A time to throw away, and a time to keep


to de­part with dig­nity.

The words from Ec­cle­si­astes came to mind: ev­ery­thing in its sea­son, a time to keep and a time to throw away.

They say one per­son’s junk is an­other per­son’s trea­sure. As the surgery be­gan and bit by bit the lay­ers of wood were be­ing peeled off her, I crawled un­der­neath her to get the site clean for her feet and knees. Be­neath the plate of Vir­ginia creeper spaghetti, laid re­mains of her own per­sonal trea­sures ris­ing up from the dirt.

She had kept these clev­erly hid­den for her­self. The bits and pieces of her mem­oires told a won­der­ful tale of time and change, de­cay and rot, old and new and his­tory in memo­riam. An in­tact stubby beer bot­tle from the 70s, an old plas­tic bleach jug which dis­in­te­grated in a hun­dred pieces as I tried to re­trieve it, a Woolco flyer, a sty­ro­foam Big Mac con­tainer, the top half of a de­cay­ing cat corpse, rusty hand forged nails, and nu­mer­ous old bits of old wood likely rem­nants of her um­bil­i­cal cord from when she was first born.

The most val­ued trea­sures how­ever were two bits of news­pa­pers: a rel­a­tively in­tact sec­tion of a Moose Jaw Times Herald from Novem­ber 3, 1975 which con­tained an ad for the lo­cal Re­mem­brance Day ser­vice and a sec­tion from the Daily News from April 12, 1915 which had ar­ti­cles about the First World War.

As I pon­dered these trea­sures in my heart I thought of how well she had stood up over time. I thought of the wood alone and the value of these old, strong, in­tact pieces of tim­ber that were never wasted or thrown away but cared for, main­tained, and loved. I thought of the dirge of pick­ing through piles of new wood, at two dif­fer­ent lo­cal lum­ber yards, none of it straight, most of it cracked or split.

Af­ter hours of search­ing for nee­dles in haystacks, I found the few in­fe­rior pieces of lum­ber that would re­place her pil­lars. But, her hip re­place­ment will never re­place the thick­ness or the qual­ity of her orig­i­nal hip.

It will al­ways be in­fe­rior who and what she was.

No, it will never be what she was made of. To­day, ev­ery­one is just too busy, and far less in­clined to care. The hu­man de­sire for a job to­day rather than a fu­ture for to­mor­row feed this glut­tonous greedy beast that con­sumes rather than cares. The for­est fires are so dev­as­tat­ing.

Ren­o­vat­ing projects such as this nec­es­sar­ily in­volve a to trip to the lo­cal dump. And, it was there, while dis­pos­ing of her bot­tom half, I was once again re­minded of the smell of hu­man waste, haste, greed, pride, glut­tony and ar­ro­gance.

It seemed so un­fit­ting that she would land up in the land­fill af­ter serv­ing five or six gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies, this street, and this com­mu­nity. But what to do with her re­mains? She couldn’t be cre­mated. Our only op­tion was to bury her.

Buried with her though are the val­ues of her gen­er­a­tion. Words that now have less mean­ing.

Words like qual­ity, crafts­man­ship, com­mit­ment, ac­count­abil­ity, trust, truth, ethics, courage, dili­gence, or­der, and value.

May she rest in peace. We still have her top half. I pray our chil­dren ahead of us will re­learn what many are for­get­ting from the past.

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