Dr. Jack Leeson
Mar. 30, 1912 - Jan. 28, 2009

More from my father's funeral service, held on Jan. 31: three poems read, and one song played at the end of the service, as well as some memories of Jack from one of his nieces.

See this page for my eulogy & some photos

Don't Ask The Angels How They Fly
by Albert Huffstickler

Knowing there's only so much time,
I don't rejoice less but more.
Knowing how many things will now
not happen, I wish them Godspeed
and pass them on to someone
down the line. I honor my
regrets, the part of me that
never happened or happened wrong
and proceed on course though
the course is not known. Only
the end is known and some days
it's a comfort. We live on
love, whether it's there or
not and rejoice in it even in
its absence. If I had known,
I'd have come here better equipped -
but that's another one of those
things you can't change - as we
can't alter that part of us
that lives on memory, knowing
all the while that time is not
real and that what we are we
never were in the light of that
timeless place where we really
belong, have belonged always.
And what's left then is only
to bless it all in the light of
what we don't and will never
know or at least not here where
the light is only a shadow of
that light we almost see sometimes -
that light that's really home.


Perfection Wasted
by John Updike

And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market --
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories
packed in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That's it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren't the same.


At The End
by Ed Meek

He was so old his bones seemed to swim in his skin.
And when I took his hand to feel his pulse
I felt myself drawn in. It was as faint
as the steps of a child
padding across the floor in slippers,
and yet he was smiling.
I could almost hear a river
running beneath his breath.
The water clear and cold and deep.
He was ready and willing to wade on in.



At the end of the service, we played one song: "O Death", a traditional Appalachian song performed by Ralph Stanley.

We had thought of using some music for the service; I had been listening to some music frequently in the past few days (see below). I had thought of this song, for obvious reasons, but when I found a YouTube link using Stanley's version, the image used with the audio told me this was the song to use.

It was a photograph of an old man in bed, and a younger man standing beside and looking down on the dying man. It could have been taken at my father's bedside during the first few days of that week.


There is other music I will associate with the week of my father's death. Beginning in the days when he was in hospital, I found that, unplanned, I played a few CD's repeatedly. They were ones that I hadn't recently listened to frequently, or for some time.

But over that week, I frequently listened to Night Song, by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, in collaboration with Michael Brook, and My Life, the 1994 CD by Iris Dement. That album was dedicated to her father who had very recently died. (Her father, ironically, was born about two weeks before mine). Although none of the personal stories told on that album were at all similar to my situation, her clear, pure voice just seemed right, and I have continued to play it occasionally since then.

Here are the opening tracks to both of those CD's, from YouTube:


Since my father's death, we've heard from many people with remembrances of Jack: family, friends of theirs or ours, and from some people whom we hadn't seen for years, or had never met. There were a few who wrote comments such as those one of my cousins wrote, "You always had to be on your toes around your Dad. He was a special guy!"

I've included a note below written by another cousin of mine, Pat Young, the daughter of Dad's late sister Alice. I enjoyed it particularly perhaps because I was at the same Beatles concerts she talks about (although with not such good seats!) Pat went with my sister, Anne:

You painted such a clear picture of the man I remember.  Uncle Jack made a strong impression on anyone who met him.  He was so full of life, and energy, and had a mind that moved so quickly it was a challenge to keep up with him.  I always loved visiting Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Jack despite always being a little unsettled on the way there as I never knew just what trick he would get up to next.  Fortunately, life with my father and three brothers prepared me for teasing, and I always came away from these visits exhilarated and happy.

I well remember standing in the animal clinic back in the summer of 1965 when he demanded I hand over my precious tickets to the Beatles concert later that day at Maple Leaf Gardens.  I was naturally not a little hesitant to do so but Dad said to go ahead.  Uncle Jack then presented me with tickets, given to him by a client, for seats on the floor of the arena about 15 rows in front of Paul.  I was in heaven.  I can still see him standing there in his white coat, asking me to give him my treasured tickets, with that daring-me-to-do-it grin on his face...

Another memory, which comes to me every time I cook a steak, is of Uncle Jack (while preparing that particular treat for me while I was a student at U of T) advising me to put a little butter on top in order to give it that extra special flavour.  I suppose that this is probably not the healthiest bit of advice according to today's standards - but then again this technique does not seem to have harmed him.  So many memories.

You should see the smile Aunt Margaret gets on her face when she talks of her brother Jack, and the things he encouraged her to do when they were both young children back in Walkerton and Guelph.  You can't really call it a gentle smile - more of a warm, affectionate twinkle at the excitement her big brother brought into her life so many years ago...


See this page for the eulogy and some photos