The Pique seems to be full of eulogies lately, so let's call this something else. A homage maybe, or a posthumous thank-you note to a man who is no longer with us - us being the small and somewhat fractured Mitchell family.
I was a day late. If I could have arrived a day earlier, or my dad held on a day longer, then I would have been able to say goodbye properly. One of the last sounds he could have heard in this world would have been my two year old daughter Elly telling him all about the airplane ride.
Arriving at Toronto airport I was sad to hear that Pop, as my brother and I called him, had passed away as we were flying in, but at the same time I was also proud. We all suspected that he was not long for this world, and I suspect that he suspected the same. He was no optimist. And after a dozen or so hospital stays in the last three years or so my father bravely said "nope" to yet another trip, and the staff at the seniors' centre made him as comfortable as they could for that last day or so of his life. He may have been afraid to fly, but in the end he wasn't afraid to die.
Death just wasn't a topic he took all that seriously.
He always said that funerals were a waste of money and called graveyards "the biggest waste of real estate." He was of the opinion that all of the tombstones in Mount Pleasant Cemetery (the largest in Canada, if you're holding your breath driving by) ought to be ripped up and the area made into a park.
"Just drop me on the curb in a hefty bag," he would say. Often. Not because he had a death fixation, but because he smoked a pack a day, drank huge quantities of cheap beer and ate red meat like he was on display at the zoo. He was realistic enough to know that those things would probably kill him, and called his shot so to speak.
There were a few tears, many shed by me as I drove more than six hours round trip to get his ashes. He lived away from Toronto the past 15 years, but it only seemed right to bring his remains back to the city he lived most of his life and spread them as a family.
There would be no funeral, as per his wishes. In fact, my father made all the arrangements with a group called Simple Alternatives. Everything cost less than $2,000 and they delivered Pop in a plastic bag in a plastic container, wrapped in a plain brown wrapper with his name on a label. My father even had the foresight to save enough of his pension to cover the cost.