When I turned 30 years old, my now, ex-wife put together a collage of my most favourite pictures of beloved people and meaningful moments in my life up to that point. She put all these pictures together in a large frame, and it was one of the most beautiful gifts I’d ever been given. I treasured that picture, and I hung it in my office for years.
At the very bottom was a small, rectangular picture that made its way into the collage. If you knew me well, it might have seemed to be the one that stuck out to be the random, isolated pictures when portrayed next to all the others. But truth be told, it was one of my favourite. This was a picture of me and my Uncle Herbie playing a game of crib in his house. Herbie wasn’t my uncle by blood, but his youngest son, Barry was one of my childhood best friends, and seeing that I’ve known him since I was about 8, he was Uncle Herb. Together with his wife, Leona, they were surrogate parents to me for almost 40 years from the small, rural town of Beausejour, Manitoba. When I was about 13, my family moved from Beausejour, to Toronto but we never lost that connection.
I would make trips back over the years to see Barry and old friends. When I did visit, I often stayed at Uncle Herb’s and Auntie Leona’s home. When I stayed elsewhere, I always found the time to come back to sit and play crib with Herb or have coffee with them. If it seemed a little weird that a young man in his 20’s who was always chasing the ultimate party would make time to sit with his elders, the weirdness never landed on me. I Loved spending time with them, because they were so kind, so Loving to me. They treated me like a son, no matter how much time had passed. In fact, I know I was back in that small town when my name seemingly changed from the “Chuck” I am used to, to the endearing, “Chuckie” that I was called by them. This is my childhood name, and very few people have the ability to use it. Obviously, this was one of the occasions when I was Chuckie, not Chuck.
Whenever you hear of the passing of people who have been beloved in your life, it hits with the force of a night train. A flood of memories cascade, visions, audio clips, memories, videos, pictures. They all become the medium of grieving and remembering the departed. When I heard the news of Herb’s passing, my body immediately began to respond without my consent. I began to sob uncontrollably. It was such an immediate loss that I couldn’t explain why I was crying. In fact, I still can’t.
Herbie had a herculean work ethic, like world class. For a man of his generation, he was one of the most empathetic, compassionate men I ever knew. He was a calm presence that left a lasting impression on me. He was champion Father, husband and friend. I mean, his kids actually really, really liked him!! (For reals…) Leona, his wife Loved him. Not to say Herb was ideal or perfect, but damn, that man did his very best. A good marriage is hard work, and Herb worked hard on his marriage. Seeing him together with Leona was inspirational because you really saw what a lifetime of Love and commitment looked like. Herb was committed to his wife, his kids, their kids, to his community and to his faith.
I will remember Herb as a pillar of Love wrapped inside a moustache that always smiled at me. I will remember many versions of Herb over the 5 decades I knew and Loved him. He was a wonderful and Loving man I could only aspire to be. So I am bidding goodbye to the man I knew. Herb has graduated ahead of the rest of us, and he has finished his journey. I am overjoyed that his legacy will always be remembered in the actions he took in his life. That brings me good feelings and memories of him and the Love he showed me, and the countless others he knew.
To where you are Herb Weidman, and thank you for your Love and light.. Enjoy your new freedom. You are Loved and we will miss you. But you will always live on in our hearts and minds, so I know you will never be so far away.