Remembering Jake

I was digging through our filing cabinet yesterday in search of some receipt or other, when I came across the funeral memorabilia I had filed when Dad died in 2015. In the file I found Dad’s graveside eulogy delivered on May 13, 2015 by Tom Peters, a warm, wonderful, kind, intelligent man who was the funeral home Director at that time. Sadly, Tom passed in July, 2018, but he left these kind words behind about our Dad, Jake Job. I publish this post to share with the world my love, pride and respect for my parents.


Today will certainly be a day of goodbyes – goodbye to a Dad, a Grandpa, a great-Grandpa and a great-great Grandpa, and there is a certainly a great deal of finality here at the Cemetery as we lay Jake Job to his place of rest.

Just to the north of us amongst all those trees over there, the very first committal service took place at this cemetery, just over 142 years ago in 1873. The Fleishman family stood here at this cemetery much like we’re doing today to say goodbye to their mother Margaret. Granted they were dressed a little differently than we are, they got to the cemetery in a different way than we did, I don’t see any horse and buggies, and the surroundings would be very different. Then, Innisfail was called Poplar Grove and the town looked nothing like it does in 2015. With each passing year, the town will continue to change and this cemetery will continue to expand and, unfortunately, for a lot of us this won’t be our first time here. But we have much in common with the Fleishman family when they had to bury someone they loved, as well as the thousands since then. To figure out and discover how our lives will change now that a loved one has died and how we incorporate their memory – those good things that they lived out in life – how we incorporate those things into our ongoing lives. So today will not be so much about saying goodbye but I think more appropriately to say thank you to Jake for what he has left behind and for the impact and influence he will continue to have.

Fill Not Your Heart
Fill not your hearts with pain and sorrow,
but remember me in every tomorrow.
Remember the joy, the laughter, the smiles
I've only gone to rest a while.
Although my leaving caused pain and grief,
My going has eased my hurt and given me relief.
So dry your eyes and remember me
Not as I am now, but as I used to be,
Because I will remember you all and look on with a smile,
Understand, in your hearts, I've only gone to rest a little while
As long as I have the love of each of you,
I can live my life in the hearts of all of you.

May 13, 2015 will be a day to celebrate that which remains for Jake. His continued legacy will always be before you and I know that there can be no greater gift in death, knowing that one’s life was lived in such a way that other’s lives can never be the same and I believe that to be true of Jake.

I’ve been thinking these last few days on what that continued legacy of Jake looks like, what it might mean for those of you here, how your lives might change since May 9, 2015, the day of his passing. What keeps coming to mind for me about Jake is the five generations picture that was taken in January. It truly is a wonderful picture. Five generations don’t happen very often. The picture itself was incredible and that moment in time should be cherished and treasured. What impacted me the most was seeing the span of almost one hundred years between Grandpa Jake and newborn Isaiah – what truly are the qualities, what truly are the important traits that can be passed down from generation to generation? I can thank my father for my lack of hair line, I can thank my mother for a quirky sense of humour and on my wife’s side, the blue eyes and the big feet seemed to be passed on to every generation. I can tell just by looking at some of you – and sometimes you may not want to admit it – but you’re definitely related! There’s many of the same physical characteristics, whether its height, body shape, eye color, there’s no doubt that you are all connected in some way physically. But what caught my attention about Jake is, yes, there’s physical characteristics he passes down but it goes way deeper; there’s traits that he passes down to each of us that the passage of time can never affect.

What came through so very clearly was Jake’s work ethic. He always wanted to be a farmer and he took the profession as a gift he was given in life and did the very best he could with it. There really is no greater gift in saying that Jake truly was a farmer for all his 98 years.

In the newspaper article, the picture of him looking outside when he was at Autumn Glen Lodge is awesome. He might be checking the weather, seeing if it was conducive to seeding, to harvesting, to maybe having to shut it down for the day because a storm front was coming in. I looked at that picture for a long time and I wondered if he had that same look, looking to the skies about seventy years ago when he stood by his land for the very first time – the very land that had yet to be worked on – and wondered if it was conducive, realistic to the adventure this would set him on.

This farm land, it had never been worked before and here’s this farmer, with not many resources, still a bit green perhaps, but ready to work this land. I’m sure there were many questions: was this the right thing to do?, was it worth the investment?, what would it produce?, do I trust that I have the abilities to do this? He might have taken a glance at his horse and wondered “can we do this?”. Perhaps in later years he would look at his first tractor and wonder “is my tractor truly ready for this”? He might have surveyed the land and thought that particular area might need some extra care, might take a little longer to ensure the seed can grow. There might have been some rocks to take out before the horse gets harnessed and before the tractor gets fired up. But despite the obstacles, despite the uncertainties, to me this is what so needs to be passed down to any generation: he started his tractor, he harnessed that horse and the potential of what that land could yield kept him on that tractor even up to May 9th. The work was unrelenting and back-breaking but he and Hazel never gave up, they never stopped, it was always worth the investment.

Jake would always ask in those last years of his life, “did you get your barley in?”. He wanted farm updates all the time and kept checking the weather conditions. Through Jake’s life I think he asks all of us today – are we ready to break new ground? Have we planted our seed despite the conditions? First hand, Jake would know that conditions aren’t always going to be cooperative: sometimes our tractors are going to have breakdowns, sometimes we will need repair and the terrain can be something we’ve never asked for in life. He would say don’t let fear of the unknown stop us. Stay on the tractor. Growth always involves a level of discomfort, the discomfort is short lived but the growth lasts forever.

I’m sure we have all been in situations where we were asked to break new ground, where it’s uncomfortable and risky, where it’s going to demand us to use every resource we have. Jake would encourage us, too, that we don’t have to figure everything out before we turn the ignition on, before the horse gets harnessed; we won’t be perfect but the more the ground is worked, the easier the seed can grow.

What lasting memory of Jake can we integrate into our ongoing lives? What has he passed on to you that Isaiah, and maybe even my future grandchildren, can be taught? What can the passing of time never take away? Change is constant in our world. Fashion, transportation and technology have changed, not only in the last 142 years since the Fleishman family was here, but will continue to change. The best parts of Jake will continue to live on, though, and among the good memories which one will you allow to transform who you are?

Through you, parts of Jake’s individuality and influence can thread through each day ahead, each year, adding to the tapestry of your life and the lives that follow yours. In that dedicated way, those good things even death itself cannot silence.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born… and a time to die. Here and now … in this final act… in sorrow but without fear… in love and appreciation… we commit Jake to this sacred place.

You can look through the whole world and find that there will never be another Jake Job but he still lives on in your memories. Though no longer a visible part of your lives, he still remains a member of your family and of your circle, through the influence he has had on you and the special part he played in your lives.

My wife and I have a favourite show every Sunday night called Once Upon A Time. It’s a show featuring fairy tale characters living in today’s world. On Sunday night’s episode there was a scene where a boy named Henry has a magic quill. What is written down from the quill becomes reality. Henry is talking with the Sorcerer’s apprentice – he’s the one throughout time who decides who should have the task of being the Author, the one who is given this magic quill, the one who can determine the fate of characters and whether they can have a happy ending. Henry, who is now the Author, looks at his quill and the blank page before him and wonders if he can bring his Dad back from the dead. The apprentice replies – and I want to close our time with this – “Henry, that sadly can never be undone”. The best way to show your love for those who are gone is to tell their stories. These stories of staying on the tractor, persevering through the unknown, loving what you do, treasuring and caring for what you’ve been given – and knowing you can never have enough pie – these can never be erased. They are more than stories, they are the truth and the truth is what we must write in our own stories, stories that can be passed to each generation, a wonderful picture to be cherished and treasured.

Dad’s obituary can be found here.

Remembering Sophie

Dearest Sophie: it’s been a year today since we had to say goodbye. We love and miss you so much, more than I’m capable of putting into words. You were wonderful and special, and will never be forgotten. Never.

We’ll meet you under the Rainbow Bridge someday, but until then you’re always in our hearts.

Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day. I’d like to pay my deep respects once more to the uncle I never knew who gave his life in WWII, along with so many others, so that we could all be free.

Thank you, Uncle George.

George Clifford Quartly

Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), R.C.I.C., Company C

Killed in action near Monte Cassino, Italy
May 23, 1944

Uncle George is buried in Cassino War Cemetery
Cassino, Italy
Plot 9, A20

Goodbye, Sweet Girl

SOPHIE

March 13, 2008 – July 10, 2020

The Bustle in a House (1108)

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth –

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –

Emily Dickinson

Our beloved Sophie has left us. Words cannot express how much we miss her; our home is so quiet and still now without her. I struggle to write this post – there’s so much I’d like to say about Sophie, but words are failing me. My grief is enormous.

So many people in our condo loved Sophie and everyone knew her. She was a Celebrity Place girl from day one. Born in our condo building on the Easter weekend of 2008, this is the only home she ever knew. Sophie and her sister Dixie lived their whole lives at Celebrity Place and were a fixture of our complex.

Pack walk through Riverdale Park, September 2013

I will never forget that first year, especially, of Sophie’s life. I wanted her to be a big city girl and not fear city noise and mayhem. To that end, Sophie and I became quite a team as we transversed Toronto from side to side and top to bottom. Together we travelled the buses, rode the subway, up and down store escalators, took in the lunacy of Yonge-Dundas Square, made trips to the Toronto Islands via the ferry boat, visited shopping malls and the Eaton Centre (where she visited her Uncle David, working at Birks). Where I went, Sophie went. In all our city travels together we were only tossed out of two places – Mount Pleasant Cemetery and Shopper’s Drug Mart at Yonge and College Streets! So many places, so many memories… wonderful memories.

In Philosopher’s Walk, U of T, May 2012

Vince and I have lost our best friend. It is heartbreaking for us to say goodbye but Sophie left behind 12½ years of precious memories to cherish.

Thank you, Soph, for coming into our lives; we loved you beyond measure and will never, ever forget you.

Ulysses (excerpt)

This small excerpt is the last few lines of Tennyson’s Ulysses. It is significant to me because I included it in the eulogy I delivered at my Dad’s funeral. I feel this segment of the poem is all about looking back over a life of hard work and even though it’s now time to rest, we must keep going and keep seeking as the will remains strong.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

– Alfred, Lord Tennyson

My Grandparents

This is a special post. Today I’d like to write about the grandparents I never knew: my paternal grandparents, John and Christina Job, who both died before I was born. When they immigrated to Canada, they brought with them a rich heritage.

My grandparents were some of the “Germans from Russia”. Prior to a unified Germany, countless Germans were demoralized by years of religious strife, political chaos and economic hardship. In 1762, they received an enticing offer from the Russian Czarina Catherine the Great, a former German princess. She promised Germans autonomy and farm land in Russia should they choose to emigrate there. Catherine believed these highly skilled farmers and tradesmen would promote progress leading to a more modern Russia. In 1804, Germans colonized the southern Ukraine (the Black Sea Germans).

In the 19th century an enormous increase in population with a resulting price increase of farming land was observed in Russia. This began to drive the Germans from Russia out of their adopted land (a large majority of Germans in Russia were farmers). Impoverishment, taking up land in Siberia or immigration to North America became alternatives for many of them. Many Germans from Russia settled in the American Midwest and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. My paternal grandparents were two of those immigrants.

My grandfather was John Job. John was born on January 18, 1880 in Neudorf, Odessa, Kherson, South Russia (now Ukraine). He married Christina Hohenecker (born November 4, 1885 in Bessarabia, Russia) on October 10, 1906 in Bessarabia, Russia (now Moldova and Ukraine). Along with two other families (consisting of John’s brother Jacob and wife Christina; John’s sister Barbara and husband Henry Kaupp), John and Christina left Russia by ship on October 23, 1911 to seek a better life in Canada. The name of the ship the Jobs’ crossed on was the Abrahart.

Exactly when and where they arrived in North America has been lost to history. At best, all I could find were some conflicting notes about them arriving in New York City on November 25, 1909 on a ship named Hanover, but this can’t be correct as they didn’t arrive in Canada until 1911. At any rate, the Jobs’ arrived in southern Alberta and lived in an old shack at Irvine (a hamlet 22 miles east of Medicine Hat) that winter of 1911. In the spring of 1912 they moved to the Sandy Point area where they built and lived in sod houses for shelter.

Here, my grandfather John worked for farmers in the area the first year and, with the help of other homesteaders, broke forty acres of sod to farm the next year. My grandparents never learned English nor spoke it. In the family home the kids were required to speak Mennonite Low German (Plautdietsch). Growing up, my Dad and his siblings acquired their English from friends, neighbours and school chums.

After many years of farming the land and raising their seven children, John and Christina retired to Medicine Hat, Alberta in 1938. Grandfather John died on April 3, 1946, and Grandmother Christina died on December 8, 1964.

Grandma & Grandpa Job, Medicine Hat, 1938
John & Christina Job, Medicine Hat, Alberta, 1938

I occasionally think of these grandparents I never knew, and particularly of their emigration struggles from Russia to Canada. It must have been an incredible, lengthy, exhausting journey; I can’t even imagine it. These days, when we can fly to the other side of the world in a matter of hours, a long journey by sea is totally alien to us. It must have taken them weeks to cross the oceans from Russia. Sometimes I’ll look at a Google map and trace the route that I can only imagine they took – I believe the ship left from Odessa (then in Russia, now in the Ukraine) on the Black Sea. Their ship most likely then passed through the Turkish Straits, through the Aegean Sea, across the Mediterranean Sea, past Tunisia into the Balearic Sea, through the Strait of Gibraltar between Morocco and Spain, then all the way across the North Atlantic Ocean to North America. I’ve probably missed much of the route in my estimation, but we will never know for sure.

When I think of the life my grandparents must have had, I am humbled and remain very respectful. Creating a new life from nothing is an astounding thing. To raise seven children in the “new world”, speak no English, have no money, live in shacks and sod houses, and break the dry land with bare hands for very little profit – what a contrast to my life of a high-rise condo and comfortable living with practically every convenience. I’m not sure what my grandparents would think of our modern living: Twitter, Facebook, flat-screen TVs, modern medicine, computers, jet airplanes, fast cars…. you name it. It is an embarrassment of riches compared to what they had and what they must have lived through.

I will always remain extremely respectful of my grandparents and their struggles to create their new lives in Canada. It is unfortunate that I never met them – without them I wouldn’t be here today, and I have much to thank them for.

Never Forget

Today is Remembrance Day, and I’d like to pay tribute to my uncle George Quartly (my mother’s brother), killed in World War II. I never knew my uncle George as he died many years before I was born, but I had heard a lot about him over the years. I understand he was quite young when he was sent overseas to fight in the war.

George Quartly photo in uniform
George Clifford Quartly

George was in Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), R.C.I.C., Company C. He was killed near Monte Cassino, Italy (probably in the valley of the Liri River) on May 23, 1944, during the Battle of Monte Cassino. Uncle George had been carrying a Bangalore Torpedo up to the front line wire entanglement where he was to throw it at the Germans. The Germans opened fire and he lost his life at the age of 21.

George Clifford Quartly gravestone in Cassino War Cemetary
George Quartly is buried in Cassino War Cemetery, Cassino, Italy, Plot 9, A20.

Growing up, I remember being told that my grandmother never got over losing one of her young sons to the war; she mourned George for the rest of her life.

Uncle George was one of the thousands of great heroes who gave their lives so we could be free.