Archive for June, 2013

The Chapel Builders

Today I have some non-fiction to share with you.

My grandfather is now the last of the chapel builders. I don’t know if that means anything to anyone but us now – his family. Hell, even the chapel is gone.

There were four of them: Charlie Normando, Jimmy Twerdin, Eddie Camden – he was a fireman – and my grandfather, Paul Marcotte. They undertook the building of a chapel for St. Ann’s school sometime in the sixties, before St. Ann’s church was destroyed in the early seventies and the school was closed. There’s a park where the church was now, very thoughtfully designed with rows of benches set out like pews, and the foundations of the church poking up amid the grass.

Jimmy died last Tuesday, and he was buried this Tuesday. Tuesday is the day of the Mother of Perpetual Help devotions, which were his favourite. He was 87 years old. My grandfather is 93, and I’m scared to lose him, too.

It’s harder and harder for him to form new memories. We visit and dwell in the old ones. Like the chapel builders. Like the time he fought Trudeau in a snowball fight. If he’s happy when we’re there, does it matter if he remembers? So long as he’s happy in the moment?

I imagine them running into each other, the chapel builders, that quiet bond of having created something together pulling them in for a handshake, a smile. There’s at least one picture of them all together, later, as old men with those younger men (and they weren’t young even then) still inside, ready to build again, ready to create anew. For all that gets destroyed, for all that’s lost in a lifetime.

Jimmy gave his life to one church and then another. He seemed ageless, grumping at generation upon generation of altar servers, including my father when he was a kid, and then me. In his eulogy, Sister Diana told us that he loved children and cats.

I never saw their chapel. In my mind’s eye, it has the domed ceiling of the Sistine and it shines so white and clean that I can hardly stand to look at it.

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