Musings

My Brother


My brother passed away a few days ago  –  he had just turned 55 .

This is the tribute that his his three sisters gave at his funeral.  We loved him very much.

 Tribute for Ron Buffam

February 15, 2012

Ron was our brother – the much- loved boy in a sea of girls.  To say he was doeted on would be an understatement – whether he wanted it or not he had the nurturing care of a lot of women in his life and we had a wonderful brother who in his own way was our protector.

Ron was born on January 29, 1957 in Portland Oregon.  He was the second child following his older sister Sandra born while our father was in seminary.  Our parents now had the perfect family – a boy and a girl.  What joy his birth brought to our mother and father and his sweet older sister Sandra.

As a young child Ron’s personality and specific gifts were evident early on.  Ron sang before he talked, singing in harmony as a toddler and playing full chords on the piano as a preschooler.  He was born with music in him and it oozed out of his very being from the beginning.

Some of our earliest memories of Ron in Eugene were flying kites until the kite was so high you could not see it any more.  Our Grandpa and Grandma Buffam were visiting and Grandpa got the kite flying extravaganza started.  Ron would have more than one ball of string connected – and the goal was to fly the kite as high as possible –so high that it was not visible to the eye.  Sometimes the kite was so high and the winds so strong the string would break – the kite would fly off.  But that didn’t stop Ron –  my Grandpa Buffam would go to the store and buy a new one and the process was started all over again.  What fun we had.

He was also a very active child and teenager involved in many sports and activities and had the scars to prove it.  We remember on at least two occasions in Eugene when he came running home with a huge gash on his forehead that required a trip to the hospital for stitches.  He had fallen on the concrete sidewalk as he was mastering the skateboard at age 7.  And before he was 20 he had broken his wrist twice, and his collar bone once – all playing hard in hockey and riding his very cool Peugeot 10 speed bike.  He loved sports and was involved in everything including hockey and tennis and he was a runner – running for miles and miles or I guess we should say kilometers.

When we moved from Oregon to Ottawa the frigid winters gave us the opportunity to build a homemade skating rink in our back yard and many nights Ron would be out in the backyard with the water hose icing the rink for the next day so that he could go out and shoot pucks around.  He bought Carol a hockey stick for Christmas one year so that she could go out and play with him – she became the brother that he never had.

Ron had a great aptitude for math and a good business head on him in the early years – no surprise – math and music are quite connected.  When we moved to Ottawa, Ron was nine.  We lived in the downtown area around the corner from the Exhibition grounds where the football games were played.  When we arrived in Ottawa and drove to our new home we were perplexed as to why there were cars parked on lawns and in driveways – and what we soon learned was that parking was a premium business during events at the stadium– and homeowners parked cars on their property including on their lawns and made good money doing it.  Ron wanted to get in on this business immediately and took on the role of banker – and the girls took on the marketing role getting the cars parked on the lawn.  It was much like a scene from the movie Father of the Bride where cars were pulled up on the lawn, car keys taken and cash collected.  Ron had that money counted and recounted – we made good money with that business – money that we saved for our college/university fund.

We also have great memories of the monopoly tournaments that Ron orchestrated on March breaks.  We didn’t just play a game – we played a weeklong extravaganza– buying, selling until we had to create new money and hotels and houses – the stakes were high  – and we have visual memories of Ron rubbing his hands together as he took over Park Place and Boardwalk – and all the high end properties putting his sisters in the poorhouse.  What fun we had together.

Ron had great sensitivity – also very noticeable from an early age. He may not be pleased we are mentioning this – but even when he still a baby sleeping in a crib he would insist that his stuffed animals were with him  and that they were tucked  in – they had to be covered with a warm blanket– and well taken care of.  He had the same sensitivity toward all of our family pets throughout the years – Waggs, Muffin and then Toby –  loving each of them with great care.

That thoughtful characteristic continued throughout his life – he always wanted to make sure others were taken care of – and that no one would be hungry, cold or alone. This was evident in recent years.  When I worked at World Vision in the major gift area I was stunned to learn that Ron had become a major supporter of the organization.  He had sponsored such a great number of children that his annual giving was such that he was categorized as a major supporter.  That was just the way he was – he didn’t believe in giving a little – if he had it to give he would give it all so that others would not go hungry.  I called him and said “Ron, you don’t need to give so much!”  He laughed that he was catagozied as a major supporter  – because to him – he was just giving a small bit.  He had a heart of gold – a heart that deeply cared for the wellbeing of others – he viewed the world as Jesus did – and he acted  – we greatly admired him for this.

Ron lived in several cities during his lifetime, moving with our family, including Corvellus and Eugene Oregon.  The family made the long move from Oregon to Ottawa when Ron was nine and then four years later to Newmarket where we had most of our teenage and high school years.

Ron went on to Greenville College and began his undergraduate studies, finishing them at Brock University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Composition.

Ron was an extremely gifted musician.  He found out at a very young age that he had perfect pitch – once again not surprising.  He played so many different instruments, most he learned on his own, including piano and all manner of electronic  keyboards, the trumpet, guitar, double bass, and cello, and of course the fretless double bass that he was so well know for at Greenville during his time with the group Unlimited Transfer that Norm has already mentioned. Long after he left Greenville, his legacy as a phenomenal bass player lived on – he was a bit of a rock star – he made his sisters proud.

One of our friends from Greenville also a talented musician wrote us upon hearing of Ron’s passing to let us know that it was Ron that taught her that Bach wasn’t all technical and could really be played with passion when he introduced her to Glen Gould.  One of the highlights of Ron’s life was performing at Roy Thompson Hall on the Glen Gould piano – the picture you can see at the top of this post.  His greatest love was the piano – and although he was classically trained his greatest passion was jazz – perhaps one of the most complex forms of music. He could bury himself in his music and was self recording his compositions up until a week ago.  He recorded a CD entitled “Summer Time at Roy’s” – something we are so grateful that we have now for our memories.

Ron was a teacher – in many ways but specifically he worked as a music teacher – and taught both classical piano and jazz.  In fact it was through his influence that his students learned to understand and appreciate jazz as a form of music to be pursued.   And we have heard of many who have followed this path because of Ron’s influence.

Ron may have been very quiet and what you might call an introvert but his sweet spirit and kind heart endeared him to many who loved him and were strengthened by his encouragement and care.  From the women who cleaned his home to those he knew through his music and work connections, extended family, church friends, and those he knew through family connections he always had an impact because he cared and was interested in them – always asking about their lives, and how they were doing.  He would especially reach out if he knew someone was in crisis or hurting in any way – he understood what it meant to need encouragement at these times – and wanted to be whatever support he could be.  Perhaps this was because he had been through his share of health crisis – battling cancer as a young man and then again very recently.  He understood the courage needed to face this head on and push forward believing for the best.  He knew what it took and wanted to give others that encouragement to persevere.  He made many phone calls to those facing similar situations to him.

He was a great encouragement to us as his sisters and although we so often felt we took on the role of nurturers in his life there were many times that he saw when we needed that extra loving care and in his humble sweet way would tell us we were going to be ok – and would pat us on the back and tell us he was there for us if we needed him.  In fact there have been times even recently that Ron would know by looking at our eyes that we were distressed and needed support – he was so intuitive and perceptive and could read into the soul of others very quickly.

Ron would often say in his very expressive way – I just need a little TLC – it is a good thing he had sisters then!

We think he always wanted a brother – and instead he was surrounded by this bevy of women – outnumbered – but he never complained about that.  Well except once not too long ago  recently when visiting Carol in conversation it all of the sudden struck him that he had 3 sisters all very close in age – close to 2 years apart – he realized he had 3 sisters who would all be going through menopause at close to the same time – and it struck him so funny that he – this only brother would be battling this hormonal onslaught on his own – he was facing a 10 year stretch of raging imbalances – he laughed so hard and of course so did we – what a dreaded fate – but fortunate for him he now clearly has avoided at least 2/3 of this hardship!

His sense of humour was so wonderful – he was brilliant – his one line comebacks were phenomenal – in fact they were so amazing that we had a hard time remembering specific examples – we are just not as smart and quick witted.  In the last week of his life he dislocated two of his fingers and had to go to emergency to have them pulled back into place – and it required more than one pull to get them straightened out – to which he nearly went through the roof so to speak.  But his quick wit comeback to our questioning of how it was  – he said painful – yes – but it reminded him of the song – “you’ve got to be cruel to be kind”  Only ‘Ron could come up with that clear picture of what the experience was like – he had that wonderful sense of humour!  And he had a wonderful laugh – and we all felt better when we could laugh with him – so incredibly funny he was!

Ron loved his mom and dad – and was devastated when mom passed away 4 years ago – he missed her tremendously.  He cared for them and wanted to do everything he could do to support them.  Just yesterday when talking to dad about Ron’s passing a very brokenhearted father wept deeply but reached deep down  and said “ the grave is not the end – it is the start of a new beginning.  It is a mystery – that we don’t fully understand – we may weep for now but one day we will rejoice together again.”

And we know that we will.  We have no doubt that mom was the first to welcome him – she was there to give him the tour so to speak – and we can only imagine the joy they both must have felt at that joyous reunion!

Ron’s faith was deep and tested – quiet about it – it was the bedrock for his strength and courage over many years.  Ron’s journey included many times when he had to reach deep to understand where God was in it all – and he did just that.  He understood what it meant to rely fully on God .  Many times he would say to us – well I just pray that God will grant me mercy – Ron understood what it meant to be a child of God fully dependent on God’s grace and mercy and cried out for this grace continually.  In our humble opinion this is exactly where God wants each of us to be – fully dependent on Him – Ron understood that and lived that in a deep and intimate way.

The music we have chosen today for his service are selections that spoke to Ron’s heart and he had expressed this to us.  “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” and “In Christ Alone” – after hearing these at Robyn and Richard’s wedding – he talked about the depth of the meaning of these words – and how this struck a chord deep within his soul.  And so we sing these today.

“In Christ alone my hope is found – he is my light, my strength my song.

  No guilt in life, no fear in death, This is the power of Christ in me,

From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny,

No power of hell, no scheme of man, Can ever pluck me from His hand,

Till He returns or calls me home, Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”

That was Ron’s testimony – and he lived it with deep courage and strength on a daily basis.

There are so many things we will always remember about Ron – his kind and tender heart, his perceptive, intuitive depth, his courageous strength, his forgiving and humble spirit,   his ability to always  say I am sorry, his interest in others,  his generosity, his love for a good home cooked meal and his appreciation of one when he received it, his love for chocolate and his excessive love for diet coke – Ron’s beverage of choice, and his love for his family – and we knew he loved us dearly – and we loved him dearly.

Ron recorded a CD including some of his own compositions and arrangements of other well known standards.  For the past couple of days we have been listening to this  – to hear him play is to look into his heart and soul and understand him.  He was music at his heart and core – it was music that spoke to his heart and although he communicated in many ways – perhaps it was through his music that we saw his true being.

One of our favorite tunes on this CD we want to play for you  – for it is at the core of who he was.  “I’ve Got Rhythm I’ve Got Music”  –  Who Could Ask for Anything More.

We have visions of him in heaven even now playing and dancing – he truly does have music like he has never known before now – who could ask for anything more?

We will miss him so much  – but as dad has said – the grave is not the end – it is the start of a new beginning – and when we have been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun – we have no less days to sing God’s praise then when we just begun – who could ask for anything more!

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5 thoughts on “My Brother

  1. Hello Mary. I am sorry to be just seeing this now… I remember your brother Ron very well, in Newmarket. He had a Toronto Star newspaper route that I took over from him when he gave it up , probably around 1971 or so. He met with me where the newspapers were dropped at the corner of Lorne and Park Aves, and not only handed me the list of customers and their addresses, but he also walked with me on the route for the first few days to make sure I knew where to put each customer’s paper. I always appreciated his help and consideration for me in what was in effect my first job. I used to see him around once in a while after that, he always had a wave and a hello. He was a good kid, and judging by your tribute, he grew to be a good man. Please accept my belated condolences to you and your family for your loss of your brother, at far too young an age. Warmest regards, Ray McCormick

  2. Ray, thank you for your thoughtful and kind message. It will be close to year since Ron passed away – suddenly from a heart failure. We were so shocked and saddened by his sudden and unexpected passing. Your message was so kind – thank you for taking the time to write. I remember Ron’s paper route in Newmarket – and it does not surprise me at all that he would take the time to show you the ropes so to speak. Ron was very quiet – but he was such a kind and thoughtful guy – and your message once again reflects this in ways that we did not even know. I am with my sister Carol and her family today for a family gathering and I shared your message – it meant so much to us to hear form someone that thought well of Ron from so long ago. Thank you for taking the time to write. I am so curious to know why you thought of him after all of these years. Thank you for doing so because your message was like an message from an angel to us today. Many thanks for your kindness. Mary Ann

    1. Hi Mary Ann; I’m glad you could share my message with your family.

      I guess the best way to explain why you are hearing from me after all this time is that once in a while I would I think of him (as well as other people from my past that I had lost touch with), wondering how they were, where they were, etc. Having the internet now gives us the ability to look people up so to speak, so recently I looked up Ron’s name in google along with Newmarket. Your tribute to him came up immediately in my search. As I read it, I knew I had found the right Ron Buffam. As we go through life, we tend to remember those that helped us out in some way, or did us a good turn. Ron was one of those people for me.

      Although I was saddened to hear that he had passed, I was also glad to know that he had continued his life from the time I knew him in the same way, always helping others.

      Regards, Ray

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