The brilliant blue sky is contrasted against the stark white snow on the ground. It’s cold and I watch my breath escape. I tighten my grip on the handle and look across at my brother, John as he does the same. Behind me is my other brother, Allen and across from him John’s son, Braeden. They grab hold as well and we step forward so Allen’s sons, Adam and Kyle can take their positions. As one we move away from the hearse and take the final steps with my dad as we carry his casket to the gravesite. It is not far and all too soon we release our last connection and step back and the switch is turned on to lower the casket. John and I say goodbye to our father while we all watch his last journey. Back at the vehicles we all exchange hugs and then drive back to Pine Hills funeral home where the others are waiting.
My dad was born in 1920 and almost made it to 94. Although he had experienced health issues for the last year he had refused to give in to them. We agreed it was his stubbornness that had kept him going after he turned 90. Earlier we held a small ceremony before delivering him to his grave. Family and close friends had come together to say goodbye. John had addressed the group first, talking of my dad’s past; his journey from London to Canada during World War II for training where he met my mother, and later after they had two sons their immigration to Canada from England and the life they had created here.
When it was my turn to speak I had to rely on my notes for fear of missing something that I wanted to say. It went like this.
“I’m lucky and I know it. Not because I’ve stayed healthy, not gone to jail for speeding tickets or had to face the consequences of the numerous dumb things I’ve done. I’m lucky the same way Allen and John are lucky. We won the parent lottery and I’ve always known that.
I learned a lot from my dad but I wish I’d learned more. I wish I’d paid more attention when he was fixing my motorcycles so now I’d know better what to do to mine.
But I did pay attention to how he treated people and my whole life has been an effort to follow his example.
I said to my mom yesterday that I thought life was simple. You just have to treat people the way you would like to be treated. I learned that from my parents.
I don’t know two more helpful people than my parents and I’ve always admired their kindness and generosity to others.
From fixing a kids bike to helping someone repair their house my Dad was always ready to grab his tools and help. It didn’t matter how it happened if something was broken my dad could fix it.
When John put the ladder through the front window when we were trying to help Dad put up the Christmas lights he never got mad, just dealt with the window and carried on with the lights.
When I wrecked John’s 69 Firebird by driving it on the highway in low, it was my Dad who fixed the transmission. He didn’t get mad at me and neither did John, and I love him too.
My Dad is gone but his memories live on. Everyone who knew Dad probably has a story of him fixing something for them. My Dad helped others and never asked for reward. He did it because he could and he wanted to help.
I learned from him to never give up, to not be afraid of big tasks and that kindness is it’s own reward, and the best gift is to help others.
I am very lucky because I had my Dad in my life for nearly 60 years. We are all lucky because we got to know the truly amazing person that was Len Peters.
It is sad that he’s gone but we should be happy that we were the lucky ones who knew him.”
I loved my Dad. When I became a father myself I often thought I would do well if I could be as good a father to my kids as he was to me.
There are so many images that come to mind when I think of him. Sitting in his favourite chair with a cup of tea, pulling a zippo lighter out of his pocket to light his cigarette while he worked on some project, his easy laughter, his incredible concentration, his attentiveness, so many things blend into one memory.
His was a life well lived and he won’t be forgotten.