Table Saw

I read a lot of obituaries.

Come on, this can’t be a surprise, considering my frequent cemetery visits.

Little story. This past year, we sold our house and bought a condo. There’s another condo building across the street. Everyone thinks these condos are 55+ only… I guess because mostly 55+ folks live in these condos. But, they let us buy one too, so that’s good.

Standing at the window, surveying the street below, was a novelty for me when we first moved in. It was summer, the windows were open, when I heard it: the distinct sound of a table saw.

I know and love this sound, because my grandfather was a woodworker. His workshop on our family farm was often active with the sound of the table saw, as he brought his various projects to life.

But I was not expecting this sound here and now.

I carefully studied the balconies across the street, studded with tables and chairs and barbecues. Until I saw it: TABLE SAW.

I leaned forward, squinting. Sure enough, there was a gentleman with a little workshop there in his balcony sunroom, contentedly working away.

I immediately concocted a cozy narrative: his wife must be understanding and indulgent, contentedly puttering in the background. They must be a cute couple. He must be making toys for his grandkids.

I smile and sip my tea.

Not many obituaries begin with “I”.

But his did.

William (Bill) Dyback May 1, 1933-Dec.11, 2019

He wrote his own obituary. I want to share (most of) it with you.

He wrote:

“I had a humble start in life. My parents farmed south of Steinbach until my father died in 1961. Being the last sibling left at home, I cared for my mother until her death in 1985. Having never married, I remained single the rest of my life. 

I attended Caruthers School 2.5 miles west of my home on the Number 12 highway. In those days I walked to school year round, even on the most severe winter days. In the spring, it was often necessary to cross swampy areas by walking on the fence wire just to get to school.

While attending the school, I volunteered as custodian. In the winter I would walk to the school on Sunday night. There I would prepare firewood and clear snow in preparation for Monday morning. On those occasions, I would sleep on the desks and get up early to build a fire in the stove and haul water from one quarter mile away. One activity my brother and I and my classmates engaged in was gathering crows’ eggs and feet, with the promise of a few coins from our teacher. 

As a young man, I ran the family farm and cared for my mother with my brother Tom. Then in 1962, I attended the Manitoba Technical Institute where I studied carpentry. This training served me well over my lifetime… I traveled throughout Manitoba as a self-employed carpenter and my specialty was building stairs… One of my last major projects was to build a house for my brother Tom. 

Many years later, declining health forced me to sell my home in the country and move to the City of Steinbach where I… settled into a condo. Having brought some woodworking tools with me to my new home, I set to work doing maintenance and repairs for my friends and neighbours in the building, never expecting any payment. 

Much of my time over the course of my life was spent helping others. This is how I would like to be remembered.”

And so I learned that I had imagined a few things wrong. The cozy wife I had imagined for him, never existed.

But the helpful, kind spirit behind his activity at that table saw, certainly did.

Rest well, Bill.

(Feature photo has nothing to do with Bill; it’s just a picture I took when I was a kid.)