It’s 24 days early but today feels like All Saints Day. I read in the newspaper that my former parishioner, distant relation, and spiritual mentor, Clyde Hill has died. Clyde was a Saint. In 26 years in ordained ministry I never met a couple like Clyde and Joan, so humble, faithful, dedicated, giving, generous, selfless, wise and authentic. If ever I am asked to explain the role and concept of Elders in the Church I shall use Clyde as an example; Bible in one hand, sleeves rolled up ready to serve, feet ready to walk where needed, open and warm face ready to listen and engage and gentle smile seeing the humour in much of what seems to complicate our world.
Clyde was legally blind, went to a blind school and thus in his day was limited by what the society said he could and could not do. Clyde did as he always did, he made the best of life and found work as a porter at the VG hospital. If ever there was an image of the divine to be present as someone was being transported for an x-ray, test or appointment it was Clyde. His mere presence, spirit and encouragement would lighten the burden, offer up some hope. Clyde walked everywhere, and while not as fast as Joan (who was!) he enjoyed the outdoors and meeting familiar and new faces along the way.
Clyde and Joan raised two wonderful children. I say this not in terms of what they have done or accomplished, for I have not kept up on that end. Rather I feel Clyde and Joan did as parents what most of us parents overlook as a priority, they created thoughtful, caring and all around wonderful human beings. On a porter’s salary they helped Marjorie and Mark go to university and experience life to the fullest all the while demonstrating the virtue of compassion and service by their example.
There were no mixed messages, no hypocrisy, what the Hills offered was a gift with no strings attached, none to the recipient, none to the church, there was NEVER a hint of reciprocity (“if you don’t what we want we will leave”). In fact the Hills would offer to act first and participate in the planning second, leaving no doubt what and who their priorities were.
And Clyde had fun! Clyde was not one of those intense, ultra-serious, “castor-oil do-gooders”. Clyde loved basketball, opera and gospel music and travel. Spend any time with Clyde and you would hear about his passions for life. No grievance or crankiness, just a will to serve, learn and engage.
Clyde was a Christian. Not the pious kind who spoke sentimental words but offered little action or openness to the stranger. Clyde was someone who loved God, modelled his life on Jesus and radiated the Spirit with every conversation, act and journey.
The world is better because of you Clyde. The sadness of your loss will linger. The power of your witness will remain with me always.