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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A very simple man

The day before my Mother passed away, my best friend Nancy's father, John Constantine, passed away. It was a unique coincidence. Throughout our lives we have done just about everything together. Now we grieve together.

My Mother's funeral was at 9:30 in the morning and her father's was 2:30 that afternoon. I felt I needed to be there. So my family and I attended the second funeral of the day.

(In picture: John Constantine and Nancy.)

I was moved by the beautiful Mass booklet her family gave out at the front door. Her younger brother, Patrick, had written a story about her father and called it "A very simple man." He spoke about his admiration for his father and his appreciation for the "simple life" he had lead.

Patrick also wrote a blog about his father which is very moving and can be found at:

This very simple man had worked at a hockey arena all his life and supported his family on a small salary. He didn't own a fancy car or fancy house and never wanted things that were beyond his grasp.
From inside the family he probably did look like a very simple man. From my perspective, across the street, he was anything but.

My Mother was a single parent who had no help from my father or anyone else for that matter. The nicest thing he ever did for us was leave.

Nancy's father was an anomaly to me. He went to work every day; he loved his children; he wasn't violent or an alcoholic; he attended church every week and was faithful to his wife. He was a good man who supported his family.

His wife was diagnosed with MS and she quickly went downhill. This horrible disease took over her body and left her in a wheelchair with no feeling from the waist down. This simple man tended to her with an incredible amount of love and compassion. He carried her up and down the stairs in his arms each day. Never making it look like a burden. Always making it look like a new husband carrying his bride over the threshold. His lot in life was not easy but you would never know it. He was never without a smile or a joke. My Mother would often remark, "A lot of men would have turned to alcohol or left all together. Not John. He's a good man."

He had a simple way of dealing with people. We had a neighbour who owned a small business. He lived directly across the street from John. He was convinced that someone was vandalizing his car and business although there was no damage. He set up a video camera in his front window to record everything that happened on the street. It was pointed directly at John's house. The neighbours found it creepy and asked him to take it down. He refused and it caused quite the fuss on the street. John came up with a plan. Every day he stood in front of the video camera and danced a jig. The neighbour was enraged with John and often yelled across the street ordering him to stop. After a week of capturing nothing but John dancing, he took the camera down. This simple man, in his simple way, achieved what no one else on the street could. His daily silent protest brought an end to a neighborhood stand-off without yelling, fighting or threats. Today, he would be a You Tube sensation.

In a snow storm, he would be the first one out with a shovel, clearing his own driveway and then anyone else that needed help. After his wife passed away, everyone thought John would die with loneliness. He proved them wrong. He became the life of the party at the senior's dances. Always ready to dance with whomever asked, never without a smile or a joke and quite the "catch" according to the ladies.

So Patrick, although I loved your story, you are wrong. John Constantine was not a very simple man. He was an amazing father, a dedicated and loving husband, a great neighbour and a good friend. In our neighbourhood he was a hero and an honourable man.

He was much more than a very simple man.