Updated: Oct 12
My father was born in Riga, Latvia and he arrived in Canada in July of 1947, shortly after the end of World War II. He came on the USS General M. B. Stewart which sailed from Bremerhaven, Germany to Halifax, Nova Scotia. His journey was a difficult one as he, like many others, came to Canada as a displaced person. He was not able to return home to his mother and his sister so he made the journey to Canada on his own, with just one suitcase to carry his belongings.
It was many years later in his life when my father began to share some of the details of what he had experienced and witnessed during that time period. He was able to write letters to his mother and his sister so they corresponded over a number of years. However, he was never able to be reunited with his mother. She died in 1968 when I was six years old and I still remember that day, as if it were yesterday. Most of all, I remember his sadness.
It wasn’t until forty years later that I understood the significance of that moment. My father’s health had begun to decline and he was now in the hospital, with only a matter of days left to live. My mother and I had been at his bedside each day, sitting with him in silence since he was too weak to speak. There was a nurse who had noticed our visits and one day, she spoke quietly to me in the hospital hallway.
She had a sense that my father was holding on, that there was some concern still on his mind. She mentioned to me that even though he was silent, he could still hear me and that someone’s hearing was the last of the senses to go. She thought that maybe there was something I could say to reassure him.
So when the hospital staff had left the room and my mother was in the hallway speaking to my brother, I had a quiet moment with my father. I promised him that we would be alright and that he didn’t need to worry about my mother; we would take care of her.
I am forever grateful to the nurse for sharing her observations with me since it gave me a chance to have a sense of closure and to be with my father to share our last goodbye.
My Father’s Garden
Despite my father’s difficulties in his early years, there was one place where he found peace and serenity. That place was his garden. He spent many hours tending to the garden, from first thing in the morning until early evening.
So when I think of him, I remember him there. With his white Tilley hat, sitting on his favourite bench, with his cane beside him, and surrounded by the garden that he loved.
Ruth generously donated photos taken in her father's garden in St. Catharines, Ontario to remember him and support the Foundation. To see selected items, please visit the shop.
Ruth has worked in the field of employment counselling for a period of 25 years and has loved the opportunity to help individuals reach their career goals. She is passionate about the need for improving the mental health of individuals and the need to ensure that all people have access to a safe and supportive work environment.
The views and opinions expressed in Community are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Madiha Foundation.