My Dad died on Monday morning. I wrote this to read at his Memorial Service on Friday evening. I am relieved that his suffering is over, but I hate that the end of his suffering required the end of his life. My life will never be the same without him - he is gone, and a big part of me is missing.
In June of 2005, my Dad was diagnosed with Cancer. His response to his family was this: “I’m so glad it’s me – and not you.”
As the oldest of four, he often played that protective ‘big brother’ role. His siblings might tell you that he wasn’t always gentle – like the time when he hit his 6 year old sister Roxanne over the head with a shovel on her birthday. And he was certainly not always patient …. And I’m quite sure there was a stretch of time when he and his brother Rick couldn’t be in the same room together without Rox being quite sure one was going to kill the other.
But despite any of that, he was always ready to gladly accept the most difficult challenges that life threw at him – even if he knew he might not survive them – knowing that he would rather experience them himself than watch someone he loved in pain.
My Dad was my hero. I’ve said that to a lot of people over the years, and I think I forgot to ever say it to him. I was born at a time in Dad’s life when becoming a father was not in his immediate plans, and yet if he was ever afraid of becoming a father, or if he ever had regrets, never for a second did I know about it. He chose to be a single Dad, and he stepped up to parenthood – which I’ve learned can be one of the most challenging and thankless experiences – like he stepped up to everything in life – with the determination to excel. He always encouraged me in everything I did to put every ounce of effort into being the best. He taught me how to read when I was four years old. He taught me how to play the guitar when I was ten. When I was fourteen, I worked alongside him in his woodshop and he taught me how to build a hurdy gurdy among other things.
Dad worked at the Saskatchewan Abilities Council for 26 years, but his real passion was carpentry. I remember the summer he spent building a house for a friend – he came home every day sweaty, tired, and so darkly tanned you would never guess he was white – yet I don’t remember ever seeing him as happy as he was that summer. He loved creating, and he loved stepping back and admiring what he had created. He built and repaired musical instruments, and had plans for creating more. I believe a harpsichord was on his to do list – and if you know what that is, you'll know he had ambition.
One of my Dad's greatest traits was his humility. Despite what he had accomplished, he was never arrogant. He was ready to learn from others' experiences, and sought out those who had skills he hadn't yet mastered so he could learn from them. Dad was also always ready to laugh at himself. He had a number of... eccentricities... and was often doing or saying funny little things that were very distinctly 'Randy'. Like when he got our car stuck in the parkade, or when he walked into a hardware store and demanded to know where they kept the hardware, or when our order at a restaurant was taking too long and he went next door to the grocery store and bought chocolate milk -bringing it back into the restaurant to serve his impatient children. He also had a very distinct aversion to going 'in' the 'in' door, or 'out' the 'out' door. But he laughed at himself even more than the rest of us did, and despite how much he embarrassed me when I was a teenager, it sure made our lives more interesting.
My Dad constantly challenged me to learn more about everything, and to get better at everything. He taught me that I could never control how another person acted in a given situation, but that I was still responsible for how I acted so I could make no excuses. I am who I am because of who he was, and who he taught me to be – in that way, at least, he will never be gone.
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