• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Friday, July 13, 2012


Died:  13 July 1990 Cardston, Alberta, Canada
Buried: 17 July 1990 Hill Spring, Alberta, Canada

Before my maternal grandfather passed away a few circumstances that were a bit unusual occurred. My grandmother had an appointment with a heart specialist. Grandpa, was to all appearances a very healthy 89 year old.  One of my first cousins had driven them to that appointment. Grandpa had a massive heart attack there at the hospital in the waiting room and was quickly attended to and eventually resuscitated.

Grandpa was not expected to live and visitors were limited to his wife and 10 living children. They were permitted to visit with him for a very short minutes each, one or two at a time, for those first few days. He was a man of strong mind and body. He continued to live for several weeks despite minute by minute medical predictions of demise. 

I paraphrase here an interesting story from shortly after he awoke, as I heard it from several sources. It seems that he was ascending a long stairway and at the top of it were his mother and father with their arms reaching out to him. He said that Parley Merlin and Pearl, his deceased brother and sister, were also there and so was Uncle Ted, a brother he was very close to, and many others he knew and loved. I heard several family members say that he kept saying how good Uncle Ted looked, and that he was still wearing 'that same brown suit'. They were all crowding forward in excitement to see him and greet him but he realized the Grandma Elna was not at his side. He wanted her to share that reunion with him but she was not with him. Finally he noticed her at the foot of the stair and motioned repeatedly for her to come and join him. He was very cross with her, and kept asking her why she would not come, because he felt he could not go without her by his side. 

Elna and Bill [William David] Campell

What a wonderful thing to know how deeply he loved and cherished his wife. How wonderful to know loved ones wait there for us with longing and excitement at the prospect of our coming. I think of excitement in our family at the arrival of a new baby. We bring and send gifts and greetings and are delighted to see pictures or hold them in our arms. Our family, that we miss so much now they are gone, surely watch for us to join them there.

During those last few weeks of life his many, many grandchildren were permitted to begin to visit him in ones and twos, oldest to youngest. I am somewhere in the middle. My turn never came and I never felt like I got to say good bye. At his funeral, I lingered at the chapel after the family left the viewing to go next door to Uncle Allen's for supper. Eventually I was alone with him and the potted plants and other flower arrangements. I needed that time there. 

My grandfather was a big man. Years in the timber, and of hard physical labor, made him rugged and strong but he looked slim. He was so tall that you never noticed how broad he was. He filled his coffin end to end and side to side; his white hair touched the top of the casket and his shoulders grazed each side. Someone later told me that a larger custom build casket would have taken weeks to order and been very expensive. I was glad his last moments showed what a big man he was. 

William David Campbell in camp at Westcastle

Grandpa Campbell, to me, was big in every way: he was kind and gentle and soft spoken, except when he threw back his head and laughed. His laugh just boomed out of that man as grand as he was. His sister Elsie told me once that their father laughed the same exact way. 

He had a wonderful sense of humor. As I stood there by his casket, at a loss of how to say good bye, I suddenly heard a sound like water running. Startled I looked around trying to see what I was hearing. It sounded very near. Just then my cousin, Barry, came in. We espied a single stream of yellow water shooting out from the bottom of a potted plant, onto the floor from about waist high. It looked like the plant was relieving itself. We laughed and laughed and laughed.  It was the kind of joke Grandpa might have thrown back his head and laughed about. I felt like we had said good bye but were still connected by the threads of family that can never be broken. 

Funeral Program of William David Campbell
- I came to know because of these things that happened at the time of my grandfather's passing, of the reality of life beyond here and now. I look forward to the day when I leave behind the pains and cares of this world to be greeted by loved ones there. Maybe he will greet me. I can just imagine that: his eyes would light up and a smile would tug the corners of his lips wide. As I think on it I can almost feel his strong arm pulling me close to his side as he sometimes did - and I would need to reach up and up to put my arm around his waist. 

I know, because of Grandpa Campbell, that we do not cease to exist when we meet death and we will live in happiness in that place, 'at the top of the stairway' with those that we love. They wait there for me.

1 comment:

  1. Your story is very interesting. although I am not related to you directly I was married to Elby Reno Campbell the son of Lowell Tolman Campbell's son.