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Letter: Grandparents made a great impression with service, sacrifice

This family paid my grandfather with what they had — the family violin

Grandparents made a great impression with service, sacrifice

Allow me to tell you the stories of Louise and John Balfour, my grandparents.

Both of them fought in WWII. A piece of history I knew growing up, yet a bit of history I didn’t deeply understand until I started my own career in health care. I knew my grandfather was a doctor, and my grandmother a nurse but growing up, the concept of the sacrifice that our forefathers made was perhaps so great, it was in a sense hard to grasp.

John Balfour, my grandfather, founded the Urology Department at the University of British Columbia in 1951, which later on became a key facet in the first successful kidney transplants which save countless lives today.

I heard many stories of him in our sleepy town in Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast. One of my favorites, was a story about an emergency house call he made to a small farming family. As times were tough back then, this family paid my grandfather with what they had — the family violin. Over the next few days, it was found out this violin was a famous Stradivarius. My grandfather returned the violin and refused any further payment.

Sacrifice was a common theme in all the stories I heard about him.

This leads me to my dear grandmother. Boy, she sure had a great sense of humour. She used to giggle and tell me about how my grandfather supposedly had to ask her three times to marry him before she said yes! One of my favourites, however, was her 84th birthday. She was convinced she wanted to go whitewater rafting. Which made her at the time the oldest woman to have gone whitewater rafting in Squamish.

She was an incredibly inspiring woman in my life. During the beginning of my career in healthcare I can remember a life changing story she took the time to share with me when I was chatting with her about the overuse of antibiotics. “Kayla, during the war, something as innocuous as an incredibly small bullet wound required me to take a soldier’s leg. When penicillin was discovered, the next week, suddenly these wounds were not life altering and simply something that required some care.” She also described having to do all of this while hiding behind a fallen tree, with bullets pinging overhead.

I think of this often as I work with my own clients. The sacrifice they made so I could perhaps aim to leave a great legacy behind as they did for me. It’s part of why I feel such a deep gratitude and privilege helping others.

Kayla Balfour

Shawnigan Lake