Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dad's Eulogy

 Leigh wrote a wonderful Eulogy for my Dad... I had to share...

Eulogy for my Father in Law – June 18, 2010

Good Evening.  Thank you all for coming.  My name is Leigh Stang and I’m proud to say I am Contrad Hebert’s son in law.  My wife Danette and her mother Eileen asked me to say a few words over Con.  Not because I knew him the best, but because I look at things kinda sideways and they thought I might provide a different view of Con then would be expected.

As you may or may not know, Con suffered a heart attack two weeks ago.  So he’s lying in the hospital bed and the thoracic surgeon comes to speak to him.  He tells Con that they performed an angioplasty to clear a blocked artery.  He tells Con that if wants to live a little longer, he’s gonna have to change his life a bit.  He’s gonna need some more excersice, but not too much.  He’s gonna have to take blood thinners and beta blockers and 8 other mediations every day for the rest of his life.  Con says OK.  He’s gonna have to change his diet.  Alright.  No more salt.  Sure.  No more caffeine.  Makes sense.  But the final demand was too much for Con… The doctor said no more ice cream and he said that’s it, there’s no point now.  The prospect of no ice cream stopped his heart.

It’s ok to laugh at that, it’s kinda funny.  But at the same time it sums up the kind of man Con was.  A man who actually, ACTUALLY, did enjoy the little things in life.  Because, some time before I met him 16 years ago, he figured out that the little things are the big things.  That the best thing you could do for yourself every evening is to sit down and slowly savor a big old bowl of ice cream.  The slowness of it, the smoothness of it, the velvety, decadent luxuriousness of it, that there isn’t much in life that can’t be helped with a generous dollop of ice cream.

I thought about that on Tuesday as I drove to Edmonton to get my son Braedon and my nephew Scott from the airport.  I thought about all the lessons Con taught me over the years.  Always without saying anything.  He was riddled with arthritis.  Hips, knees, hands, back.  But the only time I heard him complain was when he said he didn’t want to take the medication because it made him feel out of sorts.  Fight through the pain.  It’ll go away eventually.  Ever notice that he smiled all the time?  No matter what was thrown at him?  The more he smiled, the lesser the problem seemed.  Never hears a cross-word.  Anger didn’t seem to have a point in Con’s life.  I dare anyone here tonight to think of a time when he spoke an unjustified word about a person, or a situation, or an event.

As I drove along the highway with the rising sun at my back, ruminating on my loss, I started to notice how green the surrounding countryside was… is.  That made me put something else together, that I never noticed until that day.  When I would go to Con and Eileen’s, and if I was in a bit of a snit, about whatever petty thing was bothering me that day, Con would amble over to where I would be brooding and take me into his garden.  HE never asked me what was bothering me, but instead showed me his giant tomoato plants.  He never prodded my problem out of me, but would talk about how those damn birds were eating all of his Saskatoon’s despite his most valiant efforts.  Then Danette would come out of the house and we would leave to do, whatever…and I always felt better.  Whatever I was stressing about would seem a little bit ridiculous and a lot less important.  These are all great lessons… great lessons.

Which got me thinking about great men. men that lead countries., men that have gone to the moon, men that have climbed Mount Everest.  Great men.  Not really.  Great achievements, certainly, but not necessarily great men.  Deeds don’t make men great.  It’s how they interact with their fellow man that shows who they truly are.  How they quietly and with momentous humility open their hearts to strangers and friends alike.  And Con did that.  Every day that he was on this planet he did that.  He didn’t have to be a President, or an author, or a captain of industry.  He wore many hats during his life. his last being a jeweler.  A humble job.  But think of all the lives he touched doing that.  Men buying rings to ask girlfriends to become wives, husbands buying wives anniversary presents, children choosing something for Mothers day, Father’s day, birthdays, holidays, retirements, celebrations… always.  A humble job, but massive impact.  And in the middle of it,  Con, with his immaculate suite and teddy bear charm.  He never tried to be more than he was.  A simple man, loving a simple life.  And in that humility he exceeded his restrictions and became a great man living a great life.

The simple man idea got me thinking about the Zen story of the old man of the mountain.  You know what I mean?  The really old guy that lives at the top of some mountain, and dispense wisdom to those worthy to hear it.  Well that’s Con.  He’s the old man on the mountain.  He’s the one with the answers that never offers his opinion.  Except in my story, he lives in a garden, not a mountain.  And some young fool, me, comes to seek the old master and after finally finding him in some secluded corner of this lush and vibrant place, tending to a little plant that everyone else would have given up on, the young fool asks.  Master Con, tell me, please, what is the answer to all the questions?”  And Master Con slowly straightens his creaking back, wraps his leathery gnarled fingers around the worked and smooth handle of his treasured dutch hoe… you know the hoe he’s had since 1958 or something like that, which is a lesson in itself… anyway, he leans on his hoe, lifts his face to the warm summer sun and is quiet for a long moment.  Then he lowers his face, looks directly at the young fool and says with solemnity “I don’t know, let’s go have some ice cream and think about it.”

Thank you Con for being in all our lives and for giving us the lesson of ice-cream.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gone, but never forgotten

Long time since my last post.

The last month has been full of emotion and it has been a month of immense change.  My Dad had a heart attack on June 4th, they fixed him up and he came home on June 11th, they were very optimistic, told him he was only 87 years old on paper, not physically.   Told him he had a lot of years ahead of him.  We were very happy.  He looked good, still had his tan, came home with 9 new medications, but he was doing well.   He spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday tired, napping, puttering around a bit in his garden, frustrated because he didn't do much, couldn't do much, I told him I'd come and weed for him. He even got a few games of cribbage in with my sister Danielle, his favorite game.   I spent the weekend getting my own house and yard in order, being at the hospital so much, we hadn't had time for it.  We thought we had time to take a break from heart attacks and hospitals, thought we could afford one weekend away from Dad to catch up. 

Monday morning, June 14th, Kennedy isn't feeling well.  Not sure if she had heat stroke, flu, or just needed a day.  Pretty sure she was meant to be at my parents that day.  I called Mom and Dad that Monday morning and asked if they were up for a day with Kennedy, a quiet day of her resting and recovering from whatever was going on.  They both said yes, they would love to have her.  We got there at about 8:45am, Dad was sitting in his new chair that Mom had bought him when he was in the hospital.  She didn't want him to be walking up and down the stairs so much to sit in his chair, she was going to go and get him a new flatscreen for upstairs too, but we hadn't gotten to Costco just yet.  Kennedy and I plopped down in front of Dad, me on the floor, her on the stool.  He had on his burgundy pajamas, a blanket around his legs and the heating pad on his lap.  He told me he was chilly, all the time it seemed.  I said it was probably because of the blood thinners.  Mom came around the corner, cup of coffee in her hand, in her housecoat, smile on her face, welcoming us and I could feel the peace they both felt, the peace in the air, having Dad back at home, he looked great, he was smiling... but chilly :).  I sat and talked for longer than my start time at work allowed, I was late getting in, but I was enjoying the morning and our visit so much, and I knew I would be forgiven.  I kissed my Mom goodbye and told her I loved her.  I kissed my Dad goodbye and told him I loved him, he kissed my cheek and held me tight and told me he loved me too, and as always, told me not to work too hard.  I gathered up my daughter in my arms, told her to rest, gave her a kiss and was out the door.  I got to work at about 9:30.

10:30, I am in a meeting in my office, informal but important.  My phone rings, it is not a direct call so I let it go through thinking that they will leave a message and I can call them back when I am done.  Two minutes later Melissa calls through again, I pick it up and it is Kennedy.  She is crying, she is telling me I have to come.  Grandpa has had another heart attack.

I can't find my keys.  Where are my keys.  I run to Mandy's office and she grabs hers and we are gone.  We race to Mom and Dad's house.  The ambulance is there.  Everyone is in front of the house.  Kennedy runs to me, I cling to her.  My Mom is there, I go to her.  She is going to drive with the EMT, not go in the ambulance.  She tells me that she is sure Dad is already dead.  The EMT tells me they will do everything they can.  I let my Mom go with her.  I tell her I am right behind them.  Alice stays with Kennedy, my Kennedy who watched her Grandpa have a heart attack, ran to get Alice while my Mom stayed with Dad, after she talked to him for almost an hour after I left, telling him everything that was going on in her life.  Grandpa listening with a smile on his face, Grandma listening with a smile on hers.  She is being strong, her breakdown comes later.

Mandy drives, I don't even remember getting there.  I call Leigh first, I don't have to say anything but "come".  I call my siblings and tell them to come.  They are crying, asking me questions, I just tell them to come. 

My Dad passed away on June 14th, 2010. 

They assure us he was in no pain.  It was quick... we know he died at home.  A good place to die, the place where you lived your life with a loving wife of 55 years, children that thought you were Superman, turning to you for your quiet advice, always wanting to be around you... grandchildren that adored you.  My Dad was the kind of person I strive to be... happy, happy in life, happy with all that life gave to him.  He truly did bring out the best in others, and gave the best of himself.  He had a wonderful 87 years, and he would have been the first one to tell you that  As we mourn for him, I can hear him saying, don't cry for me, I had everything in life that I ever wanted.  Remember me, but don't cry for me.  I try not to cry for you Dad, it is very hard, but I pull a memory out, a memory of you, and that helps. 

We will take care of Mom, she misses you very much.  We all miss you very much.  Thank you for being the person you were Dad, they don't make 'em like you anymore.