Monday, August 17, 2015

Saying Goodbye to my Uncle Bev

I was sitting under Glen’s porch at the lake, throwing pots, when a call came from my dad.  He was calling to say that my Uncle Bev had passed away.  

Uncle Bev had been living with multiple myeloma for several years.  The same thing my grandfather Doral passed away from.  He had struggled with the disease for many years, but his family seemed to know the end was approaching.  

My dad had gone down to Barnwell a few days earlier, with the rest of his siblings, to say goodbye.  Bev passed away shortly after.  I was so glad to know that his children, and siblings had time to hold his hand, and share words of love with him and with each other.

The view from Glen's porch, looking towards Aline Hill

My dad told me we would hear later about the timing of the funeral.  

I knew it was not likely that I would be able to make the trip to Barnwell.  I had been so lucky last summer, that things worked out to make it possible for me to travel there for Nadine’s funeral.

I thought back to that trip from the lake to Barnwell, with my mom, my dad, my sister Bonnie, and my own two kids.  A roadtrip full of stories about all of the Johnson relatives, memories of laughter and tears, work and play, struggles and celebrations, hardships and achievements.

I smiled thinking about running into my Johnson cousins at the 7-11 in Claresholm (seriously!? What are the odds of parking beside ones relatives at a bathroom break on a roadtrip?!).  I loved moving around at funeral (both at the church and the cemetery) holding the hands of those I have long loved, and reconnecting with aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandchildren.

The view towards Bastion mountain
And so, I sat under Glen’s porch, thinking about Bev, and looking at the lake around me.  I pulled out my camera to take a few shots of the view.  I remembered the many hours my Uncle Bev worked on other people’s projects.  

I remember him working on both my parents, and my uncle Glen’s house at the lake.  Sitting there under the deck, I wondered about the times that Bev too, while he worked on Glen and Janet’s house, must have turned his eyes towards the lake, the times he too would have watched the wind blow the waves inwards, the clouds move across the skies, and the sun set behind the mountains.  

Each day spent in Arta and Kelvin’s house at the Shuswap is also a day reminding of my Uncle Bev there, working alongside my dad.

The funeral is now come and gone.  I could not go, but did grill my dad and brother Doral. I have listened to my brother and father tell me about the music, the tears, the words of love.  I imagined myself there in the company of my relatives, celebrating the times spent with each other, celebrating a live well lived. 

Evening falls over Bastion Mountain


I thought about my earliest memories of uncle Bev and Barnwell.  Barnwell was different from Calgary.  The air was different, the water tasted different, and there was a sense of adventure and openness.   The wind seemed to blow all the time.  You could see it rippling across the grass, almost like a living creature.  The trees seemed to stand sentinel against the wind.  The trees also invited you to climb them…and imagining my dad swinging from them and breaking his arm was enough of a reminder to keep my own feet rooted on the ground, despite the invitation.  My cousins seemed braver.  The irrigation ditches were both terrifying and exciting to scramble around in, and I somehow remember thinking that they belonged to my Uncle Bev.   He seemed to know everything about science, and about the stars.  I remember being astonished to know that he could fly a plane.  What kind of magic was that?!  I loved visiting his house, which seemed so huge, the size of a mansion!  I loved playing there with Meriliee, and Val, who had a closet big enough for us to hide in.  I remember the piano, with the Reader’s Digest of Favourite Songs propped up, and seemingly any number of people able to play from it.  I remember his voice, that sounded so much like my own dad’s.  I remembered how my own dad’s voice would change anytime he got a call from Bev.  That sound, the sound of his voice, is inscribed on my heart.  

I only know one hundredth of a part of the grieving that Virginia will be feeling at the loss of his companionship. I am so grateful to have had him be a part of my life.  


  1. Thank you for the loving words about daddy. He was so loved by so many! I know he loved the lake and I am sure that he watch the beautiful lake and scenery many times while building those house. XOXOXOX

  2. I remember Bev coming out to the Shuswap and building the cabin with Kelvin. He was so kind to take the time to help create such a beautiful home for others. I also remember Arta running around the kitchen with fresh blueberries, making pie crusts and asking her what she was doing. She said that she asked Bev what she could do for him while he was building her a house. Bev said that he sure loved Arta's blueberry pies and could she make one for him. Arta then said to me, "well, he is building me a house so I will do anything to help him in return." We all enjoyed the tastes of his request and Arta's cooking.