As 2016 comes to a close I am thinking back at the experiences, people and places that left an imprint on my soul.
I was asked to plan, preside and preach at a funeral for a man who had once been the cook at the Mission. It was a tragic situation, a man dying close to my own age, a son he did not know well, the last few years were difficult. When I wondered if I was the right person to speak to this situation I was reminded that no fewer than three people, independent of each other, had called me to ask if I would do this. There was John, the mentor, who tried and tried and tried to help this man. John had been there when he breathed his last breath. There was Gail, the old girlfriend who cared for this man even through every challenging times. And there was Carol, the non-profit guru who provided housing when this man was homeless and lost. Together, with a son none of us knew existed, we planned this service for the community. To my surprise I discovered that a brother, living in Saskatchewan, was also a cook, he also provided meals to persons living at the edge of homelessness. When I asked my friends Shawn and Ann to play, even without any compensation, they readily agreed and it was Ann who came up with the banquet theme. Every piece of the liturgy was connected to the theme of a banquet table, we were all invited. This man had invited us and provided the meal in this sacred place that his spirit was everywhere. A large crowd gathered, people stood and shared memories, we sang “Amazing Grace” and we ate as family and guests around a table prepared for us by a generous host. I shall not forget that day.
A man I once knew as a teen and then a young adult was now the caretaker at our church. Back then we played at the St. Agnes parking lot and most often at the tennis courts at Westmount school. Jimmy was the fastest on the pavement, he charged ahead, sometimes with the ball, sometimes without. He seemed keen to move quickly and rarely noticed if he possessed the ball at the time. Later I included him on our intermural Dalhousie hockey team, Jim being the only non-Dal student on our team. There is a famous photo of our illustrious team standing together in the dressing room only in our helmets and jock straps. Jim did not believe I had this and when I showed it around the office he was shocked to the core. When I arrived at the church one year ago Jim was in a bad place, he had been off work for a year with illness, had come out of a haze where he had not acted “like himself” and was clearly unsure if he could return to his old life. It did not help that there were voices around him telling him he would not make it, to get on a permanent disability program. Further he had been replaced for some time by a whiz, a machine of a caretaker who impressed everyone, including me. It took some time, a lot of self-doubt in Jim to process. Jim is not only improving, some say he is working more effectively than he ever has. Jim is not out of the woods just yet, it has only been a year and there are days his aching back makes him wonder if he can do this over the long haul. But no one in 2016 demonstrated to me more courage, determination and perseverance than Jim.
The place that remains in my soul is kind of predictable and embarrassing. I go on about carefully designed rustic getaways for yuppies like me (OK I am not young anymore). White Point is the Maritime version of Martha’s Vineyard, a place where slightly pudgy middle class people in their 50’s go to dress down, walk the beach with our golden retriever and watch our 2.5 children (Noah, Gabriel and Tess) chase the fluffy white bunny rabbits. OK that’s a rather cynical take on things but there is much truth to this assessment. Well guess what, I have met the stereotype and I am he! OK, I had a rescue dog (husky+german shepherd+other?) and only one child but I still looked like one of those LL Bean families (minus the handsome Dad) you see in those catalogues. It was the March break, I had been working hard at my three jobs and I was bone tired (happens about three times a year). I remember arriving that night at the lodge, taking Nova for a walk and sitting on the beach with the sky lit up like a postcard photo. It was dazzling, beautiful and I felt completely calm and whole. I shall not forget those 2 days of peace with my family and I believe that place had as much to do with the peace I felt as any other factor. I should like to return one day.
What were the soul enriching experiences, people and places that you remember from 2016? Let’s look forward to 2017 where we are bound to see and feel and understand more of the same.