Great changes are moments that define your life. In an instant the axis of your world spins, and you have no choice but to see it through.

On December 28, 2013 at 11:13 am, my world tilted. My father, Andrew Westover, died. 

I had been under the weather for a while, but on that fateful day I woke up early, finally feeling better. We went swimming at the Canada Games Centre, and then went home to Skype with my family, who were eating a delayed Christmas dinner. 

My mom’s voice was trembling over the line; my heart sank to my feet.

“Call your father’s, Andrea’s there,” she said.

I called frantically, only to find out that the EMS were there. He had passed away in his sleep. It’s a living nightmare for anyone who lives far from family. You become powerless and desperate to be with your loved ones. 

From that moment, and for the next two weeks, I lived minute-by-minute. I flew home to Quebec on the next available flight and before I knew it I was back at dad’s house with my sister and brother-in-law. 

His house was left almost exactly the way it had been when he went to sleep. His newspaper was on the table waiting to be read in the early morning. There was a half-eaten sub in the fridge, and bagged, empty bottles of beer to be cashed in the next day. 

I felt like I was dreaming, and kept thinking, still in a haze, “I’m not supposed to be here, I should be in Whitehorse.”

I spent the entire night drinking beer and wandering around the house. My mind raced about dad, life, and the week ahead. 

Dad was 63, and a throwback to a different era. For most of his life he worked with mentally challenged people. He also raised a family, and was well known in his hometown.

My mother and father separated in the late ‘90s. He sold the land we grew-up on and moved to a nearby town for a few years, before returning to the road we lived on when we were kids.

He was 58 when he retired, after more than 30 years of service.

Dad spent his days in an old rented farmhouse. When I visited, friends would drop by daily, like clock-work. We’d sit on the large porch and enjoy the view, listen to music, play chess and talk about life. You could drive by his house at any given time and see him through the window, sitting at his table.

The old man was a smoker and enjoyed his beer. He watched The Price is Right religiously and read the paper top to bottom. Despite his shaggy appearance, trademark headband, and ripped jeans, he was an extremely passionate man with distinct worldviews. He deeply loved his family and was always there for us. 

But dad had an infection in his lungs. He brushed it off as a cold.

The power went out when the ice storm hit his town, and he spent a lot of energy keeping the pipes from freezing.

“I’m just trying to keep this poor old house warm.”  

In my opinion, the combination of his infection, bad habits, fatigue, and stubbornness were the factors that exhausted his body that night. I often wonder if he dreamt about his life before time ran out.

My father lived by his own rules, and he never feared death. On Christmas day he told me the old tree in the front had snapped because of heavy ice.

“That tree has seen a lot of things and in an instant it’s game over,” he said.

I can’t help but chuckle at the irony.

My family is going home this June, and we will put dad to rest and give him to the ages. This time, I’ll celebrate his life instead of mourning my loss.

Thanks for everything dad, I’ll miss you.