Not long after her death, I was coming home for the long July 1st weekend and when I got
off the bus, I met our Minister walking down our little side street. I called to him and he
turned and waited for me. I was chattering away to him but stopped abruptly when he came up on the
porch with me. I didn't want to be rude so I asked him if he wanted to come in for a minute.
He told me that had been his intention..."I have some bad news". Daddy had been drowned in a diving
accident at Elliot Lake. Mum had just received the news and was actually hanging up the phone as we came into the kitchen.
We had a phone on the wall, just outside the kitchen door. I can still see her, in a yellow sun dress, sitting on the
little seat below the phone. She wasn't crying but her face was red and blotchy, as if someone had slapped her.
The mining folks shipped Daddy home by train in a plain pine box. They were very upset
about the accident, although it had happened off-site. He had been swimming with friends and dived off
the high board into what should have been about forty feet of water. As it turned out, there was a huge silt build-up
and there was really only about two or three feet of water. He broke his neck and was pronounced dead on the scene by an RCMP
officer who had been part of the swimming group. He would have been 42 on his next birthday on July 4th.
He had been a member of the Masonic Order and they gave him a Masonic funeral. With bagpipe music. I wish I
could remember what they played. It's clear that funerals are for the living, not the dead.
Again, I didn't behave very well. All our friends and relatives came back to the house after the funeral and I
remember having a loud argument with my Aunt Bertha. (I'll tell you about her another time; she
inevitably backed her car over our clothes pole that held up the clothesline in the back yard). She had asked me to make some more sandwiches or something and I
exploded in anger. "Why don't people go home", I remember yelling at her. "Don't they know we
need to be left alone!". I still had a lot of growing up to do.
In retrospect, I know that my anger was just a part of my own grieving process. But
it was more than that. It was guilt. The last time I saw Daddy, he had brought me a record player and
I remember him saying that as soon as the house was built, we'd all be together again. But I was
angry with him for not being around when Mum and the boys and I needed him; angry that he
thought a record player could make things better. We had a nasty little row and
he left to go back to the mine without our making it up. We never spoke again.
I can write this now with a minimum of sorrow and regret. It was a long time before I forgave
myself for that spurt of bad temper. But in time I realized that he loved us, no matter how we behaved and so
I've forgiven myself for being young. Wherever they all are now, I'm sure they understand.
"If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call to make,
who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?"
"Yesterday's the past and tomorrow's the future. Today is a gift - which is why they call it the present." - Bill Keane