Lost Treasures

I am a chronic procrastinator. It’s something I know I need to work on, and I will. Some other time. But for now, here’s an example of how procrastination and genealogy do not work well together.

Wait, you might say, don’t they? I mean, the great uncle who was dead 30 years ago will still be dead five years from now. Quite true. There are parts of my family tree I’d love to look into but will probably only do so several years from now, mostly because I have neither the time nor the money to do so right now. There’s no rush. The history will still be there, waiting for me.

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work that way.

Several weeks ago, my grandfather, who was trying to recover from pneumonia, fell in his bathroom and broke his hip. The next week or so after that was a rollercoaster of emotions for the entire family. At one point, it seemed the end was very near. My mother and most of her siblings took turns sitting with him in the hospital, hoping against hope that Papa would somehow pull through, but thinking that he probably wouldn’t.

To make a long story short: He pulled through. The doctors don’t know how long he’ll still be around — it could be just a few months — but he’s still around. He’s back at home. He’s still the toughest man I know. He’s still the Highlander.

That whole episode really drove home the fact at some point, people will be gone. It’s not like I didn’t know it already, but Papa’s latest brush with mortality really got me thinking I should make sure I talk to my elderly relatives while they’re still around. When they’re gone, it’s too late. Your aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles, grandparents…they’ve all got stories to tell. They can send you to another time, a time when you weren’t alive. They can tell you about their lives, and about the lives of people who were part of a grand story called The Making of You. They’re important. And they won’t be here forever.

I thought of Papa’s brother Jack. After the deaths of Hughie, Hector, Ronald, Robert, and the other MacLeods of MacLeod Settlement in Glencoe, Jack came into possession of the property, at least that’s what Papa told me. Jack spent time up there when those guys were still alive. He’d have stories. He’d probably be able to shed some light on a few foggy spots in my information about the MacLeods. At the very least, he’d be able to tell me his story. His stories.

The last time I saw Jack was when I was a kid. I might not even know him if he passed right in front of me, but that’s probably not true because you can’t mistake the MacLeods. I do vaguely remember one of his daughters once babysat me and my brother for about a week but never did so again, probably because of the time I found a rusty pair of garden shears in a brook and when Troy said ‘Throw them over’ I did just that and the damn things stuck right into his leg, and our cousin — I think it was Sheila — had to take him to the hospital. God, we drove her crazy. Good times. Anyway, it had been a while since I last had any contact with Jack, but I knew he still lived in Sydney, on Townsend Street. So I looked up his number online. I reached for my phone, then thought, No, I’ll call him tomorrow.

The next day I did the same thing. Every time I went to call Jack, I thought I’d just be bothering him. I figured I’d just call the next day, when I had a better idea what I would say to him, what I would ask him. The episode with Papa had driven home the point that you can’t let things go too long. But hey, Jack is Papa’s youngest brother. My great-grandmother was pregnant with Jack when my great-grandfather was killed. Papa’s going on 83 but Jack’s just turned 74. He’ll be around at least a little while longer.

Well, no.

It is with heavy hearts that we, the family, announce the sudden passing of Jack MacLeod on Sunday, July 24, 2011, at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, Sydney.
Born in Sydney, he was the son of the late John and Susan (Powell) MacLeod.
Jack was in the military for 33 years, including a tour in Germany, until his retirement in 1988. He held many roles, but was particularly proud of being a paratrooper and a tank corps member as a radio operator.
Jack was also a member of the Royal Canadian Legion branch 12.
Jack was a gifted athlete. He particularly loved baseball and hockey, which he played competitively as well as coached. In his retirement, Jack enjoyed woodworking and painting.
He had the ability to strike up a conversation with anyone and immediately understand what was important to them. He will always be remembered for this gift.
He is survived by his loving wife, Rose (Twerd) MacLeod; his children, Ronald Joseph (Bev) MacLeod, Regina, Sask., Carol Ann (Joe) Lewis, Sydney, N.S., Sheila Marie DiPenta (Guy Choquette), Swift Current, Sask., and Stanley Charles MacLeod (Melissa Harper), Mesa, Ariz.; and seven grandchildren.
He is also survived by three sisters, Mary (Frank) O’Brien, Florence (late Fern) MacLeod, Frances (Jack) O’Brien, all of Sydney, N.S.; two brothers, Duncan (Mary Theresa) MacLeod, Sydney, N.S., and Ronald MacLeod, Toronto, Ont.; several nieces and nephews, as well as many special close friends.
Besides his parents, Jack was predeceased by his daughter, Stephanie in infancy, sisters, Pauline Morrison and Jessie MacEachern and brothers, John, Hughie, Fraser, James ‘Jim’ and Donald.
Cremation has taken place. There will be no visitation by request.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., Thursday, July 28, 2011, at the S.W. Chant & Son Funeral Home, 564 Alexandra St., Sydney, with Pastor Sheldon Chant officiating.
Interment to take place in Resurrection Cemetery, Sydney Forks. In lieu of flowers, donations will gratefully be accepted on behalf of the charity of your choice.
Online condolences may be sent to our web page at www.chantfuneralhome.com.

Mom Skyped me the other night to tell me about Jack’s passing. It seems he was with his wife Rose at Dominion Beach when he just dropped. He was unconscious before he even hit the ground. A lifeguard did CPR and Jack was rushed to the hospital, where he had a second heart attack and died.

I think I’ll always regret not making that call. There are a few other calls I can still make. Better not put them off too long. Some of our family history is just history, but there’s also living history. Don’t wait, go and find it. And treasure it.