On December 11th I received a call from my sister that our father had been airlifted to Toronto General Hospital. The next morning, Jamie and I jumped in the car and drove to the city to be with Dad. Cherie, Dwayne, Jamie, Mom and I rushed to be by his side. Unfortunately he was on life support, so he couldn’t talk to us, but we spent the next two days talking to him, and bringing up happy childhood memories.
Although Dad was in a drug induced coma, his heart rate was more stable when we were with him in the hospital room. We know that he knew we were there for him.
Early December 14th, we received the call that no one ever wants to receive: Our Dad had passed away at the young age of 59.
The range of emotions that one goes through when they lose a parent is daunting. Even as an adult, it is hard to accept this harsh reality. Fortunately for Dad, this was sudden; unfortunately for us, we didn’t have time to be ready for this sad news.
I knew that I had to write the eulogy for Dad. I did the same for Grandma when she passed on. However, I knew that there was no way I could deliver it. I tried with Grandma’s and maybe got through two sentences. Jamie graciously volunteered to work with me to create Dad’s eulogy and delivered it for the family.
I wanted to share with you here our tribute to Dad that Jamie read at Dad’s funeral.
I approach this duty with equal parts trepidation and honour. And as difficult as standing here may be, it is incomparable to the sense of loss we are feeling today.
Chuck represented many things to many people: husband, dad, grandpa, brother, uncle, great grandfather and friend.
He was a man who valued tradition and family above all else, always willing to lend a hand or a tool to anyone in need. However, he wouldn’t let just anyone drive one of his precious John Deere tractors.
On a side note: before any tool could be used, it had to sit in the garage or barn to be “well seasoned”.
Chuck has a grandson and a great grandson with whom he shares a middle name, Arthur. His grandson, Sam, has always lovingly referred to him as his “Farm Grandpa”.
Chuck taught many of us how to respect the land and nature. He loved working outdoors and working the land on the family farm. The farm was his father’s legacy and he was proud to follow in his father’s footsteps.
I never had the opportunity to go hunting with Chuck, probably because he thought if we were out together and saw a deer, I would tell it to run. But he did offer to teach me how to shoot a gun. Now I did what any boyfriend would do when their future father-in-law offers to take them out for target practice: I asked him if I really needed to wear a set of antlers. When he said “yes”, I insisted that Connie join us.
Chuck not only loved nature and the outdoors, but he also loved animals, both big and small. There aren’t too many people who can say that they’ve taken baby calves into their home and living rooms. He loved his farm animals and his pet dogs. Talking about Benji or Sheba always brought a smile to his face.
Chuck was a wise man, always willing to pass along words of wisdom while working outdoors with the boys. I am sure many of us here had insight passed along while walking the fence line, cutting wood, or helping with the hay.
Now I don’t know if Chuck had any special insight into the Mayan Calendar (perhaps he had a copy of the Mayan Farmers Almanac laying around), but with multiple freezers packed full with food, and a well-stocked pantry, he was prepared for any apocalypse that might come our way, and was well equipped to feed the entire community, and then some.
Anyone who ever drove into town with Chuck to pick up a “few things” can attest to this. It was never just a few things. I mean, Chuck stocked up on so much ginger ale, I half-expected to see flowers from Vernors or Schweppes.
Chuck was a father figure to many people here in this room. He was always willing to be that support to anyone who needed it. He was a great father. Not many men would take their grown daughters with them on their honeymoon, but Chuck did just that, taking Connie and Cherie with him and Lynn on their trip to Jamaica.
He wanted to make sure that his two daughters were able to experience the magic of Disneyworld and provided them with that dream vacation when they were in their 20s. Connie and Cherie would always be little girls to him. He beamed with pride as he was able to walk both of them down the aisle on their wedding days.
We often talk about the Freedom 55 dream, but Chuck was able to live it, spending his last few years living out his dream of being a full-time farmer.
Chuck will be missed by all of us, but the impression that he has left on all of our lives will live on.
Today is a difficult day. How can it not be? We’re not supposed to be here, it’s far too soon.
But today is as much a meditation for the living as it is for the dead. In all of us are innumerable memories of a man we all loved. And while these memories will never completely fill the hole his passing leaves in our lives, they will, over time, help to smooth the edges.
If I may, I’d like to end with my own story about Chuck that ties in with the value he placed on family and the words of wisdom he often provided.
Eleven years ago, I spent my first Christmas up here on the farm. Unfortunately, the night we arrived, Chuck lost a couple of cattle. Early the next morning, Chuck, Dwayne and I headed out into the field. As we surveyed the situation, Chuck took me aside for one of his “talks”.
You can imagine what was going through my mind.
Connie and I had been dating less than a year. Given the somber mood that morning and the fact that this was my girlfriend’s father, a rather imposing figure, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
But to my relief, the talk was short and the point simple:
Family – above all else – comes first. No exceptions.
Whether you were a friend of Chuck’s or blood relation, he considered you family.
Now, I think we can all agree that Chuck was a bit stubborn. OK, he was a lot stubborn. And this stubbornness meant that life with Chuck could be at times challenging, often frustrating, but never without love.
If you leave today knowing only one thing, it’s that Chuck loved everyone of you so very much. Do not ever forget that.