Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Heroes are not all gone

Ralph Alward: 1940 - 2011

The blog has been terribly silent simply because for a number of days I was not able to "smile from the wrists down" as Kate Walker puts it - and I didn't want to drag the blog down with negativity. You see, my husband's dad has been very ill since the first of June. Almost 2 weeks ago he took a turn. He stabilized somewhat, but only briefly. My husband was called back to be with his family while I stayed here at home, waited for news, and worried. Worried about my father in law, and worried about my husband, his mom, and his siblings as they dealt with what I think we all recognized - but didn't want to believe -was an inevitable outcome.

When the call came, my husband said, "The suffering is over." It was a relief and heartbreaking all at once.

My husband came home last Monday, after the worst of Irene had blown through, and we all went back to Moncton last Monday afternoon (we live a few hours away). Monday night the brothers and sisters were all together with his mom. There were some tears and also a lot of laughing at funny stories and remembrances as everyone gave input on the eulogy. On Tuesday we had visitation at the funeral home. I was particularly dreading it - I have not very nice memories of visitations to be honest - but I should have known that it would be fine. My inlaws are not the long-faced, quiet kind of family. It was more informal, with lots of talking and laughing and hugging. And the more the week went on the clearer it seemed to get - Ralph was the heart of the family, and even in his death he had a way of bringing everyone together that was just beautiful.

My sister in law gave the eulogy, and in keeping with the vibe of the week, there were laughs as well as tissues required. A close friend of ours flew in from Calgary and we made our own little unit: my husband with his arm around me and my head on his shoulder, our youngest in my arms, and my eldest being hugged by our friend. We hadn't realized but his sister ended the eulogy with a bit my husband wrote. He, by the way, continually amazes me. Julie had said in her words that the heroes are not all gone. She is right. Ralph was one. And his son is one, and I'm so very, very fortunate to call him mine. He did something so incredible at the burial that it still makes my heart swell up.

One thing was abundantly clear - the path isn't always smooth, but his family loves each other and stands together, so much stronger together than they ever are individually.

My mother in law was a brick. After the summer she's had, the worry and the wait and the uncertainty, she managed to put up with close to 30 people running through her apartment at various times all while dealing with arrangements and grief. The day after the funeral we took a drive to a very special place for a final goodbye. It was quiet and peaceful and perfect. They spent 50 years together. They had five children, several grandkids and 2 great grandchildren. They, as Julie said in the eulogy - personified love. Their marriage was very special, and it is hard to believe that Ralph's blue eyes won't be greeting us at the door anymore. For all we will miss him, hers is the greatest loss.

So now we are all home; catching up on laundry, putting groceries in the fridge, carrying on. And yet something is different and always will be, I think. Not just in the missing, though that goes without saying. But how we learned things about each other over the past week.

And how, by his death, we learned a lot about living. And loving.

Rest in peace, Ralphie.


  1. So sorry to hear of your loss.

  2. Donna - you know how sorry I am to hear of your loss.My heart aches for all of you but specially for your mother-in-law to have lost Ralph after so long together. The hole in her life will be huge. And in yours. That's the price we pay for the wonder of love. And everyone will understand if you can't smile from the wrists down. You'll come back to it when you're ready. Love Kate

  3. Anonymous2:40 p.m.

    Donna- a very heartfelt tribute to someone who you obviously cared for and loved a great deal. My sympathies and big hugs to your family.
    Charlene Sands

  4. What a lovely tribute, Donna. It's only when we love people so intensely that we miss them so much. Much love to you and yours.

  5. Donna ~ My deepest sympathy goes out to you and yours. I can just tell by this post that Ralphie will be remembered fondly.