Not long after I wrote Dignity, it was decided by my family that I would take responsibility for writing my grandfather’s eulogy.
As I sat down to begin the most tender and wrenching and precious assignment I’ve faced in this life, I was grateful to realize my grandfather’s advice and admonishments rang as clear in my mind as his own voice did when he was still vibrant. I could feel his presence, scolding me out of self-indulgent sentimentality. I could hear his voice and how its quality changed when he was telling a story. I became driven to tell a story too.
George Edward Housty died on December 7, 2013. His life, to the last, was full of ferocious love. The sweetness and comfort our family experienced in his final weeks was a lesson in the reciprocal beauty of kindness. And me, I am blessed with riches beyond count: He knew that I loved him like a little wolf with hunger in its belly, like a fierce little bird trying to reach the top of the sky. And I know that he loved me.
Here is an excerpt from his eulogy, with my thanks to all the strangers who reached out with beautiful, soft, singing words of comfort after my initial post:
The final 6 weeks of George’s life were a continuous gift of love and generosity. Though he was both private and fiercely independent throughout his life, he also became humble and gracious about accepting the care and comfort offered by his loved ones. He turned the intimacy of illness and old age into a lesson in love and grace. As the family rotated through shifts at his bedside, nourishing and caring for his physical comfort, he created an incredible space in which he reciprocated by tending to the spiritual and emotional comfort of the family and friends he loved so deeply. Everyone who was present at his bedside during this time will treasure the conversations, advice, admonishments and laughter; they will treasure the opportunity he created for the family to gather, to work together, and to begin processing their grief and the enormity of their love while he was still present to squeeze their hands and reassure them he would always be beside them.
George will always be remembered as a man with a generous heart who took joy, pride and care in providing for others. For 70 years, he insisted that his wife was just as beautiful as the day he married her. He built her a house, and she gave him a home; he fathered her children, and she gave him a family. Together, they instilled the love – and the deep family values – that have trickled down through generations before their eyes.
His children remember a father who rose in the morning while everyone else was still asleep to build a roaring fire and warm their clothes by the woodstove before they got dressed. A man who taught them by example how to be good parents and grandparents, who was always ready with advice and guidance on net-mending, home repairs, wise investments, and the best way to clean a salmon for barbecuing around the fire. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren remember swimming in sportiaks under his watchful eye, hunting for salmonberries with the long-handled hooks he fashioned to pull down the branches they were too small to reach. Everyone knew how much honey he liked in his tea, which chocolates were his favourite, and which stories and jokes were the ones he liked best to share. He professed that one of his goals in life, which came from his Grandpa Albert’s advice, was to make people laugh every single day; he did so right to the end, and he continues to bring us joy and laughter in the memories we will cherish for the rest of our lives.
George Edward Housty was a chief who was humbled by the responsibility of guiding and governing his family and his people with unimpeachable integrity. He was a captain, a teacher, and a builder of both family and community. He was husband to a great matriarch, whom he loved for over 70 years. He was a hero and a mentor to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; a friend to his community; and a gift to all who knew him.