William Harold Olivant (1927 – 1997)
Here I am going to share a little about my father Harold. Like me he was an only child and over the years I have come to understand how much we have in common. My father worked his life at a job he did not much like, but he built a stable life for his family. For him, things were right and wrong, good and evil and while I have come to understand there is gray in the real world, he instilled in me a morality I cherish every day. Below are the words I spoke at his funeral 14 years ago. Dad, I told you I would never forget, and I have not.
“If one were to look down upon the earth from the heavens high above, they would see one of the lasting miracles of god. Changing little over the millennia, indeed eons, its graceful and slow evolution belays the activity that occurs upon its surface. From that heavenly vantage point there is little evidence of the billions of souls which inhabit the good earth. Yet despite each of these individuals having little impact on the world within which we live, each life is held as sacred and unique by our fellow man, especially those who’s lives are touched by any one man.
Life itself is much like the earth we live upon. Never smooth, it reaches the highs of the highest mountains and, at times, the bottom of the valleys never far away. As we move through the stages of life the terran we experience also evolves. However, unlike the earth, our lives have a beginning and ultimately an end. While little trace will long remain, the true impact of our short time on this planet will be felt in the lives of those we encounter along our journey.
Today, we are here to honor one such life, William Harold Olivant; Son of Ellenor and William, wife of Beatrice and father to Gordon and his wife Dianne. A life which saw the highs and the lows, good times and bad. Born in 1927, Harold was raised in Toronto during the trying days of the great depression and came of age during the conflict of World War II. Leaving school early to go out and earn a living, he later worked in evenings to complete his education.
Like so many of his generation, he left the hometown of his birth and set out to create a better life for his family. Thus, shortly after marring Bea in 1954, he moved to Sudbury to start a career that would ultimately last 32 years with the Ontario Government. Not that he loved the work, indeed he often did not, but it allowed him to provide for his family and gradually build for their future. When his parents needed care in their latter years, he and Bea opened the doors of their home and provided for them in their final days.
They fought hard to build a family, loosing two unborn children before finally having a third. Even that event was not made easy, as his wife became gravely ill in the days following the birth. Those may well have been the darkest days, caring for a wife he loved and his newborn son while at the same time working to support them. In the years that followed, there were many wonderful days. Trying, without much luck, to teach his son to fish on the waters of Lake Mindemoya and his son trying to get him to water-ski on the same waters, with similar luck. Many hours of adventure on the rides of Disney World with a son 38 years his junior. The graduations he feared he would never see.
Perhaps his greatest achievement, certainly the one he was proudest of, was to provide his son with the opportunities he had been denied. He never regressed to what might have been had things been different so long ago. Never did he complain about the sacrifices he made so that his son would be empowered, even when that meant stretching beyond his means at the expense of his own enjoyment. He encouraged, supported and motivated, never uttering a single word of discouragement. When grades were bad, he knew the next would be better, when direction unclear that bearings would be found and when differences pushed apart, that love would bring together.
While it is always easy to handle good, the true test of a man’s character is how challenge and adversity are faced. There is no better example of this than the battle Harold fought over the last decade with the disease that ultimately cost him his life. He faced the fight with resolve and courage, grateful for the time gained rather than angry over that lost. He faced the fear and uncertainty with grace, courage and optimism that never failed until the fight was over. Oh, I was never as proud of you. And in the end, our last conversation was not of what might have been, but rather how his wife of 43 years be taken care of when he was gone.
And now, the time has come to say farewell and for the lives of those who remain to move forward. But I say to you, my father, you will never be far, for you will always be in my heart and in my soul. I have learned from your example; your strengths and, yes your weaknesses. You taught that character counts and to believe in myself and my convictions. For in the end, one has little else. You can be proud of your time with us for you passed the ultimate test with flying colors, that your one small piece of the world is better now as a result of your life.
I pray that god now grants you the peace and tranquility that was so often denied in life. The son is again in the loving arms of his mother and father. And from this son unto his father, until we meet again I thank you, I love you and wish you Godspeed.”
Thursday, June 19, 1997