Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Eulogy of a Hero

A Tribute to our husband and father:

While taking a little time to go through some of our Kit's things we came across a folder of his writings.  If you didn't know, he was a very talented writer.  We are pretty sure he only became aware of this gift a few years ago, when he began to realize that writing was cathartic for him.  His eloquent use of words spoke strongly of the eloquent man he was and he toyed with the idea of writing a story about his life.  It's sad that he didn't find the time, because he could spin a great story and he had the best memories.  What we found were written gifts left for us, and some of the writings speak volume now that we've gathered here today to celebrate an amazing and loving husband, a devoted and proud father, a cherished grandfather, a dedicated brother, a trusting uncle and dear friend.  A complex yet simple man.  We want you to hear a passage from one of his writings:

“I consider myself a very lucky man.  I have witnessed technological marvels, positive changes in the everyday life and I have known the love of a good woman and the unconditional love of my children.  That is much more than many, and no less than others.  I look to the sky and drink in the beauty of a summer's night and think back to those times many years ago when that same summer sky blanketed and inspired a young boy to dream.”

We know dad thinks he was the lucky one, and he was.  He was surrounded by an outpouring of support from his family through the last two weeks of his life and we take comfort in knowing that all that love helped to carry him when he could no longer carry himself.  But we are lucky as well.  Lucky to have had a man like him in our lives.  We know what we'll tell you today will not begin to do his life and what he has accomplished the justice it deserves but we'll do our best to give you a small glimpse into the man he was and the man he became. 

As a young child he was a fun and typical brother with extremely fond memories of growing up in what he deemed the best era to be a kid, the 1950's.  A time when he lived in a world that was constantly changing around him yet he was still insulated from it and allowed to be a child.  He was safe, comfortable and happy.  As a teenager, in the 1960's following the untimely death of his father, his hero, he took on the role of protector and nurturer to his 8 siblings.  He became a father figure to the younger kids and did everything in his power to teach them and guide them as best he could and based on the actions of his siblings during the past two weeks, we'd say he was successful in his goals to help mold them into good people.  It was their turn to support their brother and they were successful to the end. 

Kit was a good time guy.  He was popular, athletic, talented, intelligent, funny, and well liked growing up.  He enjoyed a party, but probably relished the quiet moments more than any of us knew having grown up in a 2 bedroom home with 9 kids.  We assume those moments were few and far between.  He has shared with us many hilariously funny stories of his youth, some of them quite unbelievable and some stories that far from warranted a laugh.  He began life well loved and cared for, but after the death of their father, life on Olive Road got harder for the gang of nine and they learned to rely on each other to get them through.  And if you ask us, they all did a pretty decent job with what they were handed. 

In 1970, after hitch hiking to Leamington, Kit met his future wife Kathy at the roller rink where he opened with the cheesy line, “I'm supposed to tell you I dig tall redheads.”  It seemed to work because she has walked beside him for 40 years.  They began a life together quite young, frankly Kathy was still in high school when they married.   They have raised three devoted children together.  They have had successes and failures, leaps and stumbles, but in the end they still had each other.  They have been through all the things married couples typically go through.  They were each other's best friend, and he wanted to marry her all over again.  She was his pillar of strength and he was hers.  They spent most of their time together because they chose to.  They traveled together – across Canada, through the United States and most importantly to Ireland, the most special of all the trips for him.  They enjoyed road trips together to attend Blue's Festivals and Rib Fests.  They enjoyed the company of their children, and in the later years the company of their 4 grandchildren.  They enjoyed Rousseau family functions when everyone got a chance to get together.  They enjoyed watching their grandsons play soccer throughout the year and he was never shy about vocally rooting them on much to the chagrin of the referees.  He often wondered what it was that Kathy saw in him when they first met.  We aren't sure why he questioned it.  It's obvious what with that sweet hair style, amazing wardrobe, and beautifully cared for teeth what she saw in him. To be honest, she was probably just using him to rebel against her parents and he roped her in with his charm, charisma and sweet roller skating skills.  Dad always enjoyed a game of golf whether in a foursome with his brother in laws or just randomly joining a foursome of unknown people on the golf course.  Most recently he golfed with Kathy and Geoff and Anita in charity tournaments.  Kit and Kathy enjoyed bike rides or going for walks on a summer night, most often making their way over to visit with Holly, Eric, Gage and Roan.    They kept their life pretty simple and appreciated the small things they had.  They just enjoyed each other's company.  Pretty simple, yet so deeply complex.  They have experienced a life together, a life no death will ever take away, a life full of memories to cherish. 

In 1972, they welcomed the beginning of their own family with the arrival of Geoff.  A boy who had dreams instilled in him before his eyes could even focus.  In our dad's eyes, Geoff was going to be a professional football player but once he realized this wasn't to be, he was satisfied to just quietly sit and watch a football game on a Sunday afternoon with him or take in a live game in Hamilton or Buffalo, but he still loved his Detroit Lions.   He knew  how important comics were to Geoff, so he finally shared his secret that the Green Lantern was his favourite superhero growing up.  Much to Geoff's dismay as he was one of his least favourites at the time.  Now Geoff has an entirely different appreciation for the Green Lantern.  Our dad also introduced Geoff to the art of photography.   Dad was the original photographer in our family, he was self taught, as with most of his talents, and experimented with different styles and techniques for years.  He is the main reason why Geoff  picked up a camera and he is still the first person Geoff thinks of when he puts the camera to his eye.  As Geoff became a man with his own wife and children, dad admired the person he had become.  He was most proud of the strength Geoff and Anita displayed when faced with the challenge of an Autistic little boy and the struggle they persevered through for a second baby.  He was awed by how Geoff faced these challenges with his wife by his side and was most proud of the decision Geoff made to deal with it properly and not allow the potential darkness of the situations to envelope him like he had done to himself through the years.  Geoff had become a man.  A family man.  An honest man.  And dad had set that course in motion years prior. 

He was so thankful that Geoff found the love of a good woman just like he had.  He gained another daughter when Anita entered our family and treated her as such.  He liked her from the start and grew to love her as his own.  He treated her and thought of her no differently than he did his own two daughters.  He teased her, laughed with her, helped her, comforted her when he needed to, included her in his pet names for his girls, but most importantly he accepted her for everything she was.  He admired her spunk and tenacity and knew almost from the start that she was going to fit into our quirky family just fine.  Sometimes he would shake his head in wonder when he realized that she was more handy around the house than his own son and it was at these times that he realized Geoff had found the person to complete him.   He was so pleased that she was the mother of his son's children and knew she was an amazing mother at that.

In 1974, he welcomed his first daughter.  She was supposed to be a Nicole but dad took one look at his new baby girl and determined she was a Holly.  She was his princess, yet a spitfire just like him.  He taught her his love of rollerskating and she honed her skills when she was 7 while wearing her dad's size 9 black boot roller skates.  He was her example of what a good man is.  He was the one she feared letting down the most.  But in reality she rarely did.  He was her built in handy man, her hero, and confidant.  They had the same knack for sometimes not thinking before speaking.  He taught her enough that she could probably lay a ceramic tile floor on her own or patch a hole in a wall because of his teachings.  But she still can't clean out her vacuum hose like he could.  He knew how to calm her down when ever she was in a panic and always came to her rescue.  One phone call or visit is all it would take.  Through the years as Holly grew he had pride in his realization of just how similar they were.    She had the same inappropriate humour, the same technique of flying off the handle in a heartbeat but just as quickly calming down, she had the same sarcastic nature and sometimes couldn't find her filter and simply just said what came to mind.  She was his daughter through and through.  He had instilled in her the strength to be a single mom and provide for her two sons even when she was sure she wasn't capable.  And he was most proud of what she had accomplished in life:  two wonderfully, amazing children, a rewarding career that he greatly respected, an independence that could not be shaken, a loyal friend and a maturity when necessary beyond her years.  He taught her that when things needed to get done, you just find a way to do it.  All things that were part of an underlying foundation he had laid early in her youth.  Maybe he didn't even realize that he had done it.

While he knew Holly was capable of surviving well on her own, he wanted her to find the love and respect of a man that deserved her and all that she had to offer.  He was so pleased when Eric came onto the scene as he had finally seen the look he was searching for on his daughter's face when she talked about this new person.  He sadly didn't get to spend a large amount of time with Eric before his death, but the time they did spend together was good.  They were still getting to know each other but both respected the other person.  He was relieved and elated to learn how much Gage and Roan loved Eric and how good he was with them in return.  All he wanted for his daughter and her family was for them to be treated right and he felt deep within his heart that Eric fit that bill.  He immediately welcomed Eric into his family and enjoyed the times they spent together, whether it was laying hardwood floors and doing household tasks, discussing future projects or their mutual love of tools and all things wood related, or just enjoying their similar sarcasm.  He found relief in these past two weeks knowing that he was leaving Holly and the boys in Eric's capable hands and that brought him a sense of peace. 

The final piece of Kit's puzzle was put into place with the arrival of Dawn during the blizzard of '77.  He had to basically move mountains (mainly of snow) to get to the hospital in time for her birth as he was working in Windsor and not readily available.  His family was complete.   He had a little girl who loved to cuddle and sit in his lap. He enjoyed quiet moments with Dawn and loved taking in a Niagara Falls Thunder hockey game with her on a routine basis for some one on one time.  They would spend hours watching lame B movies together, and the thought of any British comedy  like Benny Hill still immediately evokes thoughts of dad for Dawn.  They shared a quiet unspoken bond that never wavered.  He was proud of his baby girl and found a comfort in having her with him at home these past years.  He used to tease her about not being married but he relished in the longer gift of time he was able to spend with her and he liked not having to share her heart with another man.  He admired the independent person she had grown into after years of worrying about her sensitive nature.  They loved each other but could drive each other a little crazy once in a while.  She with her 45 minute showers and he with his uncanny knack for not being able to enter a house without making a ton of noise. He worried about her going forward after these past couple of weeks as she is alone and doesn't have a reliable partner to lean on in her quiet struggles to get past all of this but he was comforted knowing she was going to be close by for Kathy and he knew they would be able to lean on each other from time to time.  He was amazed at her strength and so proud to watch her become his rock in the end and he finally knew he wouldn't have too much to worry about.  She was going to be ok.  

While each of us has some unique personal experiences and memories of our dad, many of the things we remember about our dad overlap with each other. 
He taught us the love of reading.  Showing us an opportunity to get lost somewhere other than our own heads. He showed us how to be someone we aren't or go somewhere we'll never get a chance to.  He taught us that reading gives us knowledge and with knowledge comes power. 
He introduced us to our love of travel.  We were blessed to be able to vacation together as a family and travel across our own country and into the United States as children.  We all have many fond memories of our family vacations that we still look back on with laughter.  And while on our own family vacations we strive to achieve those same types of memories for our children to take with them through their life. 
He instilled in us an appreciation for music.  He had an eclectic taste, ranging from rock and roll to the blues, to country.  He truly appreciated the art of music and the escape he got from listening to it.  He had an extensive vinyl record collection that he accumulated starting in his youth and it was one of his most valued material possessions.   We are surprised that with such a love of music that he wasn't inclined to play an instrument.  Had he taken up this hobby we are pretty sure he would have made a great piano player. 
He was a fountain of useless information and all of us were in awe of his ability to always know the right answer.  He would have been the prime partner to have in a game of Trivial Pursuit.  We always said he should go on Jeopardy, he would have done well.  While we know he was a good student scholarly, we suspect this is a result of all the reading he did throughout his life. 
He was a history buff who loved to learn everything he could about the wars of past, scientific discoveries, technological advances, and notable people.  Up until his final days he was still intent on keeping up with the current news.  He needed  to know what was happening in and around the world.  It was important to him.
He had an awkward, sometimes crude, but always weird sense of humour.  He passed that lovely trait onto the three of us so you all will continue to be blessed, stop worrying.  He was a man who would often laugh at his own jokes, even if they weren't funny.  In fact that probably made him laugh harder.  He would sometimes make inappropriate comments and forget he wasn't using his 'indoor' voice.  Though most of you know that using an indoor voice is hard for a Rousseau.  He knew how to take a joke at his own expense.  He would laugh until he cried at just the mere thought of the Dan Akroyd, Julia Child skit from Saturday Night Live.  He didn't need to actually watch it, just the sheer memory of it was enough.  We can't watch any of the following without him immediately coming to mind.  Benny Hill.  Married with Children.  Two and a Half Men.  National Lampoon's Vacation. The Big Chill.   Animal House.  And that's only naming a few.  
He had an uncanny ability to barge into a conversation part way through and demand to take part even though he had no idea what we were talking about.  He'd even offer up his opinion which usually never made sense since he mistook what the subject of discussion actually was. We are resting easy knowing that he passed that trait on to Roan and he'll carry out that legacy without any struggles. 
He had a work ethic like no other man we've met.  And we're not sure if we should be cursing him or thanking him for passing this trait along to each of us.  He's set our standards and expectations high for how we perceive others should be in the workplace which usually only leads us to disappointment.  He worked many jobs throughout his life, starting with delivering newspapers and donuts, then moving  to the drive-in theatre, to factories, before going back to school in 1998 to start a new career in Human Resources.  He moved on to hiring for a temporary employment agency and was successful in finding many of our friends employment that could better their lives and situations.  His most rewarding job was when he went to work helping young people turn their lives around and began to see the results.  He felt great pride giving those kids the skills they'd need to better their lives.  After moving on from there he decided a simpler job with less emotional involvement was probably what he needed at this time in his life and he went to work for the same company as Geoff, Anita and Dawn, which made for many boring dinner conversations for Kathy and Holly.  He rounded out his career life running a recycling plant before he was admitted to the hospital and could not return to work.  
He thrived on the 'it's good enough' theory which drove our mother crazy.  Everything to him was good enough (but sometimes it clearly wasn't, well it was clear to us, just not him).  We would sit back and watch my mother bicker with him about his theory and laugh.  It was a given, every time he repaired something, built something, or cleaned something and Kathy critiqued him in even the slightest way,  it was good enough.  We've come to appreciate his theory more as we get older because he never made us feel like we needed to change ourselves in any way.  We were good enough. 
He was also a man who owned his actions.  If he did good, he wasn't too proud to brag.  If he did wrong, he was the first to step up and admit fault. He didn't find pleasure in placing blame where it didn't belong.  He took ownership.  He could admit his mistakes and errors in hopes that some lesson was learned as a result of  his actions.  He was often caught trying to convey these lessons to his grandsons; Gage and Roan.  We can only hope they actually heard him.

Dad's life took on a completely new meaning for him, filled with love and emotions he didn't think were possible, in 1997 with the birth of his grandson and buddy, Gage.  He'd always heard it was different being a grandfather than being a father.  He knew he was lucky and blessed with his own children but he never expected the waterfall of emotions he'd experienced  when looking into Gage's tiny face on that first day.  It was instant love and devotion, a silent knowing between two souls.  Dad would stop by on a pretty regular basis on his way home from work for even just 10 minutes to get his fix of Gage when he was a baby, never wanting to over stay his welcome but really needing just a few minutes to hold him or catch a smile or belly laugh.  They spent many days and hours in each other;s company and both are better people for it.  Gage taught Kit to smile with his whole heart again and to enjoy the little things in life while Kit taught Gage the essence of a great man, giving him a wonderful role model to strive to emulate.  For 14 years there was a connection between the both of them that no one else could touch.  He was so proud of Gage and who he is becoming.

In 2001 another grandson was added to his most prized collection when Roan came along.  Shortly there after dad was given the gift of living with Gage and Roan for three years which allowed him the time to form a similar bond with this new addition in his life.  He found comfort and a new sort of love from Roan.  As Gage got older and involved in more social aspects of life, dad finally got to spend some quality alone time with Roan on a more frequent basis.  Roan relished in those times without Gage around.  He rarely wanted to hang out with anyone else but Grandpa.  He would randomly call over to Grandpa's house to hang out rather than make plans with his friends.  Dad savored all the drawings and cards he received from our little budding artist and truly felt Roan possessed a gift for drawing. Dad also worried for Roan growing up with his own struggles and it broke his heart that life might not just come easily to him, but we take comfort in knowing that Roan has someone pulling for him up there and we know he's going to turn out just fine.   Their's was a relationship between a kid and a man who wore their hearts on their sleeves with one another.  Neither ever doubted each other's love. 

Later in 2001 another staple of his life joined our family with the birth of Sebastian.  Sebastian brought an entirely new dynamic to our family and helped us grow and become better people, our dad especially. While he (like everyone else) struggled with the different type of relationship he had with Sebastian and worried about him, his love never faltered.  He celebrated each of his successes and accomplishments with a swelled heart.  He was so proud of how far he has come in his life and was confident these milestones will continue through the coming years.  He always wished there was more he could do to make life easier for his Bastian.  He didn't have as close of a relationship with Sebastian while he was a baby as he would have liked, but in the later years he began to spend much more time with him and he cherished each moment as a gift.  We can only hope now that dad will find a way to make things easier for Sebastian from wherever it is he's gone to.  Perhaps continued visits with his special boy through his dreams.  

In 2008 dad got the cherry on top of his banana split.  His granddaughter Sawyer came into his life.  Another fiery redhead reminiscent of his own two daughters had taken up residence in his heart.  How he loved the sound of her laughter and watching her grow into a little girl.  He said she brought back so many memories of Holly and Dawn.  Her addition to our family made him realize how much he missed having a little one around the house.  The renewed sounds of belly laughs and new words, the pitter patter of little feet on the hardwood floors and the sloppy kisses.  All things he adored from his grandchildren.  He also mentioned that he wasn't too concerned about her growing up in this world as he already knew she'll be unstoppable.  He was saddened to have his time with Sawyer cut short and that he wouldn't be able to share the same bond with her as he has with the others but he was assured that his spirit will be kept alive so she can truly understand and know the man her Grandpa was and how proud he was of his granddaughter. 

Since his children have grown, he turned his hopes and dreams towards his grandchildren.  He spent countless hours with them, doing what grandpas and grandkids do.  He could sit and read stories with them for hours, beginning what we hope is a new appreciation for the escape of a book.  He would often be found on the floor with the kids building with Lego's or creating Bionicles, doing puzzles, or playing with cars.  We're pretty sure he'd have played with dolls and wore make up and had tea parties had Sawyer asked him.    He spent countless hours with Gage and Roan building model cars together.    While it didn't happen as often as he would have liked he was grateful to travel with the boys and held their trip to Prince Edward Island close to his heart.  He enjoyed the enthusiasm the boys showed for building things in his workshop and relished in teaching them about tools.  He loved the simplicity of movie nights and sleepovers.  Gage found it endearing that Grandpa slept with 5 pillows and still had his own blanket at the age of 61.  It was the love and assistance of a little boy name Gage that was finally able to get him to stop smoking after 44 years or so and we have to wonder if that bought us the extra time we, as a family, needed with him.  We look back through the years and are so thankful he made the choice 21 years ago to become sober and start to see life with new colour.  This choice, in the big picture, allowed him the relationship he had with his grandchildren, the true reward for facing his demons and enduring the heartache he went through in life.  He found a sense of peace in their company.  A rejuvenation of sorts.

In his final days our husband and father displayed a grace like nothing we have seen before.  He kept his humour with him at all times and a positive attitude as best he could.  When the rest of us found nothing positive to hang on to, he allowed us to hang on to him.  He relished in the visits he received and the time he got to spend with his wife, his kids, his grandchildren, his brothers and sisters and his nieces and nephews.  Those moments kept his spirit up, his will grew stronger but he knew this time was a gift.  He displayed an undying love for all of us and we will never question how he felt because  he told us and showed us.  He had an enormous heart and each one of us had our own place in it.  It doesn't seem possible, but it's true.  He loved his brothers and sisters first and did his best to keep them safe and teach them life lessons, and then he loved his wife and did his best to make her proud to be his partner, and then he loved his children, just the way a parent should love their kids.  He taught us so many valuable lessons both spoken and through actions.  He tripped along the way a few times but he never stopped trying.  And then he loved his grandchildren and there are just no words to describe the love he had for those four kids.  We're pretty sure it even caught him off guard.  They got a good deal when they got him..  We all did.  He has  taught us all what it means to be a good person in all aspects of life.  He's  taught us that even when you're down, you aren't necessarily out.  That there is always hope for a new day.

He mentions in his writings that 'we are here for a short time and we need to strive to make the most of the time we are given.  If we hold on too hard and too long to the traumas that have befallen us, then we lose the opportunity to live the life we rightfully deserve.  Now is the time for healing, a time for forgiveness and a time to hold on to everything and everyone that we cherish.  We need to locate within us that part of us that is our spark. Call it our soul or our essence, it is the spiritual part of every one of us that connects us to all other humans.  Without it, we cannot truly enjoy and appreciate life.'  And he asks the following, “Isn't the true meaning of life to serve one another as fellow human beings and to leave this world slightly better than we found it?  Dad, you were wise beyond your experiences and if we take nothing else from you, then we should heed this advice.  There are no truer spoken words.  You have taught us all many valuable lessons during your life and we will continue to make you proud. 

Our family chain has been broken with no option of repair.  We all feel a huge loss with your departure but we know your love and the love of your family will encircle us and keep us safe.  Our lives will never be the same without you but they are richer for having had you.   We are the legacy you have left behind and it's a great legacy.  Until we can see your face, hear your voice, feel your arms around us and hold your hand again, we will do you proud. 

We love you.


  1. Thank you did an amazing job writing probably the hardest thing you will ever have to write. I can't thank you enough for including me and the kids in the way that you did. It breaks my heart and makes me so proud at the same time. Love you, so much.

  2. i loved this - such an amazing tribute.

  3. Beautiful, eloquent words - clearly a family trait - and one that you can all be so proud of.

  4. I couldn't have come up with any of that without the help of my mom, brother and sister. It was a collaborative effort for the most part. I just filled it in.

    Thanks for your thoughts. There is obviously so much more that could have been said.