Wednesday, October 29, 2014

...another Angel went to heaven... RIP Dad - We love you!

To anyone who has read my blog over the last couple of years, thank you. This blog has been a place to share my thoughts, feelings and to express how I felt watching my parents age and my father's health decline.

Oct. 13, 2014
2001 - Me and Dad
Sadly, on October 13, 2014, my father took his last breath after a valiant fight. He held on longer than I would ever have expected, as his body shut down and his health rapidly deteriorated - his mind was strong. He knew we were there. He took his last breath, lying next to the love of his life. He waited I think, for the room to be quiet, for his last moments alone and for her to rest. Mom had been there day and night and finally succumbed to some rest, in the recliner, holding his hand. As she drifted off to sleep, he let go. His eyes closed for the last time, his final breath releasing. It is sad, heart breaking and brings tears to my eyes, but he knew he was loved. In his final hours, I believe he became content. He accepted what was and his life and I think, in my heart, that he knew he was forgiven and he forgave himself for any transgressions he may have committed. He was a good man. (Obituary)

Oct 18/2014 Celebration of Klaas' Life
A few of the Giesbrecht side...
My parents spent 45 years in BC, on Vancouver Island and I know that had he passed there, the church would have been standing room only. Having said that, I am so grateful for the fact that him living his final days in Lethbridge, AB he was able to have so much family at his funeral. So many cousins and relatives came and expressed their love for him. He was the oldest of 8 children and he can now join his parents and siblings who have already gone on before him. Thank you to everyone who came to share in the celebration of his life. As well, thank you to everyone who has reached out to help support my mother during this time. Near and far. It meant so much to her to here from so many people. She has been strong, but I think reality is now hitting her. I hope that she is able to come to closure in a timely fashion and move forward with the strength I know she has.

My brothers and I
Both my older brother Owen and I spoke at Dad's service and my younger brother shared some written thoughts. I shared some memories and my brother shared the eulogy. Unfortunately, neither of my sisters or their children, were able to attend. One of my dad's friends for the past 30 years also sent in a beautiful story that we shared. The overwhelming legacy that came through loud and clear, was my father's integrity as an honest man. I challenge anyone to say otherwise. He lived his best, he was fair to a fault and his worst nightmare would be for anyone to say otherwise. 

                   Dad, I love you, miss you and thank you - for everything............. Love always, Toot

Tribute to Dad – Saturday, October 18, 2010 – Sarah Sherman

Good afternoon, I would like to thank you all for coming today to remember and honour my father, Klaas Giesbrecht. Dad would be overwhelmed with pleasure and embarrassment at the fact that we are all here to talk about him and make him the center of attention for one day. As much as Dad didn't like to have everything focused on him, he still enjoyed being with people he loved and sharing stories and that is what I hope to do for him today.

 There has been some discussion on whether he was proud or humble – probably a bit of both, but I can tell you that he was proud of his family and he was humble in a manner that he didn't like a lot of discussion surrounding his accomplishments – they were sort of to be expected. So Dad, this is for you and I know you know I talk a lot and tend to ramble on, so I am asking you to humour me for one last time. For the rest of you, please get comfortable I timed my talk and I promise not to speak for more than 2 hours.

I have to admit this has been a strange week, a roller coaster in some ways and that I haven't been as emotional as I thought I might – I am sure I will make up for that today – but I know my Dad knows that I loved him dearly and that he was always strong in my eyes. My Dad used to call me stoic when I held in my feelings and didn't share them – I told him no, I am just kind of stubborn like you.

My dad was strong and those of you who knew him when he was young or in middle age, you know what I mean. Those of you who knew him near the end need to know he was still strong, the fact that he held on the way he did, truly amazed me. I often wondered and even asked him, why not just give up ... you are hurting, just let go and he was still there – truly amazing. Ask the nurses about how strong he was, he amazed them with his physical strength right to the end.

I want to pay tribute to him today, celebrate his life and his impact on the people around him. No, he wasn't perfect, in fact far from it, but who is perfect... I asked a few people for stories to share on their behalf and I will try to relay them to you. I have had so many people send me thoughts in the past few days and tell me how much they admired him, appreciated him and are thankful for him. I think that is a beautiful legacy.

First I will share a few of my own thoughts, and they are memories that I shared with Dad last spring when I came to visit – things that I will always cherish and that I wanted him to know I remembered. He listened and laughed and cried and tried to speak to me as well as he could.

Some of my fondest memories are our family trips to Alberta. We traveled about every two years from Vancouver Island to Lethbridge – We often left on a Friday after Dad got home from work. Mom would have the car or camper packed and ready to go and we kids were ready to get in and start the drive to the ferry. We could leave around 5pm and start driving, often stopping at Whiskey Creek store – home of 32 flavours of ice cream and then back in the vehicle to make the trip to the BC ferry and onward. We all made sure we went to the bathroom on the ferry boat because the truck was not stopping again until we were about to run out of gas. Dad drove all night. He wasn't one for stopping – just plough on through and I think I was probably about 10 years old before I realized that Cranbrook or Castlegar actually had anything to see. I know he was driving so it was quiet and we could sleep and he could make the trip without interruption and I swear that he and my island uncles all had competitions on who could make it in the fewest hours. I will admit there were a few scary moments as Dad got sleepy on the straight Alberta roads after driving all night and the car weaved over the line. But we made it and it is due to the diligence of my parents that we were able to get to know our family near and far. It warms my heart that so many of you are here today.

When I was 8 years old I desperately wanted a motor bike. My brothers didn't think a girl needed a bike but I pestered and nagged my dad for months. All I wanted was a red Honda 50 mini bike and dad would keep saying he would get me a Kawasaki – this made me crazy and I would yell at him “NO!” they sound like chain saws and I am NOT driving that! My dad always seemed to have a motorbike and at that point Owen had a 70 and mom had a 90 and I just wanted a bike too. I think I wore dad down because one day when I was 8 years old he came home from work and gruffly said “Sally! (That’s what he used to call me.) go get my lunch box out of the truck!” I said in my typically whiny voice, “no, I don't want to!” and he yelled.  “GO NOW!” Well, I could back talk once but twice was pushing it so I got my butt out there and climbed over the back of the pick up truck into the box and I screamed! I turned my head and saw Dad laughing. There in the back of his truck was a brand new shiny red Honda mini bike with a big number 50 on the side and next to it sat my very own bike helmet. I was so happy – I squealed and said Dad! You were just teasing me! He laughed, pulled it out and got me driving. I will never forget that. Our family went on to take many bike rides together on those country logging roads; Dad on his big bike, mom on her bike, Owen on his, me on mine and little Chad – sitting in the basket at the front of moms bike (Yes Chad used to be the littlest in the family and he fit in it.)

My family - circa 1970's
About a year or so later I must have been feeling a bit left out. Owen got to go hunting with dad and he took both the boys fishing and I guess I thought maybe my dad was only interested in boys because one day Dad came home from town and took me aside. I think he asked me to come see him outside and he walked me to the back of the yard. We were over near the boat in the back yard and Dad pulled out a box, I opened the box and on the velvet interior lay a gold locket – Dad had engraved it with a message to me and he told me that being a middle child and the only girl at the time I might think he didn't care as much about me. He told me then – not to tell my brothers – so they should stop listening now, but he wanted to know that I was extra special to him because I was his princess and I always would be. I will never forget how important he made me feel. Thank you Dad, I felt like an ugly duckling a lot but you always made me feel like I was beautiful and I am sorry that I didn't always believe you – because now , being a parent, I know you meant it – even if I couldn't see it.

We grew up in an era where kids played outside all day, stayed out until dark, went to the river alone and drove around in the back up pick up trucks. Yet we survived. That is why I didn't think the following situation was a bad thing....
I think I gave my parents one of the worst scares of their lives. When I was about 10 my friend Helen and I asked if we could walk to the store. The nearest store was Riverbend, maybe 3 or 4 miles away but we planned to walk to Sproat Lake and I am not sure how far that was but it was further. I don't think my mom took us seriously and she let us go. Helen and I walked down the back logging roads and we were gone for hours, when we eventually got to the Tall Timbers store at the lake, it was 6 or 8 hours later, we were exhausted and still had to go home. We had no clue that there was a full search out for us, this was before Amber Alerts and the RCMP were searching for us, and it was on the radio, everyone trying to find us. We were clueless. We came out of the store and saw a police car, it pulled up to us and the officer said – “Are you Helen and Sarah?” We said, yes... they officer said, “Everyone is looking for you.” Our first thoughts were - we are in SO much trouble! When we got home I was afraid to see my parents – not sure what would happen, but they just cried and hugged me, they thought I was gone forever. About two years ago, Dad relayed this experience back to me and told me how hard he prayed for me to be safe. I felt awful to scare them so badly. I don't think I got into trouble though!

There are so many things I could say about my dad and this week I have remembered things and shared them with my girls and that has made me feel very close to him. It is hard to believe but Dad is the one who took me shopping for my grad dress and although I didn't realize at the time how tight money was in our family – he didn't pinch pennies at all. I think he was the only dad I know who drove their daughter to the store and sat there and he watched me try on each dress and critiqued it. I don't know how well he was at judging but he thought they were all beautiful on me and he drove me to every bridal store on Vancouver Island.

Me and My Girls
When it came to family – he was all about that – he may have held back with the words “I love you” when it came to us kids – probably due to how he was raised, but he never held back on saying I love you to his grandkids. From the time Althea the first grandchild was born through to Koel the last and all the rest in between – he adored holding those babies on his knee, laughing when they farted or grinning when he snuck them away in their little car seats for their first ice cream cones. My girls remember snuggling with grandpa on his big chair; going to sit on his lap in the computer room and him sneaking them treats from the candy room. They loved their grandpa hugs and smiles and any opportunity to go out with him to the big trucks or machines. 

Dad was the oldest of 8 children and I asked my uncles for some memories of my dad and there seems to be a common theme – Dad and his toys and dad wrecking his toys.

Dads remaining siblings
Uncle Abe said he always admired dad and looked up to him. Dad was 6 years older and Uncle Abe just wanted to hang out and spend time with him but a typical older brother he did his own thing and didn't always get too as much as he would have liked. Uncle Abe told me about a car dad bought in 1960 – the car was pretty knew – a 1956 Crown Victoria and it was a really nice car – except that dad drove across the border with friends one Sunday afternoon and by the time he started home he wasn't driving so well and totalled the car. Another time he had a 1955 Dodge and he was driving too fast across the bridge, went sideways and ripped off the bumpers on the guard rails. Yes, he liked his toys but might have still been a little too wild to appreciate them fully.

Uncle Peter was much younger than Dad – by about 15 years so he doesn't have too many early memories of Dad, but funny enough, his first memory involves Dad, a car and an accident. When Uncle Peter was 4 years old – Dad came home to visit with his car, Uncle Bill and Uncle Dave who were a bit older than Uncle Peter decided to play a joke on dad and filled his exhaust pipe with either rocks or potatoes, there seems to be some dispute about that. Uncle Peter, being a curious 4 year old boy, bent down and leaned under the back of the car with his face in the tail pipe to look it over. Dad had no clue that Peter was there and he started the car to drive away – Poor Peter pulled twice around the wheel well and then was knocked back flat, hit in the head with rocks or potatoes and had to get rushed to the hospital. He was in for 3 days for observation and had a big cut on his head. Dad apparently always felt bad about that and Uncle Peter who has now shaved his head, realizes he still has that scar as a memory.

Dad loved his toys and although a bright man he was impetuous and even careless at times. He definitely went through a few vehicles and injuries. Most often he could laugh about it later.

I have so many memories of my Dad and most of them are good so for that I have much to be thankful for. Now that I am a parent and I have done my best to love my kids while also spending a good amount of time screwing them up, I realize what a challenge parenting is. I realize that although Dad and I didn't always agree – yes I tried to stir things up with him from time to time or to rustle his feathers a bit – I also learned so much from him. I know he made mistakes – I would like to meet a parent who hasn't – but he did his best and he even managed to say sorry from time to time. My dad taught me to love to read and learn and we had so many great discussions.

A piece of his life...
One of the memories I shared with him last spring was his method to get us to read our scriptures. I loved to read, but I was into novels, not so much the Bible or Book of Mormon. Dad wanted us to get through them and to read them daily so he enticed us with a reward. If we read The New Testament or Book of Mormon, etc. He would take us out ANYWHERE to our choice of dinner. I could have anything I wanted and we had appetizers, entree, dessert, the whole deal. I told him last spring, I might not read the scriptures anymore but I still like to eat food, so I guess I have him to thank for that. And even though he lay there, sick, and with a limited vocabulary, he laughed and shook his finger at me.

My brother Chad, shared some memories with me and I would like to read those to you: 

I still have a few early memories of life. My earliest all take place on Bell Rd in Port Alberni. My earliest is probably sitting in the driveway behind the house, when I had the notion of eating dirt. I recall it was pretty awful. So I tried a second handful. Pretty sure I quit after that. I also recall waving goodbye to my brother and sister as they went to school. Somewhere around that age, I recall receiving a gift from my father. Dad was working just outside the backdoor. He used to weld there, as I don't think he had a good 220 plug out at the shop at that time. I was in the house, when he called me to come have a look at something. I headed out to see what’s up. I was a pretty small guy at the time, and when I stepped out, dad pointed to a frog. It looked enormous! It must have been a bullfrog, and as I recall, it seemed as big as my head. I realize now that it was not very big, but at that moment it was huge! And I was absolutely terrified! I ran into the house, not wanting to look back as I couldn’t afford to let this giant frog catch me. I ran through the kitchen, into the living room and onto the couch where I met my mother. I was scared and I was crying. And mom seemed the safest place to be. Not far behind me was dad. He was laughing away, as was my mother. Then he knelt down and apologized to me. Explaining that he never meant to scare me. "Chad, that's my pet frog. I only wanted to show him to you. He’s not going to hurt you. He’s very nice." As he slowly calmed me down, he told me that if I would like, I could have his frog for my very own. And that’s really all it took. From then on I was the proud owner of this awesome frog. I could often hear a frog under the floor of my bedroom as I went to sleep. Now I realize it was probably just good frog habitat, and a great hangout for frogs. But I used to often relay this story to the other kids, and even some adults. It was pretty cool having such a pet, and I was pretty proud that my father had trusted me enough to call it my own. No longer was I afraid of reptiles.
I have many memories. Dad bought motorcycles for everyone in the family other than myself. Luckily for me, my sister Sarah didn't have a real strong interest in riding her Z-50. So it was passed my way. I recall the day dad taught me how to ride it, it was pretty standard, dad would push me and tell me to go, and Id fall over. Then as I progressed I rode right into the back of the car. Finally getting the hang of it, he told me to never take it out of first gear. I probably rode that thing for a year before I worked up the courage to do two things, disobey my father, and two, feel the intense speed that second gear held in store for me. That bike had three gears, and I eventually found all three of them. I rode and rode and rode. I logged a lot of miles on that one acre property. And often as dad rolled into the driveway from building road all day, I was standing there with my little motorcycle next to his pickup waiting for fuel. Sometimes he would grumble, and sometimes not. But he would walk over and grab his siphoning hose out of the back of the truck and pull gas out of his truck and straight into my little bike and Id be on my way again until dinner time. That bike was a stroke of genius on my mom and dads part. It was the babysitter of the time. Dad always liked motorcycles and boats and cars and trucks and equipment. So I guess I come by it honestly. Because of him, I have an old car, a motorcycle, a few bits of equipment, a way too many boats. I learned so much just watching my dad. He had a bit of a reputation as a kind of a rough operator, but I enjoyed and respected his style. A bit rough and a bit crazy. I honestly believe I learned good and bad from him. But whichever, I learned a lot. And I'm grateful for the opportunities that came my way. How many kids are running a chainsaw by 9 years old? How many kids are running a skidder by age 11? How many kids are running a 980 log loader by14? I got to run so many pieces of equipment over the years, and all because of my dad. I could go on and on. So many close calls. So many learning experiences. So many times we were behind the eight ball in so many fashions. But he always bulldozed his way through and got her done. Thank you Mom and Dad. I love you. Chad
Those memories are indicative of the man dad was, gruff but loving and never wanting to intentionally hurt us but always pushing us to try different and new things. I even had a 22 gun but again, being a bit of a girl, didn't use it much. Now living in rural New Brunswick, I kind of wish I had pursued that more.

Me and Dad - March 2014
I didn't think I would be coming to see my dad again and I agonized about it but had the opportunity in March and I am so blessed to have spent almost 3 weeks with him, hours each day, helping him eat, reading poetry to him, talking to him and just sitting in peace. That experience has helped me now – I believe I grieved then and although his passing is a mixed emotion, I am so glad I could see him when more coherent. This past weekend I was able to spend most of the last two days by his and moms side and that is more than I could have asked for. Dad didn't like us to spend money we didn't have or travel to see him if we couldn't afford it, but Chad tells me that when he told dad I was coming, dad gave his hand one hard squeeze – I am so happy I was able to come and say goodbye.

Once I realized that I would be coming to visit him last spring, I decided to put my poetry together into a book form so that he could see it. I rushed to get it done and self-published a book to share and show him. He always appreciated technology and the things we could do with it. I was proud to show him the completed copy and to share the poem I had written for him – in fact I dedicated the book to him and read him that as well, but Dad, ever practical – cut to the chase, he looked at me and said “How much?” I said, “To buy it? Only $15 – but I am giving you a copy.” He said, “No how much did it cost you?” Of course since I published it, I paid for it and you couldn't put that past him, he analyzed it down to the dollars and cents. I know he liked it though and he told me I did a good job which is a memory I will hold onto forever.

I would like to share the poem that I wrote for him now. “An Ode to Dad” page 25

I have to wrap things up but I couldn't pay tribute to dad without mentioning the love of his life – mom. They were married for over 51 years and although life didn't turn out like they had planned – they had good years. Life wasn't always easy and there were times when I am sure they were both fed up with each other, but when I look back at all the pictures and I remember the life they had, I see love; I see their joy in the other.

Dad wasn't always easy on mom but he loved her and he loved to surprise her and spoil her. It was erratic and sometimes without any reason but he liked to bring her roses, or jewellery and every year without fail on her birthday he gave her Chanel No. 5 perfume. I can’t smell that scent without thinking of my parents.

Mom on behalf of Dad, we have bought you some roses, from him, one last time.  Mom, the last few years have been hard and painful at times but Dad loved you, of that I have no doubt. I truly believe that he is sorry for ever causing you pain and I know he loved you through to the end. On Monday night, when he passed away, he passed away finally at peace, lying beside his wife. You helped him and you accepted him. As you spent those last days, tenderly holding his hand, massaging his temples and kissing his lips, you gave him the unconditional love he needed to move on. Thank you for that Mom – we all love you.

40th Anniversary 2003
50th Anniversary - 2013
I know not being able to celebrate your last two anniversaries was hard for you and I wrote a poem about that. Poem page 29 – A love for a lifetime  If you look at the pictures on the memory table you will see photos from the 40th anniversary party and I am so happy now that we celebrated at that time. 

My final words, to my dad, thank you, for protecting me, for teaching me, for being my hero when I needed you and for not saying I told you so – at least not very often. You knew when I was making mistakes but you loved me anyway. Thank you for being a wonderful grandfather, my children and the rest of your grandchildren love you and miss you but we are grateful you are no longer suffering and I know you are up in heaven watching over us.

Mom, I am going to leave these thoughts with you to read again later, I know there is so much going on right now it is hard to remember everything. So you can take your time and reflect on our stories again later.

Memory Trees...
On the back of the program we relayed a portion of the poem The Dash – I think my Dads dash was full – he lived 75 years as well as he could.

After the service we will have a luncheon in the gym and I invite you to take a moment to write a thought or memory to mom or about dad on the cards on the tables and put them on the memory tree centrepieces. Again, thank you all for coming to remember our husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend, Klaas...

Finally, my daughter Jessica also read a poem that she selected...

When I'm gone 

by Mary Alice Ramish

Release me, let me go.
I have so Many things to see and do.
You mustn't tie your self to me with tears,
Be happy that we had so many years.

I gave you my love and you can only guess,
How much you gave me in happiness.
I thank you for the love you each have shown,
Buth now it's time I traveled on alone.

So grieve awhile for me, if grieve you must
then let your grief be comforted by trust.
It's only for awhile that we must part
So bless the memories within your heart.

I won’t be far away, for life goes on,
So, if you need me, call and I will come.
Though you can't see or touch me, I'll be near,
and if you listen with your heart,
you'll hear all my love around you soft and clear.

And then, when you must come this way alone,
I'll greet you with a smile and say, welcome home.

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