June 17th, 2024

It’s time to remember the life of a complex man

By Lethbridge Herald on March 5, 2022.


Al Beeber – Lethbridge Herald

It’s said that time makes a deep loss less painful and I’m trying to put that adage to the test this weekend.

Three years ago on March 8, my dad died. As I’ve written before, right up until he had turned 87 in January of 2019, he was still active and planning for the future. When I saw him outside a hospital for the last time after the Calgary Motorcycle Show, he was looking pale and thinner than usual and I wondered if he was well.

He assured me he was but his health went downhill quickly afterwards. 

And as the anniversary of his death nears, I’m finding myself looking back at the great memories we made together in the final decade of his life. 

Dad was a complex human being and I truly wish others had gotten to know him the way I did in those last 10 years he spent on earth. On Tuesday, I won’t have much time to reminisce or mourn because I need to hit the ground running like every work day but this weekend, I’m taking time to remember him.

As you read this, I may have a bunch of old photos out on the kitchen table looking back at his life from childhood to his final years. 

Thanks to dad’s mom, Mollie McEwen Beeber, dad had hundreds of photographs dating back to the early 1900s, images which captured life in Bassano where my grandpa Harry Bieber was the station manager for the Canadian Pacific Railway and of dad’s vacations in Vancouver with his beloved cousin Doug MacLeod.

Of all the people in his life, aside from his friend Mel in Strathmore, dad talked more about his younger cousin Doug than anyone else. The images that his mom collected show them practically growing up together.

I often think that my uncle Doug may have been like the younger brother dad never had. 

He had four older sisters, three from Harry’s first marriage to a Nova Scotian named Amy Newell, who died tragically young of cancer, leaving him as sole caregiver to three young daughters. Harry’ second wife Molly – my grandmother – coincidentally was a young nurse who cared for Amy in her final days in hospital. She had never met my future grandpa but Amy asked her as she died to take care of her daughters. And as fate had it, she met Harry somehow and raised them as her own.

 And that’s the way Molly and Harry both were – everyone was family to them.

I think dad started feeling the same way later in life as he reached out to mend bridges he had burned because he started becoming a lot like his mom. 

And cousin Doug was truly special to him – when Doug died, he had me reach out to his family to offer my condolences to make sure the MacLeods knew their Alberta family cared. 

As I go through the photos this weekend, I just may make a separate album with all those that have dad and his cousin in them so they can be together as I sure hope they are in death. 

It’s something I think Molly may have done given how how close Doug – her sister Ollie’s  son – and dad were. 

It’s the least I can do for the old pals. And I think it may make the anniversary of dad’s departure less solemn and sad, and perhaps memorable in its own right.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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