Reijo Robert Halonen March 10, 1936 – February 23, 2022

“Would you know my name?
If I saw you in heaven
Would it be the same?
If I saw you in heaven…

Beyond the door
There’s peace, I’m sure
And I know there’ll be no more
Tears in heaven
” – EricClapton

On the day my mother passed 7 years ago, my daughter came to my house and brought me some flowers, and a giant bag of Werther’s caramel candies. She explained that the candies were a fond memory for her of my parents, because they always had a bag of them at their home , to offer to the grandchildren as a treat. I assume that they (my dad especially) enjoyed them as well.

Many years ago, my husband was shopping with my father in K-Mart. My father was looking at a pair of orange tab Levi’s, and was remarking how reasonably priced they were; he may have even suggested my husband buy a pair for himself. Without trying to be offensive, my husband merely acknowledged the reasonable price, and made a comment about how they were not exactly his style. My father, noting that he meant they were not exactly a popular or stylish pair of jeans, merely tapped his temple with his index finger, and said, “It’s all up here.” Now that phrase “it’s all up here”, while tapping our temples with our index finger, has become a funny mantra in our family, whenever we talk about perception, or how things are viewed.

I remember as a young girl, I loved to watch my father tinker in the garage, fixing a car or motor that always seemed in need of repair in our yard. I learned the difference between a Phillips screwdriver, a Straight Edge, a Robertson, or a Hex, as I passed them to him while he tinkered. Now I work as a dental hygienist in a dental implant center, and if I’m struggling with removing a screw with the wrong kind of driver, I hear my dad’s voice in my head, saying, “You need the right tools for the job.”

On one of my last visits home to see my father in Canada, I told him that I missed him a lot when I wasn’t with him. At this , he felt the need to tell me not to miss him when he moved on, or to feel bad for him. He reminded me to be present with those around me , and pay attention to who might need me , instead of who I might need. He looked forward to life eternal, and going to be with my mom.

I have been ruminating about these memories, and many others , since my father passed away on February 23rd of this year. His memory had been failing for many years. When he was in the later stages of his Alzheimer’s, he wasn’t always cognizant of who I was. Regardless of this, it was a blessing to see him through FaceTime. His care providers in the nursing home where he spent his last days were wonderful in helping us spend this precious time with him. The last time I saw him, he had a glimmer of recognition for me, and he blew me a kiss. A week later, he succumbed to the pneumonia that had infected his lungs.

Now that my father is gone, I realize there were so many questions that I never thought to ask him, or even if I asked them, I didn’t listen to the answers well enough to remember them. I know he was born in Finland on March 10, 1936, but I don’t know the name of his home town. He spent some time away from his family during the war. My grandfather was in the Merchant Marines and fought for Finland , and my father and his siblings were sent to live with foster families in Sweden for their own safety.

Each of the foster families my dad and his brothers were sent to, were in close proximity, assumably so they could see each other regularly. Unfortunately, my father’s foster family were physically abusive, and he was often punished if he tried to run away or visit his brothers. Understandably, my father didn’t like to speak of these times, and what little I know of his history, I have gleaned from other family members.

After the war, my father’s family immigrated to Canada from Finland to begin their new life together. They lived in the north woods of Ontario at first, where my grandfather found work in the lumber camps. Eventually they settled in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Dad was the oldest son, and he applied for a job at Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, to help his father support his family. He lied about his age, so he could get hired. I often wondered if he regretted not going to school at that time, as he only had a 6th grade education, but I never once heard him complain about this. In contrast, he was proud, I think, of being able to help his family in this way.

My father met my mother after she immigrated to Canada and came to live in Sault Ste. Marie as a young woman. He immediately fell in love with her and proposed very soon after that. They were married in 1960,and were inseparable until she passed away in 2015. My father missed her terribly and it was not a secret that much of the sparkle in his eyes, and the zest he had for life were dimmed after her passing.

My parents passed away with very little as far as earthly possessions go. When we were growing up, my father worked hard to provide for our family; there were five of us and my mom was a stay at home mom. We never lacked for what we needed, however, and the love our parents had for us was always evident. My father always gave away more than he had, to all of us, and whoever else may have entered our household. I will never forget that there was always room at our kitchen table for anyone who needed a meal, companionship, or a cup of coffee. Our couch was also available on many occasions for friends who needed a place to sleep for a night or more.

These, and other memories, remind me that my father was a good man, and a good role model in many ways. He taught us how to love each other, and how to give freely, without strings. I have always been proud to say that he preached without words.

I miss him more than words can say. My hope and prayer is one where his legacy for love and good deeds will live on in this broken world, through each of the lives of those who knew him.

“Those who walk up rightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” — Isaiah 57:2

3 thoughts on “Reijo Robert Halonen March 10, 1936 – February 23, 2022

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