Tag Archives: Eulogy

My Mother-In-Law’s Eulogy

I’m going to try to keep this short and sweet (by my standards anyways). Because as we know, Carmencita was short….. and of course very sweet.

I first met Carmencita Catli in 2002 when I started dating her eldest daughter. I remember how easy she made it to feel comfortable in their home. I remember how welcoming and accommodating she always was. I remember being totally and completely fascinated with the concept of a rice cooker, and how you could have warm rice available to you 24 hours a day. I had heard that culturally it was typical to walk into a Filipino home and immediately be offered food. I’d also heard that the polite response was to sit down and eat. Carmen loved to cook, and when I would come over, there always seemed to be multiple meat options available which is right up my alley. We had an interesting dynamic right away, because if you love to cook, it’s always nice to have someone around who loves to eat. If you love to eat, it’s always preferable to have someone around who loves to cook. She spoiled me ROTTEN. She took note of all my favourite dishes, and just about every time I went over there, we were having one of my favourites. The beefsteak, the Adobo chicken wings, the barbecued Kalbi, She set the standard for how I feel all Filipino cuisine should taste. I think the reason there aren’t that many Filipino restaurants out there is because everybody thinks that their mom makes everything best. Well she became my Filipino mom, and she finally had a white son who had a stomach like a bottomless pit. Nothing was getting thrown out. I tried to help with the dishes a few times, but she wouldn’t let me. She’d say ‘Leave it… You go relax’…… Then I would insist. ‘Hey, you cooked, let me just help’, and then she’d say ‘LEAVE IT!!!!’ ‘Ok, I’ll go relax’.

Soon I found out that she was an avid golfer. It wasn’t long before we were golf buddies, and opportunities to play with her kept cropping up whether it was a little par 3 course, a top-notch course, or even a tournament that she was able to get me into. She was a tiny woman, so she didn’t have prodigious power on her golf swing, but I NEVER saw her hit the ball anywhere but straight down the middle of the fairway. I could hit the ball a lot harder, but not straight. So while I was in the forest having tantrums and looking for my balls, she would methodically work her way to the green 100 yards at a time. Golfing with her wasn’t so much about her golf game as it was about her snacks. She always had enough food with her, so that if Zombies attacked, our four-some could survive for at least three days. She made sure everyone was hydrated, using sunscreen, and had the proper equipment to play with. If you made a great shot, she was the perfect cheerleader, and made probably an inappropriate amount of noise while dancing around the green after a good putt. It was the type of excitement, that I’m sure only the pros have seen. We had great fun on the golf course.

In 2008, Carmen was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. When I do the math, it was like half the time I knew her. I remember being told at the time that she would be limited to approximately 2 to 4 years. We all felt an incredible sadness upon hearing this news. The only reason I’m bringing this up is because I feel like what followed was nothing short of incredible. Carmen didn’t slow down at all. She seemed to react well to chemotherapy, which I’m told is one of the worst things in the world, but you wouldn’t know she was going through that based on her attitude and her demeanor. She had her bad days, but when she had good days, she got up and did something, whether it was golf, shop or travel. She lived 6 more years and saw both of her daughters get married, and not only witnessed the birth of 3 grandchildren, but became a huge part of their every day lives. We were fortunate enough to be able to travel with her on 4 separate occasions during this time, from Maui to Orlando to Vegas. She didn’t slow anybody down. Now in a celebration of life, I didn’t want to bring up cancer necessarily, but during her epic battle in which she defied all odds, the positivity, the grace, the strength and perseverance, the positive attitude, the way she never let it get her down, or if she did, she wouldn’t let it show, and refused to let it bring others down…. to me this is a big part of her story.

Last year we had an opportunity to take her golfing at Taboo up in Bracebridge which she had indicated was her favourite golf course. I sort of felt like it would be the last time we would end up doing something like that together, so I wanted to go there specifically. I’ll be honest now and say that there were a few times when I thought we’d be doing something for the last time, and it wasn’t the case. I don’t want to cheapen her memory by comparing her to the Energizer Bunny, but she did keep going and going and going…….So we were somewhere on the back 9, and Dave and Mayur were off somewhere looking for a ball or something….. not one of mine this time. Carmen said something to me which I’ll never forget. She didn’t always open up with this kind of stuff, but maybe it was the sunshine or the beauty of the golf course that led to the moment, but she said ‘Ryan, you know what?? I’m so happy. I really love my life. I love having grandchildren and spending time with them.’ In light of all that has happened, it made me feel really good to hear her say that. She was loving life right up until the point where she was physically unable to anymore.

Carmencita left us with many great gifts. She was probably the most thoughtful person I’d ever known. Her selflessness, and giving nature made everyone around her feel like a million dollars, in some cases falling all over ourselves to try to make it up to her or do something nice for her. She was a giver, and when it came time to reciprocate, she just wanted us to ‘Leave it’, because it made her happy to be of service to all of us. When she came over to babysit her grandson, he’d already be asleep, and all she had to do was sit on the couch and watch TV. The minute we walked out, she would run into the kitchen and start doing the dishes or whatever. I was kind of embarrassed, I’d tell her to please leave everything, but she wouldn’t listen. Every time. To the point where I felt like if she was going to babysit, I had to go clean up the kitchen first.

While this is still short and sweet. I just wanted to leave you with the following thoughts. While I’m happy that she’s no longer in the pain that she’d been recently experiencing, her absence has left a void in our lives that we will feel for the rest of our lives. To have known her is to have experienced love, fun, strength, positivity, generosity, and a great sense of belonging that can only happen when you are welcomed into friendship by someone like her. She is a bright light that continues to shine in the lives of all who have been fortunate enough to be a part of her life. Carmencita Catli, I’m glad I knew you.


My Father’s Eulogy

When I first started this blog, I vowed to write a blog entry every Monday.  I did so for 27 weeks, which is over half a year, and nothing short of remarkable by my standards (considering attention span isn’t near the top of my resume).  The day after I wrote my last post, my father passed away suddenly while riding home on a train.  It appears to have been a massive heart attack taking everybody in his world by complete surprise.  He was 76 years old, but looked much younger.  If you lined up a hundred 76 year olds and were asked to pick out the ones you thought this would happen too, he very well could have been the last man standing.

If that doesn’t seem heartbreaking enough, his first grandson (my son) was born 3 days later.  He was very excited about the prospect of this, as we all were.  My little guy came out big and healthy, but with a hefty burden.  He is blissfully unaware of this, but there is an incredible void that has been left in our lives, and we look to him to fill it.  He’s doing an admirable job already.

I don’t think anyone would blame me for not writing a blog last Monday.  It’s an emotionally complicated time to put it very mildly.  Mind you some of the best writing does get done during these times, but I’ve opted for sleep when given a spare moment.  I did actually do some writing last Monday believe it or not.  I was tasked along with my sister and a close friend of my father’s to say a few words at his funeral which was on Tuesday.  My portion of that is currently folded up on a few pieces of paper with the type of horrible penmanship only I can boast of.  I thought it might be a nice idea to type this up, and post it for anyone that might want to read it.  That will also conveniently cover my blog post for another week.  I don’t think I’ll be able to put this one in the humor section though.  My mom told me that he did read my blog the morning he passed away.  (The one about dogs not liking people).  He got a kick out of it from what I’m told.  It was nice to hear that.

Without further ado…..  This is more or less what I said at his funeral.

“I would like to thank everybody for their support this past week.  Family, friends, co-workers, classmates, teammates, and members of the church.  I’m overwhelmed, but not surprised.  As most of you know, my wife gave birth to our son….Ken’s grandson on Friday evening.  They’re unable to be here as they are recovering at home, but my wife wanted me to say something on her behalf, as even though her absence is understandable, it’s quite devastating for her not to be here as she loved my father very much, but she also wanted to thank everybody for their support during the major life events that have taken place here.

When talking to all of you this past week, the one main theme is how terrible it is that he didn’t get a chance to see his grandson.  It’s OK to feel sad about that, but my father was the type of person that would have preferred a happy celebration of his life today.  He was a happy, positive man who would always look at the bright side, and there was plenty of bright side for him to look at.  So rather than focus on what he didn’t get a chance to do, here’s what he did get a chance to do……

He got a chance to grow up in the beautiful Muskoka area where the air is cleaner, the people are friendlier, and now everyone that’s not from there wants to pay top dollar to own a cottage there.

He got a chance to play hockey, and was quite a player.  When he was a youth, his team won the Ontario championship on 2 different occasions.  Coming from a small town in those days, that was a big deal.  When he went to Ryerson University, his team went undefeated for an entire season and won the championship.  Then he ‘tried’ soccer, and that team won the championship in the same season.  Since he was the goalie for both teams, he was named Ryerson’s Athlete of the Year.  He is now a 2 time inductee into the Ryerson Sports Hall of Fame, both for his contribution to the undefeated championship team in hockey, and as an individual athlete.  I mention a lot of the sports stuff because a lot of the people I talked to yesterday saw some of the pictures and said ‘I didn’t know Ken played hockey’.  Of course not.  He was very modest, and wouldn’t have ever brought it up in conversation unless asked about it.  Or as his hockey coach said to me yesterday ‘he showed, but didn’t tell’.  To put it in perspective for non-sports fans, 4 of his amateur sporting accomplishments have been celebrated 50 years after they happen.  Anytime you remember, never mind celebrate something 50 years after it happened…… it’s kind of a big deal!  I’m nowhere near as modest as he was.  I get a lot of mileage out of these stories.

He got a chance to marry the girl of his dreams, spent 47 wonderful years together, and had 2 children, both of whom turned out alright.  He got to do a fair bit of travelling to many great places, and has friends all over the world.

He got the chance to golf which was his only real indulgence or vice.  He didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink, and he didn’t spend money on himself, but he golfed.  Every chance he got.  The powers that be blessed him with the ability to hit the ball 300 yards, well into his 70s.  They didn’t necessarily give him the ability to keep it on the fairway, but that always gave him the chance to go into the bush and rustle around for a few minutes so he could pull out half a dozen golf balls to replace the one he lost.  If you were ever on the golf course and having a slow round without knowing why, there’s a good chance he was out there in front of you.

He got the chance to be good to people.  He volunteered his time.  He used to help raise money for Unicef.  Lately, it’s been the church.  He worked as a greeter, helped out with the banking, and even drove an elderly gentleman around to his appointments.  If you were his friend, family member, casual acquaintance, or someone he just met randomly at the store, he was fascinated by you.  He loved hearing about you, and it wasn’t an act.  He was like that all day every day.  There was no ‘on switch’.  He had the magical ability to make whoever he was talking to feel like the most important thing in the world at that exact moment.  You could be talking about a blade of grass, and he would hang on your every word.  Imagine that was your father?  You could see how one might get to be a little obnoxious 😉

He was loyal to everything and everyone he valued.  He was a meticulous Virgo too.  Every job he did, had to be done right.  Even if he was serving us dessert.  If he had to divide up a pie or cake, there were high level mathematics going on in his head to make sure everyone received an equal slice.  God forbid someone would ask for a smaller piece.

His hellos and goodbyes were legendary.  If you came to the house, he was like a friendly dog (only he smelled better), but he couldn’t wait to get you into the house.  After you left, he stood on the porch and talked to you until you almost had to cut him off, and then summer or winter, he would stay out there and wave at you until your car was no longer in his sight lines.  EVERY TIME!

I can’t begin to describe what kind of a son, husband, father he was, and what kind of grandfather he would have been.  Based on some of the clues I’ve given here, I’m sure you can put the pieces together.  We’ve had a great life together!

My final thought is…… If there were such a thing as human cloning (and it weren’t soooooo frowned upon), I think he would have made an excellent prototype.  I would love to live in a world full of Ken Austins!”

Thank you.