Eulogy For Grandpa Peet

Grandpa Peet and I at My Wedding Reception in Creelman, SK – Aug. 3, 2003

That was a very nice introduction but it didn’t mention the most important detail.  I’m not just Grandpa Peet’s grandson, I’m his favourite grandson.  Of course, I’m also his only grandson but I try not to dwell on that too much…

Okay, with that correction out of the way, I’d like to begin this eulogy with a story.

Grandpa Peet was back to Saskatchewan for a visit a couple years ago so one day I offered to take him for a car ride.  Instead of his usual topics of discussion – the stock market, the Blue Jays, the stock market, the weather and for a change of pace, the price of oil (which I noticed on the news this morning is sitting at $63 a barrel which would make Grandpa very happy, I’m sure), Grandpa volunteered this: “Well, I guess I’m going to die this year.”

I sat silently for a moment, a bit shocked at this sudden revelation.  “What do you mean?” I asked cautiously, not sure if this was a weird set-up for a joke or something else entirely.

“When I was fourteen, my brother and I went to a fortune teller.  For a nickel, that fortune teller told me that I would live to be eighty-six.  Do you know how old I am this year?”

“Eighty-six,” I said, wondering what kind of a fortune teller would make such a loaded statement.  But, before people lived such long lives, that fortune teller probably thought he was giving Grandpa hope that he would have a long life.  Instead, that statement stuck with Grandpa for his entire life and now had come back to the front of his thoughts as the dreaded year had arrived.

I’m not sure if Grandpa really believed in fortune tellers or not and I didn’t think to ask him at that time.  But by the end of this eulogy, I hope you’ll have an idea of what I think the answer would’ve been had I asked him.

Okay, now that I’ve told that story to set the scene a bit, I want to talk to you about something else.  I want to talk to you about…evolutionary biology.

You see, biologists believe that parents pass on genetic information, traits,  skills and any other information that help their descendants survive.  This process repeats itself over and over through the generations.

And because of that, I’ll admit that when I was growing up, I often wondered exactly how I could ever be related to Grandpa Peet.

We seemed to be complete opposites in every way.  He was gruff, I tend to be the softest thing this side of Bounty paper towels.  He had been in the military and served in World War II, the only military uniform I ever wore was for Cub Scouts.  He was extremely interested in the stock market,  I failed Economics in University.  He wore suspenders and I wear belts.  Well, except for today since I found these (pull back suit jacket to show suspenders) in his closet.

So, perhaps ironically given the reason we’re here today, it was when his wife Ina (my Grandma Peet) had a stroke and passed away in 1999 that I finally began to see Grandpa and I, not as polar opposites but as very similar people.

When Grandma lay in a coma in her hospital bed, I overheard Grandpa telling a friend that “those silly kids think Grandma can hear them talking to her”.  Then, later that week, I came around the corner, to find him talking in her ear, just like we did.  I was with him that I didn’t know if it helped or not but obviously he also saw our point of view that it couldn’t hurt either.

He rarely spoke about his military service but he opened up to me a bit more in his later years.  I’d never thought of it this way before but during one of our conversations I realised that we had both been to England as young men in our twenties, him as a solider and I as a student, and even through the gulf of those roles and that many years, I saw that we had shared many of the same experiences.  “Did they still wrap the fish in newspaper when you were there?” he asked and I was happy to confirm that they did.

And I said I was the softie and he was the gruff one (so much so that we jokingly called him “Grandpa Grump” sometimes).  But beneath his gruff exterior, there was a man who never missed a chance to pull a face at a child or slip a $2 bill into a grandchild’s hands.  In fact, this is sort of embarrassing but I’ll admit that until I was a teenager, I always thought British Columbia was the only place in Canada you could get $2 bills!

I always thought of Grandpa as being very frugal – and he was.  But that does a grave injustice to exactly how generous he was to me over the years, starting with those $2 bills I received as a child and growing to much more generous sums as I aged.  I believe that he always took great pleasure in seeing his children and grandchildren benefit from his generosity and again, I realised that the first impression he sometimes gave people wasn’t necessarily the correct one.

During the last few years, even when we still disagreed about things, I began to better see why a man who had lived through the Great Depression on the Prairies would be so careful with every nickel or why a man who loved nothing more than playing cards for hours at a time would still charge me a quarter every time he beat me at crib, even when he was just teaching me the game.  He had a certain set of values and beliefs and whether I realised it or not, he was doing his best to pass those lessons on to me.

Now, as many of you know, my wife and I had our first child a week and a half ago.  And if there’s one thing to make you think about the big questions in life, it’s the birth of a child.  So in between midnight feedings and 3am diaper changes, I’ve had the time to ponder a lot of things during that first week of my son’s life.

I thought about the influence I will have on his life in the years to come.  I thought of all the things I wanted to give my son so he would have the best life possible.  I thought about what type of man he might grow up to be and the kids that he too might someday have himself.  And I thought of how I’ll want to play a role in their lives too and teach my grandkids some of the lessons that my grandparents and parents have taught me.

And then, almost a week to the day after my son was born, I got the call that my last living grandparent, John Wellington “Wally” Peet had died.

I said earlier that a birth is the one thing that can make you contemplate the big questions in life.  But I neglected to mention the obvious fact that a death is right up there as well.

So as I sat at my house the last few days, staring down into the pure innocent face of my newborn son, looking for (and finding) a trace of Grandpa Peet, I thought about the people who had led me to this point – distant ancestors from Ireland and England and Scotland who had made their way to Canada to make a better life for themselves.  I thought about my great-grandparents who I never knew but who had raised my grandparents, all of whom I was fortunate to know and all of whom have had an impact on the person that I’ve become.  I thought about my parents and then I thought about myself and my son.  And it was almost crushingly overwhelmingly amazing to think about how I would be continuing this cycle myself.

Grandpa is gone now but he really isn’t.  If you believe in Heaven, you believe that he’s there (or at least I hope you do.  But I do admit he came by the “Grandpa Grump” nickname honestly so who knows!)  If you believe in biology, you know that he lives on in another way, in terms of the genetics and the traits he’s passed on to his two daughters, Janet and Sandi, he lives on in his two grandchildren, myself and my sister, Janna, and he lives on in his great-grandchildren, Sawyer, Emmerson and now my son, Pace Owen Hammond.

Grandpa loved to play the stock market and because of that, he knew as well as anyone that nobody could predict the future.  In the end, I don’t know if he really believed what that fortune teller had told him all those long years ago or not.  But if you look in the funeral card, you’ll see that Grandpa Peet lived to be 86.  And 87.  And had just turned 88 last December and was nearly halfway to 89 when he finally did pass away.  So maybe, just maybe, that’s your answer right there.

I think it’s fitting to end with the exact same words I closed Grandma Peet’s eulogy with eight years ago, changing only the person being referred to:

Grandpa Peet lives on inside of me, in the values and the qualities he’s passed on to me since I was a child.  And now he’ll live on in the form of a lifetime of memories as well. 

I’m going to tell my kids about him and they’re going to tell their kids about him and he’s going to live forever.

You never say it enough when you’re alive.  But I’d like to say it one more time because I know that if you all hear me say it, that means he hears me say it too:  

I Love You Grandpa! 

Comments 3

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Loved it. Beautiful.

    Posted 02 Jul 2007 at 12:59 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    So, I'm sitting here at the reference desk in Seneca College with tears in my eyes…that was lovely. thanks.

    Posted 03 Jul 2007 at 4:44 pm
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Thanks to both of you. It was a bit tougher call than usual for me about whether I wanted to post these eulogies or not as they hit pretty close to home in terms of my family and how I think about these things. I'm glad you liked them.
    Oh, and Sophia I hope I didn't cause any undue embarrassment. (“I didn't think my question was that hard but the librarian at the desk was crying!”)

    Posted 08 Jul 2007 at 4:09 pm

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