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Posts Tagged ‘memorial’

I grew up on a little island with a couple of small stores and one country school. The nearest mall was two ferry rides away.

I left Cortes Island twelve years ago, but it stays with me. Its landscapes and familiar places are often in my dreams. I don’t think I’ll ever move back there, but I’ll always be an island girl at heart.

My grandfather came to Cortes sixty years ago to do some work and he stayed. He married a local schoolteacher—my grandmother.

They built a home together. My mother was born in that house down a road lined with blackberry bushes. The “Old Folks Home” is gone now. It was a shed where the elderly ducks and chickens lived in leisure once they were past laying. The sheep ran from us kids when we got too close. We ran from the geese when they strutted towards us and hissed menacingly. So many memories.

We went back recently to attend my grandfather’s funeral. There were tears and laughter as we reconnected with family and reminisced together.

I got to rub my beautiful sister’s pregnant belly. My brother and I laughed while we remembered our friendship and feuding over the years. Family. A huge part of who I’ve become.

At the funeral, I visited with one of my favourite school teachers, friends of my mom’s from before I was born, extended family that I was meeting for the first time, people I hadn’t seen for a decade or two, and the woman who taught me horseback riding when I was eleven. I shook hands with a great-uncle that looked so much like my grandpa that I had to fight tears. There is something very powerful about grieving together. It joined us.

“Mom,” said Myra on the evening of the funeral, “we’re just now meeting family that we didn’t even know existed, and we’ll probably never see them again.”

It’s true. Some of the people that we hugged and shared meals with and cried with—we’ll never see again. But I’m thankful for the time we had together. I’m glad we went home.

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On the ferry

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Goodbye Grandpa

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On March 6th—the day after Melanie’s birthday and two days before Joel’s—my grandpa passed away. Nothing can prepare you for that moment suspended in time, that moment of loss that changes your life.

Most painful was being separate from my mom, my grandma, my brother, my sister. My heart yearned to be with them as they remembered Grandpa together and shed tears together.

Tonight, what really hit me, is that I’ll never see him again in this life. There is a hole left in my heart that can never be filled. Grandpa was special.

Grandpa was gentle. One of the deepest memories I have of Grandpa was of him as a shepherd. As far back as I can remember, my grandparents had sheep. The sheep would sometimes graze on a neighbour’s property up the hill and across the road.

I remember walking with him as he led the sheep down the lane. The shadows were long as the sun sank below the treeline. Any other time the sheep would run away from me, but they trusted Grandpa and they meekly followed him home. Sheep have always reminded me of Grandpa. They’ve always made me feel peaceful.

Grandpa was young at heart. I can hear his laughter now! Grandpa loved to tease and we loved to hate it. He had a song for each one of us grandchildren when we were little. Mine was “Rachel Dawn what’s that diaper you have on” sung to the tune of Delta Dawn.

“Grandpa!” I’d yell and then I’d stomp to show my disapproval. Grandpa’s eyes would twinkle, and his laugh would make me laugh too.

Grandpa was devoted. Grandpa was always there for his family and friends. Twice a year, while their health permitted it, my grandparents would make the two-day journey to see us. Nothing made Grandpa happier than being put to work. He grabbed a hammer and banged the trusses of our house together in the hot sun. He helped to wire our house, or he’d grab a shovel and work the garden.

Grandpa was a great teacher. My love of learning came from my Grandpa. It was his gift to me. When I struggled with math, he showed me the joy of numbers. He knew the balance of showing by example and encouraging. He lovingly tended his garden and taught my brother and me to grow massive pumpkins by nicking the vine and placing it in sugar water. In a moment I’m back there—the black, moist earth. The lush, green vines.

The memory that keeps coming back to me is one of walking with my grandpa. I loved to go with him when I was small.

“You walk so fast, Grandpa,” I said.

He chuckled. “One day you’ll walk faster than me.”

I couldn’t imagine that day. My feet crunched, crunched in the gravel as I took two steps for every one that he took. Maybe if I took big steps like Grandpa, I’ll be able to walk as fast as him, I thought. I stretched my legs and took great strides and we laughed together.

I’ll spend the rest of my life doing that—trying to walk like Grandpa did.

Grandpa

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