been a difficult few weeks.

I went home for the long weekend (Family Day here in Canada, President’s Day south of the border) thinking that it would be a short stay.  Dad really wanted to spend a day skiing with me, something I hadn’t done in about 15 years…and for the record, I can’t believe that I am old enough to say something like that!  So I headed north on the Friday evening, and had a lovely few days visiting with family and enjoying the outdoors.

I was packing the car and readying myself for the drive back south when the charge nurse from my grandfather’s nursing home called to say that he had developed pneumonia and wasn’t doing well.  So I unpacked the car and Mum, Nana and I spent the rest of the week sitting with him, watching him struggle for every breath, ensuring that he received enough medication to keep him from feeling any pain.  He died on Saturday, just before 11:00 pm.

The week since has been one of mixed emotions.  In many ways we have been hoping for this for a while.  Dementia took Poppa from us five years ago, and it has been incredibly painful to see him living a life that would have horrified him.  He was smart.  The kind of smart that took him from living on the streets of London during WWII to a Vice Presidency at Bausch & Lomb.  The kind of smart that awarded him a commission in the Black Watch despite being neither a Scot nor an aristocrat.  The kind of smart that allowed him to write electrical engineering exams having never even finished high school.  Dinner at my grandparents’ house was always engaging, with heated discussions about politics and ethics.  I learned from Poppa that you can learn more from playing the devil’s advocate in a debate than from defending your own beliefs.  He also had an excellent sense of humour, which often had us in stitches for most of the meal.

My grandfather had an impeccable eye for art and design, and he taught me to value thoughtful design in everyday objects.  His closet was full of custom-tailored suits, and my grandparents’ home was full of lovely, well-built furnishings and the walls were covered in original art.  While I did not follow directly in his footsteps, my decision to study architecture was in part because of the example he set.

And he was the ultimate boy scout.  Likely due in part to an early life of uncertainty on the street, and in part to his officer training and time served in the Middle East, he believed in preparedness, and his car was a survival kit on wheels:  blankets, flares, cans of food, bottles of water, paddles, life jackets…  He took his role as family protector seriously, and always made sure that we felt safe and supported and loved.

He was a role model to us all: to work hard, to be generous, to be thoughtful, to be loyal.  He set quite an example.  I am grateful that his suffering has finally ended, but I will miss him.

Black Watch

Victor Norman Ryland

Globe and Mail

Captain Bligh. ;)

Christmas 1981

Ryland's Rangers c.1994

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Sandi permalink
    March 5, 2012 10:27 PM

    I’m so sorry for your loss, but it’s wonderful that you had such an interesting, inspirational “Poppa.” The close up photo of his face when he was young is wonderful – you can genuinely see the intelligence, humor and kindness in his eyes.

  2. March 5, 2012 10:42 PM

    Oh Sheila, I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your Poppa with us.

  3. Denise Wertz permalink
    March 5, 2012 10:44 PM


    Your tribute to your grandfather was very good reading. I loved the photos as well. Thanks for sharing at such a difficult time. So sorry for your loss. I will be thinking of you.

    Denise Wertz

  4. March 5, 2012 11:03 PM

    A lovely tribute to your grandfather. Sending you hugs and thoughts of love at this difficult time.Sharon xx

  5. March 6, 2012 12:04 AM

    So sorry to hear of your loss Sheila!! … Your tribute was truly lovely … He sounds like a man to be proud to call family!! … Praying for peace and comfort in this difficult time!
    Hugs, Larissa.

  6. March 6, 2012 12:22 AM

    Sorry to hear that he has passed. He looks to have had a life well lived and the best thing is that you got to share in it. Even if not for long enough.

  7. March 6, 2012 12:32 AM

    Words are never enough when you lose the ones you love. How wonderful that you could be with him and your family during this difficult time. In a way it brings closure that others don’t get to experience. I lost my Dad in September and was at his side when he took his last few breaths. I know it’s hard but you will look back and see the blessings you received by being with him at the beginning of his new adventure.

  8. March 6, 2012 12:58 AM

    Such a wonderful, touching remembrance of your grandfather. He sounds like he was an incredibly inspirational person.

  9. AngieSue2 permalink
    March 6, 2012 3:57 AM

    What a handsome & talented man – and you made us wish we knew him. I hope your family is coping well & we’ll all be thinking of you in blogland….

  10. March 6, 2012 4:52 AM

    Sorry to hear of your loss, whatever the circumstances loss is always hard to bear. Take comfort in your wonderful memories of him.

  11. March 6, 2012 5:31 AM

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories of your grandad. These precious memories will always be with you and your family.

  12. March 6, 2012 8:12 AM

    My condolences to you. Lovely tribute you’ve written for him and I love the photos. He looked like a movie star!

  13. March 6, 2012 11:11 AM

    A poignant tribute to an amazing man; best wishes to you and your family, Sheila. Hope to see you soon, –Jennifer

  14. Heather permalink
    March 6, 2012 12:42 PM

    So sorry for your loss. My thoughts and orayees are with you.

  15. Elizabeth permalink
    March 6, 2012 3:51 PM

    What a wonderful reflection on your Grandfather. Thank you for sharing and I wish you and your family peace in your hearts as you remember him.

  16. March 7, 2012 1:41 AM

    So sorry for your loss. I understand a bit how you feel because my Mom had dementia before she passed away.

  17. March 7, 2012 8:12 PM

    Sheila, I just wanted to say again how sorry I am and I’m here for you if you need me. I was quite struck by the second photo of your grandfather – he was quite a handsome guy but what really struck me was the fact that you have the exact same eyes!

  18. March 8, 2012 12:38 AM

    My heart goes out to you and your family. To lose such a family member is indeed a loss but what memories!!! Thank you for sharing with us.

  19. March 16, 2012 5:07 PM

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I see may similarities, my grandmother had Alzheimer’s and died from complications from pneumonia. She was also so smart and would have been horrified to see what she became. While she didn’t remember me the last time I chose to see her, she was such a defining force in my artistic life and I will always have fond memories of her. You and your family will be in my thoughts and those are some fabulous pictures :)


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