My dad passed away at the start of this summer from Alzheimer’s and I did the eulogy.
I’d like to thank everyone, family and friends, who have come today. I’d also like to make a special acknowledgement to the Saskatoon University Hospital, the Nipawin Union Hospital, and especially Pineview Lodge for their help. Finally, I would like to offer a special thanks to the family and friends who have been with us and helped us over the past two years.
While working on dad’s obituary, and trying to sum up the facts and details of his life, I could not help but feel that the picture of who he was was somewhat lost.
Dad was a character. His reputation preceded him. When I told people I was Charles Gane’s son, if they knew him you could tell immediately. It seemed that the very thought of him could bring a smile to their face, or perhaps a shudder if you worked for him.
He was a joker, and a prankster (I seem to remember him trying to trick us a lot on April Fool’s Day), and he was a darn good storyteller (even if they were the same one over and over). People remember his smile.
He had his own way of fixing things, that usually involved a hammer, or a bit of a daredevilry using his forklift and a very high spot, that would usually end as you would expect—badly.
He was the last person you wanted bidding against you at an auction because you never knew if he wanted the thing or was just trying to make you have to pay more for it.
He was a beekeeper, whose honey will make people miss him even if they didn’t know him. When it came to protecting his bees, no one was safe, whether he was awake or asleep. Once while dreaming, he thought he was a bird and flew to the top of his honey house. He saw someone breaking in and decided to scare him away and let out a “CRAW”. Unfortunately, he said this out loud in bed and mom thought he was having a heart attack.
He was a sure-shot, one time catching four bears in a yard and stopping three only because his gun jammed.
He was a boss who had a hard-as-nails work ethic, which he expected from all his employees. Dan Palmer and I always use to joke that if the end of the world was coming, dad would say, “We’ve still got another hour. Let’s finish this next bee-yard.”
He was not always patient, and a little stubborn but he was also determined and committed. When his mind was finally set on something, he would just do it.
He was a neighbour who was always willing to volunteer and help you out. He liked to visit and entertain, unless it was beekeeping season and he would excuse himself and head to bed (but not always politely).
He loved cards, whether it was solitaire or playing with others. His strategy to win was either to bend the rules if needed or to talk so much you wouldn’t be able to concentrate on your own hand.
He was a brother-in-law, a father-in-law, an uncle, a brother, and a grandfather who would go on any adventure, whether it was up north or down to the beach at Prudens Point. His love for you was like his hugs, a little rough but always close.
He was a husband who would stay by your side through even the toughest times and he was a father who put his children first, sharing adventures in the bee-yard or the lake. He was willing to play make-believe with his daughter and pretend that when they were lost in the woods, you could get food from a store just around the corner. He showed me that it was alright to stand beneath a crow’s nest at point blank range and fire a shotgun.
I think, in the end, the more you got to know him, the closer he got to share with you all of the qualities above.
Memory is a funny thing, but as my wife would say, not funny haha. It makes up a man’s character so much: his stories, his habits, his actions. But as his memory fails, we lose the parts of the whole, and we are reduced to seeing him only as a partial picture of the man he was.
Yet over the past week, as I have been working on this eulogy, hearing stories from friends and family, and telling my kids about their grandfather, I realize that it is now our stories of him that are his memories and by sharing those stories we make that picture whole again.
Here are three stories I’d like to share with you now:
Remember that one spring
when we were feeding bees
at the yard with the pines.
Cold hands caked with sugar water,
I didn’t want to be there
and you were sick of my BS.
I quit watching and caring
and the grass caught fire
after I lit my smoker.
Upset, you poured water
on the burning cardboard and tossed
it on the truck and left the yard.
I followed behind you in
the old, blue beater of a truck and
I saw the smoke and flames shoot up from beneath the load.
I tried catching you,
the engine not going past fifty,
and the horn sounding like a dying bird.
You didn’t notice the fire until
the heat singed your elbow and
flames shot up in the side view mirror.
You jammed on the breaks
and started tossing burning pallets off
with your bare hands.
I watched as you lifted and tossed,
and pulled the truck ahead,
so the gas tank wouldn’t heat up.
Afterwards, we didn’t talk much,
and over the rest of the day, we filled pails
as the bees buzzed around our heads.
I remember mornings
as a kid and I’d lie in bed
and listen to 1420 CJVR play
country music from
the paint splattered black radio that
sat on top of the corner filing cabinet.
I would rise with the whistle of the
kettle as the water boiled for your
Maxwell House instant coffee.
And I would come out, eyes adjusting
to the light of the dining room
and you would be there, always
writing numbers of hives, yards, bees, barrels,
honey, and queens in your little notepad
or on the edge of the Star Phoenix classifieds.
I remember watching you but
I don’t remember what happened next, as if
my memory was erased as the sleep escaped.
My best memories of you
are from the summer, when the sun
was high and hot and we’d work
and the sweat would run
in my eyes and soak my coveralls and
I’d hope that all the tears and holes were sealed
so the bees wouldn’t get in and
sting me, but they’d always found a way
and catch me in the most awful places.
At the end of the day, when I could
barely stand, you’d give me that
filthy jug of water that would taste like gas
And tell me to drink and I would and
it would run crystal clean down my throat
like a fresh water spring.
When we were done, and the truck pulled
out of the yard, the load would strain the ropes
and sway under the weight
and the lost bees would swarm back home,
their obstruction gone,
and they’d wash in like a black buzzing wave.
Then afterwards, when your Alzheimers came,
we sat at your bedside, and we wished your memories
would fly home and you would rise to gather honey.
But we knew the truth, that those bees
were lost in sunlit fields where the warm summer winds blow
and call your name.
Dad — I don’t know if I will ever understand you fully. Although we had our own paths and never always saw eye to eye, I find a little more of you inside of me each day and I come to know you a little better. I know that who I am and what I am doing now is because of you.