Today has been a hard one, because it comes with the burden of sad memory. It was 10 years ago this day – Dec. 11, 2004 – that my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, died. My mind has kept flashing back to that terrible December day of his sudden death, to how the shock and grief instantly overwhelmed the lives of my mum, Lorna, and my sister and brothers and me.
But one of the most important things you can do when a loved one dies, both for yourself and to honour that loved one, is to keep front of mind all the good memories you have of your times together. And that’s mainly what I was thinking about as I drove home to the Manse in little Queensborough tonight after work, welcoming the quiet of the car and the darkness around me to just think about Dad. And especially to think about all the good times our family had right here at the Manse, where we moved when he was a young man and a newly ordained United Church minister and, as I’ve said before, all the world was young. Tonight as I drove past the row of old maple trees out on Queensborough Road west of the village, I was thinking about all the early-spring evenings back in those days of the 1960s and early ’70s when Dad would bring his half-ton truck and a truckload of kids – his own and a bunch of others from the neighbourhood (there’s a photo in this post that should give you an image of that) – to gather sap from those trees, which he tapped every spring to make maple syrup.
If it weren’t for Dad, I wouldn’t be on this earth, of course; but more specifically, if it weren’t for Dad having been posted here when he became a minister, I would not have grown up in Queensborough – and I would not have returned here, to this same village and this same house, as an adult, many years later.
Things happen for a reason, don’t they?
I think mainly what I’d like to say tonight is how much I have appreciated, in the almost three years since Raymond and I bought the Manse, the memories that people in the area have been kind enough to share with me about my dad. So often those memories are of him pitching in and helping out in this rural farming community. Pitching in, helping out, and working very, very hard are what Dad was all about, as I wrote in this piece about him. I’ve heard about the time he helped out one farmer, laid up and unable to work, by cleaning all the manure out of the barn. About how he was in the thick of the mess and gore, doing what had to be done, after a horrible fire destroyed a barn and the livestock in it. About him up on the roof of a maple-syrup boiling-house in his “minister clothes,” doing repairs. About him trying to find a way to make sure the long-haired hippie kids at the Rock Acres Peace Festival were doing all right. About him teaching a very nice young couple of back-to-the-land city folk the old-fashioned art of cutting hay with a scythe.
I hear stories like that all the time. My dad is remembered fondly around here by those who knew him. Those stories are a gift, appreciated more than people probably know even as they share them with me.
And Dad’s life was in turn a gift to those around him. His kindness and faith and good humour, his intellectual curiosity and rigorous honesty, his hard work and ever-present willingness to help, made him a friend to many, and a model to more. I am so very proud of him.
And happy, this night, to be in the place where once upon a time, when all the world was young, he brought his young family to live and grow. The Manse was a happy, happy place in those times. I hope it brings Dad joy to know that it still is.