Writing my own eulogy – first attempt and updated now

This one was from a few years back at a time a time, just like now, when I figured no one would show up for any memorial for me and no one would do a eulogy. 

He isn’t lying here and we don’t really know where he is and neither does he at the moment. Let’s just say he’s lying here in our imaginations.

Gary wasn’t anything special, as he’s learned from many of you recently, much to his surprise. He always thought he was a pretty decent guy, a good father (although his kids don’t agree apparently), a good friend, fun to be around, reasonably bright and, in recent years, not a bad dancer. He was a good husband and provider in his twenty-three year marriage, always trying to make it better even though his wife, Janice, never did. He could always be counted on to lend a hand when needed, even though he seldom, if ever, got it back. He always worked crazy hours, both to support his family and then to try to afford the life he never had after he moved out West to be with his mother, who had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma at the time and was only given a five percent chance of survival.

His parents, Donald Lloyd, better known as Jimmy from his time in the Navy, and Alice Joyce, known to everyone as Joy, moved out West back in 1970 with his brother, Kevin and his sister, Wendy and Gary had only visited them a couple of times in all those years, once with Janice, Chris, Heather and Janice’s mum, Marion, to visit Expo ’86. After a week at Expo, staying with Don and Karen, friends of his Mum and Dad’s, they piled into a camper van and toured up through Alberta to Jasper, then back to Westbank (now called West Kelowna), where they got to sit in the rain for a week, unusual for that time of year in the Okanagan. At one point with family and friends, there was seventeen people crammed into his parent’s small mobile home, with only one bathroom between them. He was sitting on the picnic table looking out at the lake and his Dad came out with a drink for him and asked what he was doing. Gary said that he was going to sit there until the damned sun came out. It finally did but the rest of their holiday had been ruined.

In 1989 Gary had hit the road after the business he had been working for, GlassVision, owned by Jim Webb, crashed and burned because one customer had failed to pay them as Gary had warned. He knew it was over but just couldn’t take losing everything especially when he had been the one who knew better than to trust this customer. Gary had made promises to pay their suppliers in good faith and he knew they would be screaming. The company had just come through the most successful National Home Show ever, with some three hundred solid leads from people who wanted solariums, ones that now would never be built. The last thing he did was mail back every deposit check they had from customers so they would not lose their money.

When he headed off out of Brampton he had no clue where he was even going. He always loved the open road and just getting away was all he wanted at the time. It was late May. The sun was shining. The car sunroof was open. The music was playing and he felt a tremendous sense of relief even though he had no plan. Even though as a kid he had been with his parents when they drove to Port Arthur/Thunder Bay as it was called back then to visit his Uncle Earl and Aunt Peg, he had no clue just how big Ontario was. When he stopped in Dryden and bought a map he realized just how far he had driven. The thought came to him about driving to see his parents in Westbank, BC. Boy, that would surprise them, eh? No sooner had that crazy thought struck him than he realized he was almost half way there! He could actually do it! Only a couple more days on the road and he would really be there! He finally had somewhere to go and wouldn’t that be fun. So, off he went with a new spirit of excitement at the thought of surprising his parents.

Manitoba wasn’t bad, although he drove through what had been a huge forest fire. Everything was so black and ugly. He couldn’t wait to get passed it. After an incredibly boring drive through Saskatchewan he finally stayed in Medicine Hat, Alberta. He left as the sun came up and soon saw the mountains in the distance, thinking he’d be there in only a few hours. Boy, was he wrong! He didn’t even reach the sight of the foothills until early evening but, having chosen the scenic route of the Crows’ Nest Pass was soon in his favorite place in the whole world, the mountains. He remembers coming down out of the mountains, where there was still snow and frozen lakes, into Grand Forks. As he rounded a corner he noticed what he thought were deer ornaments on the front yard of a house, that is until they all turned their heads to follow him. Before he knew it he was driving into Shady Rest, heading for number thirty-four to greet his Mum and Dad, who he hoped would be home. They were and, as expected, heard his Dad holler, “Oh, my God. Look who it is!”.

At some point, probably not too soon after arriving, he called Janice to let her know where he was and she was, of course, not amused and only asked when he was coming home. The next few days were spent just enjoying being with his parents and loving the beautiful Okanagan. He was in no hurry to go back, although it didn’t take him long to start missing his kids. Soon he was trying to figure out if there was any way he could afford to bring them out while he was there and somehow he managed to pull it off. They both came out for what turned out to be the best three weeks of his life, right up until the last day. They had the first real holiday they had ever had and every single minute was a ball. They did far too much to go into here but the best time was when they went dirt-biking up at the Kettle Valley Railroad trestles. His Dad had managed to put vice grips on the back wheel of Gary’s dirt-bike for Heather to put her feet on. She took to it like nothing else and was soon squealing with delight. At one point they took a wrong turn going back down and ended up at the top of the power line road, which Gary knew was really steep and dangerous. Not wanting to scare Heather, he asked her to just get off the bike at the top of each drop and walk down, then he gingerly coached the bike down, trying not to lose it. By some miracle they made it down and soon found the others, who all said they could not believe that Gary and Heather had survived coming down the power line road.

Although he fully expected to drive back to Brampton at some point, probably soon, he still hated the thought of the day when they were leaving to go home. Heather shocked the hell out of him when she told him to stay out West. She said both Chris and her had never seen him happier and they knew the marriage was a disaster. All they ever saw was him working his butt off, coming home to cook and clean and renovate every place they ever owned, without a minute’s help from Janice. They knew he loved my parents and spending time with his brother and sister and could not love BC any more than he did. Even at that tender age she said he had done enough and deserved some happiness himself. They don’t know that after he dropped them off at the airport he cried his eyes out for three hours alone in the car, disbelieving that his daughter did not want him to come back.

After many hours of agonizing thought he just knew that he could not leave Heather. He loved her more than life itself and the thought of staying out West without her in his life was simply impossible. He headed back to Brampton, wondering if he was doing the right thing or not for anyone.

He left Westbank at 10:30 Thursday morning, dreading the trip home every second. When he stopped at a gas station north of Dryden Friday night the clerk looked out to see who else was in the car when he said he left BC yesterday morning. That was impossible, he said. He would have been home the next day had he not had a flat tire in Parry Sound, but he still made it home late that night. As he was heading down the four hundred he thought that there must have been a huge accident or major oil spill because of how much it stunk, but he soon realized that this was just how Toronto smelled, especially after having spent three months in the fresh air of BC. Not only that but he couldn’t stand the humidity, which was like breathing water, again after the dry heat of the Okanagan. It took him staying in the basement of the four level townhouse for five days before he could handle the humidity. How had he handled this all his life, he wondered?

Soon life returned to what had passed for normal. He was back working day and night, selling their townhouse after renovating it top to bottom and selling it for more than anyone had ever sold in their neighborhood before, and buying a builder’s upgraded home on Mara Crescent, believing as always that if they just had a better home or car or something that things would get better. They didn’t. As his wife sat on her ass, not working or even filing for her unemployment, he landed the biggest contract of his career, a major upgrading of a large thirty-five station computer network for Fellowes Manufacturing in Markham, taking them off a mainframe in the States. Considering that he was from Brampton and Fellowes was smack in the middle of computer junction, it was a real coup. Not only had he quoted them a nice rate for himself, he had also quoted them half his rate for travel, knowing that much of his day would be spent getting back and forth.

Several things happened then. First, it was making less and less sense to spend all those hours traveling back and forth, so he started staying a few nights at the Journey’s End motel. Then he started spending more and more nights at the hotel, mostly because when he got home his wife wasn’t there anyway and he had to be gone early in the morning. Then he started spending time with Gale-Ann Duxbury, the incredibly gorgeous executive secretary. They snuck around during the day, of course, to keep it secret, but they started spending more and more time together outside of work. She was the most amazing woman he had ever run into and soon he was falling head over heels for her. She asked him to move in with her and there ended the marriage. He still continued to pay for everything for the house because Janice was still not working, but something had to change. He was also literally making appointments weeks out to see Heather as well.

Then one of those life changing moments happened. His mother was diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and given only a five percent chance of surviving six months. He knew that he had to spend whatever time she had left with her. He told Janice that they were selling the house and he was moving out west. The house sold quickly even though the market had collapsed, and they still managed to get more than they had paid for it, every dime of which Janice got. He left with his last cheque from his last client. Later he drove down with his parents and his father sold off everything in their garage, then they returned to Westbank. Saying goodbye to his daughter was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life, but he thought that she would come out to visit him again soon. He did not know that it would be the last time he ever saw his daughter.

Other than missing his kids every single day his life in the Okanagan were some of the best days of his life. Until his father died in his arms and he moved in with his mother to care for her because she was suffering with Alzheimer’s, it was the first time in his adult life that he only looked after himself, not everybody else. He also had a much better work life balance, not working untold hours and spending more time having fun. He loved dirt-biking with his Dad as much as he could. He joined the racquetball club and played several times a week. He took dance lessons at the OK Corral and danced several nights a week with a whole lot of great partners. He ran a hiking club all year long. He owned three different boats and loved to ski, eventually learning to slalom. He took up rollerblading and ran a club on Sundays. He biked the Kettle Valley Railroad many times until most of it burned down in 2003. He downhill skied and cross country skied. He snowmobiled around Kelowna and in Revelstoke. He white water rafted in several areas. He was always active and in the best shape of his life.

The year and a half he looked after his mother was the hardest thing he had done in his life. No one who has not cared for someone with Alzheimer’s could ever understand how difficult it is. Their mood changes in a heartbeat and they start screaming at you. Of course they can’t remember anything so everything from eating breakfast to going anywhere gets repeated and repeated. His dear mother through him out of the house at least forty times. He couldn’t go anywhere unless a care giver was with his mother. He had no life of this own. His brother, a nurse, couldn’t look after their mother for one night and his sister was in denial that their mother even had Alzheimer’s, so she was also useless. The burden of surviving with little money after losing his Dad’s pension and not being able to work all fell on him. He spent his time renovating his mother’s home to get more when it was sold, which it did after he finally got his mother into a proper care facility. He got the most ever for any home in the park. He was his father’s executor so keeping track of every penny was crucial and he did to the last dime.

After his sister had pulled their mother out of the care facility it had taken him eight months to get her into he took on the biggest renovation of his life when a local Realtor showed him a manufactured home in another park that was about to go into foreclosure. He spent the next year and a half gutting it back to the studs and totally rebuilding it. Just as he was about to list it for a very high price on the recommendation of several Realtors one of the local Indian Chiefs came out in the press saying that anyone who bought on native land was “stupid” because they could be given notice to vacate and lose everything. Overnight nobody would touch his place and he lost everything. His doctor also told him to get out from under the stress or it would kill him so he moved to Panama.

It would take a book to describe all the adventures of his time in Panama, then later Ecuador and finally Mexico. He was always just looking for somewhere with a lower cost of living because his pensions were so measly and he could never afford to live in Canada. In every country he ran into people who just wanted to rip him off; various romances which never worked out; some fun times, but every time something happened to force him back to Canada, and to live in Belleville, the last place on earth he thought he would ever live.

Remember Gary as one of the good guys. He never did anything to intentionally hurt anyone. He always had very strong family values so what happened with his kids and grandkids really hurt him. He died without ever knowing why they abandoned him. He was never a deeply religious man, but knew he didn’t have any better answers, so hopefully he is with his dear Mum and Dad again now.

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