The lessons I've learned. Part 1

by - April 30, 2012

I had an interesting conversation with my husband last night as we finally had a moment to sit down, clear the emotional haze that was forming as a cloud around me and process the happenings of this weekend.  If you know my husband, you know that he is a quiet man, but also incredibly insightful.  He only makes promises he'll keep and therefore I know that when he comes up with something thoughtful, I know that it is meaningful and sincere.
He told me that he feels really good after this weekend.
Odd statement perhaps, was my sweet husband being insensitive, thought I? 
He went on.  He said despite the purpose of this weekend, he feels really good.  He had time to sit and think, to reflect and ponder and to really get back to what is the most important in our lives: our family. And that left him feeling rested and rejuvenated.  And I think that would make my Grandma happy.

That conversation brought me to the major thoughts that I've had over the weekend, because like Dan, I spent a lot of time reflecting.  And for me, it also was good.  After I got through the tears and the ugly cries, there was a version of a rainbow forming.  So I'm going to grasp that rainbow and soak all the love and colour (and lucky charms?) out of it that I can.
This is what I want to share with you today: my first lesson.

Family.  I've said it a million times before but my family is my world.  They are the people who know me best and who will be there in the end.  I focus a lot on my immediate family but I know that this extends to the other family that surround us; and I've never felt more proud of them than this weekend.  Filing into the church, filling up the pews, shedding tears and offering shoulders for comfort: my family showed me this weekend that no matter what, your family is there.
My Grandma, our leading lady, would be so proud.

I shared a very special moment with my mom, cousin Glenna, Aunty Chris, Aunty Phyllis and Aunty Louise as they said their final good bye to Grandma on Friday at the visitation.  It was intimate, spiritual and I felt honoured to have been there.  We prayed.  We cried.  We recited Grandma's poem for her and we spoke of moments that they had also had in the moments that Grandma died.  My mom, my aunts also summoned in their sleep, as Grandma rallied the troupes for her last moments.  It was a very special moment that I will keep with my always.

Family.  They made me proud this weekend.  Proud of where I come from and the person I am.  Proud of my Grandmother and humbled by the beautiful life she led.  My mom sent us a touching email last night:  " may wonder how i keep it together, trust me i have my own moments. but, i have a firm conviction that my mom lives on through me and her family and it is only her physical presence that is gone and she is always nearby somehow.  i don't have all the answers of the why's and wherefore's about what happens after death, but i am grateful for the lifetime i had with mom and the good life she had.  This was so evident this weekend as all Grandma's daughters are replications of her in their own ways.  I know now that when my mom comes over and somehow, the oven is cleaned, the laundry done and my bathrooms are scrubbed, I know that is just a manifestation of the person my Grandma was and I love that.

I want to leave you today with the eulogy that was read by Uncle Peewee.  It paints the most accurate picture of my Grandma and it will leave a lasting memory in my mind of the great and honourable woman she was and that is something I will strive to be in my life.

Good afternoon everyone my name is Joe Willick but to the lady that we are here to pay tribute to, I was Peewee. I am deeply honoured to have been asked to share with you some memories, thoughts and feelings of family members, grandchildren and some of my own of this remarkable woman. And you know there are some of her feelings that are a part of this Eulogy.
How do I pay tribute to someone like Aunty Irene? She has done so many things, for so many people and organizations in her lifetime. I guess you can start with the basics, married 65 years to the love of her life, seven children, seven in–law children that she treated like her own, 18 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren and one on the way and a couple extras that blood relative or not - they were a part of her life.
Aunty Irene’s story is not an individual story, in almost everything she did, she did it with Uncle Willie, and his story is the same. They were an inseparable couple. There were the hunting and fishing trips apart, but those were the times when aunty dashed off to do some community work that Willie thought was too much for her. Like stripping and waxing the hall floor on her hands and knees!
Irene and Willie led a humble life of hard work, family, faith and volunteerism. They gave from the heart and never expected anything in return. Irene was a planner, organizer; it could be said she wore the pants in the family. This can be seen in her daughters: strong, independent, and somewhat bossy like her! Her sons are followers, kind and gentle like Willie, waiting on the sidelines for what needs to be done.
Irene and Willie loved to dance right from their courting days. They square danced with the Dagenais, Ruttens and Derkechenkos and pattern danced with the Marcelin Seniors group. They loved every wedding, reunion or party that had an opportunity to dance. In this last year and a half they looked forward to the monthly party at the Wheatland Lodge when the Happy Wanderers would play. Aunty managed to dance a Tennessee Waltz now and then with Willie. 
Aunty was a great volunteer. Church flower beds, a shining community hall and a weedless cemetery were her pride. She could be seen riding her little red bike with her basket full of tools around town.   Aunty was instrumental in raising funds for the cemetery to be maintained since so many grave sites had no one close to care for them anymore. She made sure unmarked graves had a cross and she hand painted their names on.  Painting was another passion. She painted many outdoor buildings in her day. One time she was caught painting the neighbor’s house. Someone stopped to ask if she was on the wrong house or doing the whole block!
For their children Irene and Willie led by example. Work hard, take time to enjoy life, and family were the most important things. Although they lived on a modest income there were always card games, camping and fishing trips, trips to see the out of province families and a few vacations with younger brother Maurice and favorite sister Theresa and their spouses! Willie loved taking pictures and aunty loved putting them in the albums keeping track of who, what, where and when. There are a lot of laughs looking through those albums, not to mention the history.
As each child grew up, married and moved away auntie and uncle always made time to visit. Recognizing that kids can’t always come home, she said in order to have a strong relationship with your kids and grandchildren you have to spend the time with them. When they traveled to see the out of province kids they always stayed for 2-3 weeks. Her theory was: First week- grandkids make strange, second week- they warm up to you, third week a relationship is there. This had to be done often because when they are young they forget and if you didn’t do it when they were young it wasn’t going to happen as a teenager. They were really successful at this because they have wonderful relationships with their now- adult grandchildren. 
No matter whether you were near or far when Irene and Willie visited their kids 3 things were accomplished. Something was fixed, something got painted and your oven was clean when they left! It got to be the joke; when is Irene coming my oven needs cleaning!
Aunty loved reading, …  and music and theatre. Aunty was always the first to jump out of her seat and offer the cast a standing ovation for their dedication and effort at every Frostbite theatre show she went to. Truly if anyone ever deserved a standing ovation, Aunty Irene surely did.
To truly understand the relationship that Irene had with her Grandchildren I would like to share the feelings that granddaughter Deena wrote on her blog the morning of Irene’s Passing.
I have this theory that heaven is a place we already know.
It's a place so familiar to us that when we are welcomed back with open and loving arms after we leave this earth; we don't even realize we've left.
In my version of heaven we are surrounded by the grace of God, by the people we love and the things we enjoyed in life.
It's a place where time has no value, money has no face and sadness, fear and hurt are nonexistent.
 I cling to this vision of heaven as my Grandma made her peaceful transition into our loving Father's arms yesterday morning.
 I can see her regaining her strength, her wit, her vitality, her zest and zeal that she once so possessed in this lifetime.
I imagine her fondly looking back at her life on earth and those she leaves behind to mourn her: a devoted husband and a loving family.  I know she will remember fondly all the tears she shed, the moments she shared and the memories that were made.  She will acknowledge them, but now knowing much more than we do about life and living and faith and death; she will say a prayer for us that we may find peace and know that there is so much more to life than simply what is on earth.
May you find comfort and joy, Grandma. You are loved dearly and will be greatly missed.
 Until we meet again.

The family would like to thank everyone who joined them here today. In closing I would like to take a moment to express my feelings and appreciation to a woman who I believe has been one if not the most inspirational person in my life. All the things that have been previously stated, I experienced with her. Her generosity, caring, wisdom and most of all her love of life and Family.  I believe that she has left us today so that when we meet her again that place will be the way she would want it for all of us. As a teenager the many nights we talked and the things she told me no doubt made me a better person. I hope like all of you that we will meet again. We are saying good-bye to a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, an aunt and to some of you a friend. But to me I am saying good bye to my best friend.

God Bless, until we meet again.

You May Also Like


  1. Your Grandma was an amazing woman. Not only has she passed her qualities down to her daughters, but also her grandaughters :)

  2. This is an amazing post, Deena. Wonderfully written.


Have a lovely day!