Guess which family member was selected to give the eulogy at my father’s funeral last Tuesday…
There he is — right over there… It’s Robert, our father, Thérèse’s husband, leaving mass and heading for his nightly walk. Like us (the family), most of you gathered here this morning knew my father as a big-time walker. Oh! how he loved walking and going places! So it was inevitable that while we were reminiscing about him these last few days, we would recall all the soft footprints he left behind on our hearts and in our memories.
You know… as we were drawing from our memory well this weekend, we probably laughed as much as we cried. My brother Denis, whom my parents would call their “little pest” when he was young, remembered how he squirted Dad with the garden hose — quite “accidentally” of course! — when he was 6 or 7 years old. Despite his very young age and although Dad was never one to raise his voice, Denis instantly knew that perhaps this time he had gone just a little bit too far. So he did what any boy his age would have done: He took to the field beyond our family’s backyard. Yet, to this day, Denis doesn’t remember what Dad did when he finally caught him. For no matter how serious the offence, the corrective measure Dad would impose was always fair and never hurtful.
It couldn’t have been otherwise, for one character trait trumped all others in Dad, and that was kindness. It was a quiet kindness that we could hear each time he’d make one of his little jokes. It was a kindness that rendered him unable to understand why there is so much evil in this world. It was a kindness that was very tangible and very real. But, moreover, it was a kindness imbued with so much love.
And that love, we all felt it. Each of us could tell you a few dozen stories that would illustrate the extent to which he wanted nothing but the best for those around him, especially his wife and his children. We can’t help but think that Dad stayed among us as long as he did, despite all the suffering he endured during these last months and these last years, because of that love. Indeed, they say that it is our children who give us each strand of white hair. If that is so, then Dad sported his white hair with a pride unparalled by none.
That pride, he held it as strongly as he did his faith in God. I remember when I was 18, I had decided to have a little adventure: With little warning, I had decided to try my luck for a year in Halifax before going to university. My parents indulged me, but I still remember how, as Dad was driving me to the train station that April morning, he warned me never to forget that it was God who was Number One. His nuggets of wisdom, he would offer them freely and calmly, but with a gentle certainty that was most disarming.
And what about his devotion to those he loved! This devotion, we saw it in his last wishes during the last year of his life. He ardently wanted to visit “all his people,” so last July Mom and Dad got in their car to visit my brother Yvan in Grand Falls and the relatives in Rivière-du-Loup. Then, one month later, they boarded a train to Ottawa to visit my sister Marielle. Those last two journeys, Dad’s last two wishes, Mom helped him realize. Thank you, Mom, for having given him the strength to fulfill his wishes.
And now there he is — right over there… It’s Dad out for a walk, peaceful. He has just finished climbing a big hill which has led him to his new home. Benevolently he is observing us all from up there with his beautifully soft grey blue eyes. And the soft footprints he left behind on our hearts and in our memories will remain with us until we join him on this great journey he has just begun.