Ralph Bernard McGuigan
January 27th, 1974 — April 10th, 2019
It is with great sadness and shock that we announce the sudden passing of “Our Ralphie” at the young age of 45.
He leaves behind to mourn his death his common-law partner Heather Picken; his two beautiful daughters, Jordan and Mihkayla; his father Jack McGuigan and step-mom Debbie McGuigan of PEI; his siblings; John McGuigan (Louise); Dianne Kenney; Mike McGuigan (Samantha); Dana Doering (Terry); Phyllis Latimer (Norm); Blair McGuigan (Ederlyn); Anthony McGuigan (Amber Jean); Celina McGuigan as well as numerous nieces and nephews, who each adored and have many lasting memories of Ralph – Ralph was more like a brother to them all rather than an uncle; numerous cousins, aunts, and uncles, who all cherish Ralph; The many others in our “big extended” family, too many to mention and the many friends all over, who are mourning his loss.
Our sadness is comforted knowing that Ralph is now resting peacefully in the arms of his mother Eileen, who worshiped the ground that Ralph walked on; his big brother Frank, who Ralph had looked up to and adored; his little brother Trent who Ralph loved; his brother-in-law Rod Kenney (Dianne’s husband) who Ralph loved like a father; Rick D’Aoust who was like a brother to Ralph; and his beloved DeeDee the mother of Jordan and Mihkayla, who Ralph never stopped loving; and finally the many numerous friends that passed on far too young.
An uncle of mine died a few days ago, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the man. He’s my moms’ youngest brother, but at fourteen years her junior, my mother also functioned as his for a large part of his life. Their mother died before I was even born, meaning Ralph was younger than fifteen at the time of her death. Big sisters are gifts from above in this regard.
My uncle Ralph lived with us several times through my childhood. He was the direct opposite of me, as most of my family is. To me, he always seemed to be the original version of my cousins—hockey players, drinkers, mechanics, a typical Albertan resident from the Maritimes. You know the type, I’d guarantee it. I had almost nothing in common with my uncle, but love for family runs deep in the McGuigans, so Ralph, like my other uncles, loved me to death.
It wasn’t until heavy metal took my interest and I started playing guitar that our worlds started to cross. He gave me my first leather jacket—to go with the new Harley Davidson Boots I had bought because of him. I don’t know if I’ll ever forget the time; I hadn’t seen him for weeks, but the last time I had seen him, was when he was telling me how to take care of my boots. I was sixteen and spend three hundred bucks on these things, so he wanted to make sure they lived a long life. After about a week of not seeing him, he walked in the house and excitedly stuck out his new boots and exclaimed, “Look at these fuckin’ shit kickers, bud!”
I haven’t been able to see a pair of shit-kickers without his voice filling my head. The leather jacket he gave me was well worn, he was a small guy and the jacket hung off him like a father’s shirt on a boy, but it fit me perfectly. I wore that jacket like a badge of honour; it was the crowing jewel in my high-school heavy metal wardrobe. I made a denim vest to wear over the jacket, covering it in Slayer, Pantera and Black Label Society patches. Not a day went by in the tenth grade where I didn’t wear the jacket my uncle gave me. He gave me a piece of my identity in the most formative years of my life.
When his daughter, Jordan, was born, she eventually landed in the care of my parents. Jordan lived with us for years, and I believe she’s the reason I want to have kids today. I still remember the grey afternoons hanging out with her, changing diapers and being regaled by the majesty of the Use Your Illusion Live in Japan DVDs with her little body in my arms. I was sixteen and sleeping on the couch so my mom and “the baby,” as I called her, could sleep together. I babysat her constantly, she toddled around in a little scooter thing while I spent my time reading about metal bands online or playing guitar. I love Jordan to death, as I love her father. My strongest memories of those who have passed include her and that little smile. I can still see the smile on her face as my father dangles her above his head, laughing along with her. I can still see her little black dress with lace as she sits on her father’s lap, exhausted by flash photography at her first Christmas in 2003.
After I made it to high school and started playing guitar, whenever Uncle Ralph would stop by the house, I’d try to impress him playing Ozzy and Metallica, trying to secure another notch of “fuckin’ deadly” in his mind. Ralph was the only aunt or uncle whose opinion mattered to me as a teenager. He really was the big brother I never had; he shared music with me, the first vagina I ever saw was in a magazine of his and he busted me with weed one night, keeping my secret and telling me how to hide the smell a little better.
It was weird, he had a buddy over and they were waiting to go out. My parents were out for date night. I was smoking weed in my bedroom as seventeen year-olds do, and Ralph bursts in—“You smokin’ weed, bud!?” He then proceeded to lecture me about respect, and how this is my mothers house, “you’ve gotta be cooler than this.” There are plenty of times with him that I can think back on and say that I’m a liar to think, “I don’t know what it’s like to have a brother.”
The last time I spoke to him, I was at my aunt Dana’s house. It was one of those spontaneous gatherings of family that happens around her kitchen table, and Ralph happened to call. In those moments, the phone gets passed around like a blunt at a Snoop Dogg concert, and when it finally made its way to me, I realized I hadn’t talked to the guy in years.
The last time I had a chance to see him, I chose not to. It was Christmas, and I was stuck in Edmonton with my then-wife for the holiday. Ralph was staying in a half-way house in Edmonton, and my mom called me a few days before Christmas to ask if I’d consider inviting him over for Christmas dinner. I was too selfish at the time to see it as anything other than an awkward inconvenience, so I told her I wasn’t comfortable and never reached out to him. I didn’t even think that maybe the guy needed a familiar face. I didn’t think that my brother needed my help. I was just worried that he’d be weird with my wife, or ask for money I didn’t have—I made it about me, not him. Over the past few days, this has really grown into a pit at the bottom of my heart.
When the phone landed in my hand that night and I heard his voice on the other end, a sense of shame washed over me. We’d be a little closer for this conversation—maybe have something to talk about other than the basic pleasantries we exchanged. At the end of the dialogue, the last thing I said to him was, “I love you, brother,” and passed the phone to my mom. The next day she told me about Ralph’s amazement at me saying that I loved him—but Ralph is the first and only man in my life that expressed love to those around him without reservation. How could I not behave in the way he taught me?
It wasn’t uncommon to hear the phrase come out of his mouth every time he was around. Ralph loved, and as for as turbulent as his short life was, that love was unparalleled. I’ve spent so much time thinking about this; how the most macho, shit-kicker wearing, tatted-up bad ass I know was also the most affectionate. Ralph felt his emotions like I do, he loved hard and he raged hard. Our link is solidified at the genetic level, that part of me has been around since I was a kid. Through my life, my mom would compare me to Ralph; when I’d take apart my toys to see how they worked, or when I’d go into blind rages when emotional. This constant comparison became meaningful to me, and I strove to adopt the best parts of him as a kid. The love between my mom and her brother was palpable, even when they weren’t together.
We don’t lay him to rest for a little while, so I figured I’d try and contribute to the memories of him going around. I have done my best to distract myself from the reality of this situation, but I can’t do that anymore. I need to feel this; I miss him so much. I have no pictures of us together, but I have these memories and the love he left behind.
Rest well uncle.