“The tears have all been shed now
We’ve said our last good-bye
His soul’s been blessed and he’s laid to rest
And it’s now I feel alone…
I never will forget him for he made me what I am
Though he may be gone, memory lingers on
And I miss him… The old man”
(Lyrics by Phil Coulter)
D’Arcy’s dad passed away this week. When you are 90 years old, it’s never really unexpected, but it was sudden. He died at home with his bride of 61 years sleeping beside him and his two youngest daughters with him as well. His last words were “I’ve had a wonderful life and a beautiful family.”
Rollie (or “Dad” or “Grandpa”) would have LOVED this week. His family has been gathering from near and far, sharing stories, hugs, laughs, toasts, and tears. There were close to 60 immediate family, and over 500 friends, family, and former colleagues at his funeral mass. He touched so many lives and was remembered as a man of character who – above everything else – treasured his family. He had a genuine interest in people, a love of learning, a sense of fairness, a keen sense of humour, and always – a pocket full of candy.
The following is a tribute, written for him by his nine children and delivered by his daughter, Shannon, with her siblings beside her, at the reception:
“Dad was a true Cape Bretoner – he loved people and was always interested in getting to know them, in finding their story and making a connection. In fact, we remember when we were youngsters travelling around with dad – how we thought he knew everyone – because he always had something friendly to say to anyone he come across. He’d chat them up – Where you from?, Who’s your father?; Any relation to…? and he always seemed to know their name – “Mac”. Eventually we caught on … surely not everyone could have the same name…could they?
Dad was always ready to take on a new challenge – and with each he exemplified the importance of having work life balance – but also being persistent and not giving up on what you start. When his younger brother started university, it inspired him to return to school to continue his studies. We all know how challenging it can be for any student to complete their degree – well our father managed to complete his degree at Saint Mary’s University with seven kids in tow.
Dad will be fondly remembered by many as the “candy man”. We are not sure when this became his tag, but it was many years ago when dad – much to mom’s dismay – as the candy budget grew over the years – thought it absolutely necessary to have a pocket full of Werthers at all times. I don’t think we ever saw dad eat them, but he took great pleasure in the smile a candy in hand would bring to anyone he encountered throughout the day.
Over the past number of years we have had the pleasure of accompanying dad to his medical appointments. We say pleasure, because it was amazing to watch him interact with the staff – he knew everyone by name (the registration clerks, the nurses, the doctors), he was genuinely interested in how they were doing and would ask about their families and he always had a care package for each one (a nice big orange – you know the most expensive ones (size 66 for those in the know) , and a baggy of Werthers).
Dad lived his faith fully – he believed in the goodness of people and community, and lived by the golden rule, showing compassion for anyone and everyone. To dad, no one was a stranger.
Mom and dad taught by example…modeling by their actions, a genuine love, concern and empathy for family, friends and neighbors. Our house was a home…as full as it was with all of us, and for a time, our grandfather too…there was always room for more. Growing up on Jubilee Road – our home became a popular resting spot when our friends couldn’t quite make it home after a night of socializing downtown – and they were quite comfortable doing so – some were frequent flyers. It wasn’t unusual for mom and dad (okay mostly mom) to wake up to the door bell ringing and Buddy barking for a 3 am pizza delivery – only to find one of us, along with a few friends, “sleeping” on the living room couch and floor. Mom and Dad always took this in stride…relieved we were taking care of one another and safe at home.
Dad was, and continues to be through all of us, a man of strong character and unwavering loyalty to his family and friends. Dad lived by the words, “love is not what you say, but what you do”. He was the rock in his own family – always concerned and looking out for his brothers and father and supporting them in their times of need. He was incredibly proud of his family – past and present. He instilled in us, a value for family above all else – the importance of unconditional love and forgiveness and to never give up on one another. We will continue his legacy by instilling these same values in his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
When Shannon finished speaking, Alex sang the following (although this was recorded at home, not at the service):
D’Arcy & I would like to thank everyone who has reached out to us personally at this time with kind words of condolence, flowers, safe meals, cookies, hugs, and remembrances. We are so grateful to our colleagues who went above-and-beyond for us at school so that we could spend this week with our family. To those who took time on a beautiful spring-like Saturday morning to come to the funeral and celebrate Rollie’s life with us – thank you – your presence and support was appreciated. And to those who reached out that they were unable to attend but wished they could be with us, we felt your spirits and support in our hearts.
Rollie was interred this afternoon, with his family gathering together to lay him to rest. It was probably the first time ever that the McDonahs in attendance were early. It was a beautiful spiritual rite and we appreciated Father Connelly presiding for us when all the siblings were present; I loved it when he compared Fran to Saint Monica as we closed, and the candid reflections he had.
Back at “Grandma & Grandpa’s” there were more stories, family, food, and laughter. Rollie loved deeply and was deeply loved. Although we will miss his physical presence, his guidance, his wit, his smile, his laugh, his opinions, his admiration, and his love will live on in us and continue to guide us throughout our lives.
(Not that it’s been a problem yet, but) we have vowed that we will continue to love – and hug – and will never hold a grudge with one another. We will ensure his legacy continues.
Cheers to Rollie… Dad… Grandpa!
Our lives were blessed by being yours! xo