Bob McCreary felt only the light end of the load!

In his mid-30’s, Bob McCreary stood on a bleak March day inside a damp gathering room at Toronto’s Riverdale Crematorium. His childhood best friend, David, from Deep River, ON, was in a simple coffin at the room’s centre.

His friend’s young children, about 6 and 7 were sitting with their mother. A few family and friends, myself included, were there, to say goodbye to a young man in his mid-30’s, felled by brain tumour. We were there to give support to his widow and wee ones. We were there because we couldn’t imagine such sadness happening to someone we knew.

Bob gave the eulogy for his friend David that day. I remember his descriptions of their life as kids, as daredevil teenage boys, and then he turned to his friend’s children and spoke only to them. He looked into their eyes and he held them with his vision and he said none of this made sense, to them, or to anybody else.

It was sad.

Last Friday morning, Bob McCreary’s friends gathered with his two children and his widow, Cathy. They gathered to say goodbye. Three of Bob’s associates painted pictures of a life lived with gentleness, with principle, with humility, with great love. And with laughter.

For most of us, the McCreary family represents incredible closeness and care. And load. Cathy, an ardent mom and family cheerleader, worked in the assistant Crown Attorney’s office for awhile until diabetes challenged her eyesight. Bob and daughter Jennifer and Julie drew close and the family circle strengthened around mom and wife. Surgeries and transplant followed.

While Cathy’s medical struggles continued, the family embraced each challenge and find a place for celebration. Bob was consistent.

Bob began his legal career articling with Bruce Owen’s law firm. Called to the bar, he joined Paul Wessenger and Jerry Norman and the McCreary name went up on the sign. When Paul won a provincial political seat, Bob applied for the Assistant Crown Attorney’s position in the provincial court in Barrie. Then Bob moved to the Senior Crown Attorney’s position in Newmarket, a busy criminal court. He oversaw tremendous details of criminal trials, meeting police officers, assessing charges and evidence. Bob moved back to Barrie/Orillia as a Judge in the provincial court system.

The esteem held for Bob was evident at Friday’s funeral service. Police, RCMP officers, judges, crown attorneys, justices of the peace, court clerks, administrators, lawyers and staffs, and friends from all over the region bade their respects to Cathy and the McCreary girls.

As Bob, diagnosed with lung cancer 18 months ago, flattened as it metasicized to his brain, accepted the reality of his death, he and Cathy still managed to revel with joy in Jennifer’s marriage to Michael Kidd and in the arrival of their first grandchild, Haley.

Bob laughed, teaching Hayley how to stick out her tongue, held her in the hospital bed in the hospital room he shared with Cathy, and just enjoyed the capacity of infant love and grandpa.

Bob’s kids, Jennifer and Julie, speak with triumph about their father and his support of them and their life decisions. And as Hayley moves in to take up her place in the family circle, her grandpa’s shadow remains.

Bob’s friends talk about his unrivalled sense of humour (always with himself as the object, never poking fun at someone else). Bob is unrivalled in many ways… in stature, in careful consideration of his work, in connectedness to this new wee life, in constant presence for his wife.

His friend, David, wasn’t there on Friday. David who shared Bob’s early years in Deep River, was present with Bob for me, though. I feel certain his welcome was sincere.