14 June 1936 – 21 September 1987
Twenty years ago, one of the cornerstones of my life was unceremoniously kicked out from under me. My father, Raymond, at the age of only 51 years, after a long and brave battle with lung cancer, eventually succumbed. The nurses knew literally to the hour when the final breath would be taken, and it was all very professionally planned to be over before the next shift came on. So at about 3AM on the morning of 21 September 1987, my mom, uncle and I made the last sad trip to the Provincial Hospital in P.E. to say our goodbyes.
I’m sure that just that little extra bit of Morphine does the trick, but it was over very quickly as his breathing just got slower, and slower and slower as I held his hand.
Then it stopped…..
After that it took about half an hour tops for the paperwork, and then his last possessions where handed to my mom in a black rubbish bag. At that point she broke down as she held the bag and realised that it was over.
My brother Patrick, sister Sharon, and I probably learnt more from my Dads failures as we did from his successes. He doted on his children and was always ready with a witty comment on any subject that interested him. Although lacking any formal academic education, he was a talented and highly intelligent man, who read extensively.
He loved the sea, and taught us all to swim before our third birthdays. He also loved cars and bikes and speed. He owned numerous motorcycles and scooters over the years and rode right up until he was finally hospitalised.
He taught me the importance of life and how short and precious it is. He didn’t ask much out of life. He was quite happy with a beer and smoke, and the summer sun on his big brown shoulders.
He once said to me, “You know what boykie, THESE are the good old days, THIS is the other side of the fence, whatever anybody else tells you.” I have never forgotten these words, and live every day knowing that every second of our time is precious.
He was a kind and gentle man, who loved children and animals. A gentle giant who could build or fix anything. An accomplished artist who sketched extensively (mainly rude cartoons that made us laugh.)
He never had an enemy in his entire life (except of course maybe himself), but was at times plagued by insecurity and self-doubt. We was as weak as he was strong, and I suppose we are all like that, but he really wore his heart on his sleeve.
Anyway Dad, as Douglas Adams said in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, “so long and thanks for all the fish.”
Just a last photo of the old man (and the dog Josie) in the 60’s at Humewood Beach.
“Ride on, Dad.”