My Dad, Robert Vallaster, was in the Canadian Armed Forces. He never saw combat but he bravely fought prostate and bone cancer right to his final hours. He fought by being gracious through the pain and delighting in visits from loved ones. Although the pain and deterioration he experienced was agonizing, my Dad wanted us to be comfortable and at ease.
When he retired from the Forces, my Dad opened a health food store in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, called The Good Earths Shop. He took pride in having accurate and honest information so his customers could make educated, confident choices. He had amazing customer service skills that earned him loyal customers who loved him and grieved his passing. Quality superseded everything. I remember this poster in our Shop: “The bitterness of low quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is gone.”
My Dad was the epitome of compassion and kindness. When I was younger, I thought my Dad was too gentle. I see him differently now. I’m older and I understand that it takes great strength, and even discipline, to be consistently compassionate and kind. I see now what my Dad must have seen, that compassion is simply the wish that others not be hurt. Kindness is the wish that they be happy. This is how I try to live my life now, to honor my Dad.
This Remembrance Day, I’ll be thinking about all of the men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces who have fought for my freedoms or have been ready and willing to fight. And I’ll be thinking of my Dad who took the discipline he learned from the Armed Forces and used it in the selfless act of compassion and kindness for all, right up to his final hours.