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.