Grab each day

I was reading Dr. Seuss the other day, looking for the meaning of life or, at the very least, looking for words that would help me understand life with a little more ease—a tall order on some days.
Dr. Seuss wrote: Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
That very well may be true for a lot of moments, but I knew the moment I met Albert (Al) Ward that he was a special kind of person—and I wanted to pull my chair up close to his and hear what he had to say.
Al Ward has left us; has left this earthly place. And I like to think he has rejoined his family who went ahead to get things ready, went ahead much too early it turns out, but life doesn’t always play by the rules we would like it to.
I met Al in 2009 and I claimed him as my own family; took possession of him in my heart. We tend to do that when we bump up against people who make our lives better, happier, who willingly share pieces of themselves with us.
Al was just that sort of man. He was a friend of my father’s when they were youngsters and teenagers; friends when they both departed Fort Frances for their service during World War II—both of them destined for the RCAF.
And when I met Al, he brought my father back to me in stories and memories; in the little pieces of him that I had never known.
Al phoned me more than a year ago and we talked for a long time, and he shared with me the “stuff” of life—the real bits, the sorrows and loss, of course, because there had been loss, but he shared, too, the joy that came before the loss.
And he told me the great honour of loving his wife, of the laughter that was at the very core of who they were together; laughter and mutual respect.
The entire Ward family is hard-wired for joy, for fun. All 10 of them who have been—and are—an inspiration to all who know them, who still gather to celebrate family at every opportunity.
They truly love one another and it is a privilege to be witness to such testament of family.
Al lived his last days in Campbell River, B.C., living closer to his daughter-in-law, Elda. Al always was an inspiration to Elda, a mentor, someone she wanted to emulate in his stance of being a life-long learner.
His parting words to her were posed as a question. “We’re all right, aren’t we?” he asked, not ready to leave her behind but ready for the next step in his journey.
Al loved peanuts—confessed that to me as if it was a secret while we had lunch together at the Empress Hotel in Victoria when we met. I shall keep a little jar of peanuts close by should Al ever pop in for a visit.
In keeping with the advice of Dr. Seuss: today I shall behave as if this is the day I will be remembered.
I’m fairly certain Al lived his whole life like that—grabbing hold of each day, sharing a giggle and a story, while his eyes sparkled.