Looking up at my Uncle Bill always reminded me of looking way up at a very tall tree, the tallest in the forest, and you could imagine climbing limbs to reach the sun.
Always quick with a hug, a laugh, a smile or a kind word, he gave selflessly. His smile could brighten any day and I always looked forward to every family gathering to see him and my Aunt Kay. This past Saturday, the sunshine dimmed, the clouds drew and the earth stopped turning for a time as we held our breath and bid farewell to a favourite person in so many of our lives.
I hadn't seen him for a few years, but my most treasured memory of him was what I always associated with him - a warm embrace - as I stepped off of an airplane to spend the weekend at his Calgary home. He and my Aunt Kay had opened up their home to me when I managed to land an interview at one of the city's thriving magazines. They had great plans for me. I was to move there and offered up their basement as my temporary home base for as long as it took to find my permanent place in Calgary. It was all set and they were excited for me and looking forward to having me in their home. That's how both my aunt and uncle were - unassuming people quick to lend a hand to anyone in need.
We spoke about my Aunt Ann, his mother, who he doted on, ever a loving son. We spoke about how my life might change with this new opportunity. We spoke about the past and the times we got together at our house and theirs for Boxing Day and summer pool parties, or the ever-popular euchre nights in which all of the cousins tried to trump the others. We spoke about his golf games and his quest to one-up his cousin and favourite duffer, my Uncle Jimmy. He helped me map my way to my potential office building, teaching me about the landmarks in the city, and I spent a wonderful day with him, my aunt and cousins Carol, David, Meaghan and Leigh to celebrate Mother's Day. It made for great memories and I'm upset to know it will be my last of him.
In two weeks, the cousins will get together to celebrate his life, share stories and open a bottle of three of wine to toast him - one Celebration of Life in Calgary and another in Toronto - with pictures and memories shared between the two to celebrate him and the impact he's had on us all.
I can't remember a time when Uncle Bill wasn't planted firmly in our lives, the roots stretching across the miles and tethered to our heart strings. Toronto, Calgary and abroad, the strength of his love will be firmly entrenched and his smile engraved in our lives.