My grandfather passed away on March 14, 2020, just as COVID-19 would begin to upend life in Toronto. While making the plans for his funeral, my family made the difficult decision to un-invite most people, which made for a very intimate affair — we had 10 people, 5 of which were my immediate family. I’ll miss my grandfather very much. Here is my eulogy I wrote of him, that I delivered at his funeral.
My Dzaidzu, my grandfather, Josef Zaworski, left us this Saturday in his typical fashion — quietly, not bothering anyone, being helpful where he could. He was a man who enjoyed being around family, which, just as he left this world, he was. Myself, mom, dad, my brother Kevin, and then Chris, had shared a beautiful moment together saying goodbye to a man who, for me, represented a constant force of guidance and safety.
Growing up, nearly every week was earmarked by a trip to Etobicoke to visit Dzaidzu. We would go for walks, to the convenience store that no longer exists, and my dad and him would speak in Polish. I did my best to pick up what they were talking about. Fortunately, neither of them spoke very good Polish, so there was enough English to get a sense of the topic.
Christmases, visits after church, after hockey practice on Sunday were almost always spent at my dzaidzu’s house. He would sit there, stoic on a blue lay-z boy recliner, quietly watching us kids play with legos, checkers, Nintendo, drinking cans of 7up that he would always keep in the fridge for us. He watched us grow up, and we didn’t know it.
Dzaidzu to me was very worldly — Coming from Poland, which, as a Polish-Canadian kid who didn’t know much Polish beyond “gin dobree”, Dzaidzu was a connection to my family’s heritage that would later come to frame and answer much of the big “why’s” my life — who I was, why things were the way they were, etc.
His constant connection to Poland, from his friends that were an occasional guest, to the food, like Śledzie, kapusta, kielbasa, pierogi, to the reminders of his home country scattered everywhere, like the framed portrait of Pope John Paul II, the flag of Poland that hung in his living room, which we are leaving Dzaidzu with, gave me and my brothers a sense of family identity to accompany us on the journey of our lives.
Dzaidzu was a proud Canadian and worked very hard to establish his, our, family in this country, but always kept a firm root towards his home, Poland.
He was a simple man, in every beautiful sense — growing tomato garden until his late 80s, remaining largely independent by then, and never wavering for support to my parents, or us, when needed. When I was in a bind with my living arrangement and had to suddenly move out of an apartment while in university, Dzaidzu let me move in, free of charge. He refused to take money from me.
My remembrance of Dzaidzu will be a man that loved to teach, give strength through both lessons and display, and of sophistication. He did very well as a Polish immigrant, coming to Canada in the late 40’s, who worked to step up and establish himself, but was immensely modest. He would dress well right up until the end of his life, making shirts older than me look brand new.
He carried himself proudly, and that is something I will continue to do, to honour his memory. Thank you dazidzu, for teaching me about the virtues of a simple life, which, in an increasingly noisy world, become more important to learn. As Da Vinci said, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” and for me, Dzaidzu, exemplified that. In his lessons he taught my father, which were then passed to me, in the way he would be a reliable, continual force throughout my life, and in the way he lived his life.
Dziękuję Dzaidziu, kocham cię, będę tęsknić. (Gin cooyeh Dzaidzu, koham che, bendeh tensknich)
Thank you for everything Dzaidzu. I love you, and I will miss you.