A Writer’s Unique Opportunity to Contribute to His Own Celebration of Life

A Writer’s Unique Opportunity to Contribute to His Own Celebration of Life

Author Ian Moore-Morrans died on February 22, 2019. (Reference the previous blogpost containing his obituary.) Since his daughter and her husband had left for a three-week trip to Hawaii early in the morning of the day he died, Ian’s wife, editor and sometimes co-author Gayle had a unique opportunity to prepare a script to be used for Ian’s Celebration of Life which was then scheduled to take place a month after his death on March 23, 2019.

Anyone who knew Ian during most of his life knew that he was usually eager to contribute his opinion or the last word in any conversation. He valued his God-given talents for using his voice, whether it be in conversation, song or through the written word.

Thank God, our pastor was also amenable to going along with Gayle’s plans for the memorial service, as were a number of friends who consented to participate in sharing several of Ian’s favourite hymns or in reading aloud some of Ian’s writings. Gayle likes to point out that Ian was able to help present his own eulogy in this unique way.

Though they did not speak publicly at the ceremony, Ian’s family members (daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren) also contributed to the ceremony during a procession at the beginning of the service. These are all wonderful memories and keepsakes for years to come.

Saturday, March 23, 2019                                                              

Sherwood Park Lutheran Church

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Note: Ian’s widow Gayle and daughters Audrey and Shirley acted as greeters and invited people to sign the guestbook. Ian’s grandsons, Ian and Calan (dressed in Ian’s kilt outfits) passed out bulletins and greeted people as they entered the sanctuary.

A slide presentation of photos from Ian’s life was shown on the screen for approximately 30 minutes prior to the service. Recorded music from the Salvation Army International Staff Band playing Goldcrest (“I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart”) followed by piano music by Church Musician Corey Francis accompanied the presentation.

 

Gathering

Ian’s family procession, led by Pastor Erik Reedman Parker, bore items from Ian’s life and placed them on a table holding an enamelled vase of thistles and white heather at the top of the steps in the chancel. Family then seated themselves in the reserved rows, along with sons-in-law Eugene and Brien.

  • the wooden box urn bearing Ian’s ashes – Daughter Audrey (front center of table)
  • a large framed picture of Ian – Daughter Shirley (back left corner)
  • Ian’s Celtic wedding ring – Wife Gayle (on top of urn)
  • McKinnon Clan crest – Granddaughter Tammy (back right corner)
  • 2 brass candlesticks made by Ian – Granddaughter Ainsley (on either side of urn)
  • Ian’s antique trumpet – Granddaughter Tiffany (floor front, standing on bell)
  • Ian’s Glengarry bonnet – Grandson Ian (left side)
  • Ian’s tartan bonnet – Grandson Calan (right side)
  • Sprigs of purple heather – Great-granddaughters Caleigh, Madison, and Haylee, Granddaughter-in-law Lisa (scattered on floor in front of the table)
  • 2 miniature stuffed dogs – Great-grandsons Logan and Brayden (at front sides of urn). (Ian loved to hold these wee dogs his last weeks in the hospital and care home, representative of the many dogs he loved over the years.)

 

SPLC Choir: “The Lord’s My Shepherd” was sung during the procession, accompanied on the organ. (Ian would sing this hymn almost nightly as his evening prayer during the last years of his life.) (Based on Psalm 23, from the Scottish Psalter, 1650, tune: Crimond.)

The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want. He makes me down to lie in pastures green; He leadeth me the quiet waters by.

My soul He doth restore again; and me to walk doth make within the paths of righteousness, e’en for His own Name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale, Yet will I fear none ill; for Thou art with me; and Thy rod and staff me comfort still.

My table Thou hast furnishèd in presence of my foes; My head Thou dost with oil anoint, And my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy all my life Shall surely follow me; And in God’s house forevermore, My dwelling place shall be.

 

Greeting, Welcome & Prayer of the Day– Pastor Erik Parker

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of all mercy and the God of all consolation, who comforts us in all our sorrows so that we can comfort others in their sorrows with the consolation we ourselves have received from God.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  C: And also with you.

Let us pray. Almighty God, source of all mercy and giver of comfort, graciously tend those who mourn, that, casting all their sorrow on you, they may know the consolation of your love; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.   C: Amen.

 

Remembrance of Ian – (Gayle, assisted by Donna and Don Engel)

            Gayle Moore-Morrans: Because I’ve lived the adventure of being Ian’s wife and editor for the last 15 plus years, I feel eminently qualified to share my perspective on his personality. I’m the one responsible for the “Moore” portion of our family name. I’m also the author of the lengthy eulogy you have in your bulletins. Don’t worry; I am not about to read that eulogy aloud. However, I have written a Remembrance of Ian that I wanted to share with you today. I know that I’ll be too emotional to deliver it so I’ve asked our good friends, Donna and Don Engel, to assist me. I thank them for their friendship over the years and for the care they both gave Ian and me while he was hospitalized. I also thank in advance those other friends who will be sharing Ian’s music and unique written voice with us. Ian’s family and I appreciate your friendship and support. God bless.

Donna Engel reads: These are Gayle’s words:

“Ian was a man of many talents who had a great capacity to love. He was full of curiosity about many things, outgoing and friendly and always interested in finding out what made other people tick. Rarely at a loss for words, he loved to share his opinion, no matter whether others wanted to hear it or not. He had a rough beginning in life, which could have made him bitter. It just made him determined to try to make life better, however and wherever he could. He was also a man of great contradictions: at times religious and then not religious; brought up in a non-emotional, non-expressive family but readily able to express and show his love and caring as a husband and father; capable of performing quality dedicated work at whatever job he could find, but even happier when he could be on the move, learning new things, having new experiences and meeting new people. He sometimes lost his temper with those he loved, but always apologized later for causing them distress. He could build anything, repair anything and make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Most of all, though, Ian was a ‘voice’ and a ‘presence.’

“His voice was what most attracted Gayle to him when they met at Grace Café on north Henderson Highway one Monday evening in June of 2003. She had walked into the café to find it practically empty except for what she describes as a “wee, balding, ruddy-faced 71-year-old man who was ‘holding court’ with the waitress”. The waitress seemed as intrigued as Gayle with Ian’s melodic Scottish accent and the charming blarney that was coming out of his mouth. He introduced himself, asked if Gayle were alone and then invited her to take a seat at his table. After discovering that they were both writers and shared lots of other interests, they hardly stopped talking and, within a week, they had decided they wanted to be together always. And Gayle hadn’t even heard him sing yet! She soon found his musical talents enthralling, as well as the charisma and humour he imparted when he was performing. She had been brought up in a musical family and hearing Ian sing intrigued her all the more. Later in this service you’ll be able to hear Ian sing, as there are video recordings of some of his performances in past years.

“In conclusion, Gayle would like us to share Ian’s favourite poem which, again, points to some of his contradictions. Desiderata is a prose poem by Max Ehrmann. Now, Ian normally claimed that a poem wasn’t authentic unless it rhymed and then he turned around and chose a poem that doesn’t rhyme as his favourite. (Go figure!) The word “Desiderata” means “things wanted or needed.” The poem is a concise but truly inspiring reminder that one should strive for high ideals. It reminds us to treat others kindly, to accept who they are and to be gentle with ourselves. It motivates us to have faith in ourselves and to develop trust in the way our circumstances unfold. Gayle could understand how this poem would resonate with Ian, except for the fact that several of the ideals that the author points out include words like ‘quiet,’ ‘silence’ and ‘placid,’ concepts that Ian wasn’t really able to grasp until the last years of his life when he was very ill. The rest of the poem certainly is a fitting summary of the ideals for which Ian strove to live out his life.”

Don Engel reads:

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Rest in peace, dear Ian.

 

A Reading from Colossians 3:12-17 – Pastor Erik

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

Reading and Solo “The Old Rugged Cross” – Bill Johnston

A reading from Ian’s Memoir: From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada. (This story happened in Ian’s teens when he was active in Campbeltown’s Salvation Army congregation.)

“Shortly after the Saturday evening meeting started, I would be asked to go to the local pubs to sell The War Cry, a Salvation Army newspaper. This was done without fail every Saturday night, but usually by different people on a rotating basis. Anyway, this one night, I went my rounds and, as luck would have it, I seemed to meet with a lot of drunken men. Now, it was my own belief that it was wrong to sell a paper to a drunken person. So what I would do was to fold it up, put it in his pocket in the hope that he would read it the next morning when he was sober and start to lead a Christian life.

“Needless to say, with meeting so many drunks that night, the money box was a little on the light side and all the papers were gone. When I returned to the hall, the Captain opened the box and only a few coppers fell out. She turned to me and asked where the rest of the money was. I told her that I had met a lot of drunks and had put the paper in their pockets. She wouldn’t accept this and insinuated that I had pocketed the money. So that was me, quitting again! A few weeks later she was at my door and apologized. I went back, but this time I didn’t have to hit the mercy seat!

“There was one rather peculiar situation that occurred when it was my turn to go around to one certain pub on Shore Street. In this pub there was always one certain large man who would put a hand on either side of my waist and pick me up, lifting me onto a table. (Not a difficult move for him, as I barely reached 5 feet 5.) Then he’d take The War Cry papers and the collection box from me, and order me to sing ‘The Old Rugged Cross’—all three verses. (There are actually four verses, but one is seldom sung.) Meanwhile, he would go around to all the people in the pub with the papers and the moneybox, distributing and collecting. It’s no wonder today that I still remember all of the words to those three verses by heart, fifty plus years later!”

Solo – “The Old Rugged Cross”, sung and accompanied on guitar – Bill Johnston. (Melody and Lyrics: © George Bennard, 1913)

  1. On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suffering and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain. So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.
  2. O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me; For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above To bear it to dark Calvary. So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.
  3. To the old rugged cross I will ever be true; Its shame and reproach gladly bear; Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away, where His glory forever I’ll share. So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.

 

Reflections and Readings: Tom Lurvey, Kolleen Karlowsky-Clark

            Tom Lurvey: I was a pastor for twenty years, now retired, here at Sherwood Park Lutheran Church.  I’m privileged to have gotten to know Ian over the years as his pastor and as a friend.

I remember very well the first time I met him.  One Sunday morning Gayle showed up with a man on her arm.  They sat together there on the left, on the aisle about halfway back. After worship he came up to me—a man small of stature but, I learned, large in personality and heart—and greeted me with the words, “Pastor, that was a bonnie wee sermon you had today.”

Some time later I learned that Ian wanted to be baptized. In the Christian tradition in which he grew up, the Salvation Army, they didn’t practice baptism.  Ian being Ian, planning for that baptism took some discussion and negotiation. The main stipulation was that he didn’t want to be baptized with water just being sprinkled or poured on his head.  Rather, he wanted to be dunked right under the water. Well, that was great with me: I’d always wanted to do a baptism like that.

When the day came, we gathered at Bird’s Hill Lake. I remember it as a chilly day. Ian and I were clad in swimsuits and t-shirts.  He and I waded into what felt like frigid water till we were just past waist-deep. Then I said, “Ian, I baptize you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and I dunked him under. Ian came up spitting and, as fast as we could, we pushed our way back to shore where Gayle waited for us with some warm, fluffy towels.

That day, God told Ian in a very concrete way, “Ian, I love you.  I have called you by name and you are mine.”

Today, as we remember Ian and thank God for his life and all that he’s meant to us, I want to remind you all about how much Ian means to God.  God loves him.  And even as God has guided Ian and walked with him all through a remarkable life, so God continues to hold onto him right now and forever. Thanks be to God.

            Kolleen Karlowsky-Clarke: (A friend of Ian and Gayle’s and former intern and later interim pastor at Sherwood Park Lutheran Church, who offered the prayers at Ian and Gayle’s wedding.) Tom and I will share portions of a 2013 interview of Ian on The Author’s Show, an internationally acclaimed online radio book marketing show. The interview was about his first memoir: From Poverty to Poverty.  I will read the part of the interviewer and Tom will represent Ian’s answers as they were given.  In a way, one could say that Ian is acting here as his own eulogizer.

Q. Is there a central message in your book, From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada?

A. Yes, I think so. I’ve found that it is possible to overcome a negative lifestyle like poverty but, in order to do so, one has to have a lot of grit, perseverance, sometimes luck and even humour to get through it all.

Q. For readers of your book who have not experienced poverty in their lives, what one word do you think they would choose to describe your book?

A. Even though my first thought was “horrendous,” my present wife who is also my editor said, “eye-opening.” That’s the word she used after she first read my story before we were married almost 10 years ago.  She was not brought up in poverty and was astonished and taken aback by all that I had experienced.

Q. You claim this book is an autobiography.Are all the stories in it true and all the characters taken from real life?

A. Yes, all of the stories are true. They, of course, are filtered through my own eyes and my own experiences so another person may interpret happenings from a different perspective. In certain instances, I’ve chosen to change the names of people because I felt it necessary to protect their identity or maintain their privacy. One prime example is the character I’ve chosen to call “Jock Campbel.”  When I was a wee lad and our financial situation at home was even more dire than usual, my mother would occasionally ask me to go to that man and ask him to lend her ten shillings.  This was about a dollar and a half, but it had a lot more buying power then than now.  But before I would go she always cautioned me to wait until he was on his own.  There never was any hesitation from him.  Out would come his wallet and a ten-shilling note would be handed to me. As far as I know, my brother was never sent on a similar mission and I never thought to discuss it with him or even ask Mother why.  That man was an upstanding member of the community and a married man with children.  I never thought much about this strange mission until years later when some things my mother said about the man led me to wonder whether he could have been the man who sired me.

Q. You describe your early family life as rather dysfunctional with no one showing affection to the others. How has this affected your adult role as husband and father?

A. I know my mother and grandmother cared very much for both my brother and me.We lived on welfare and Mother worked at degrading odd jobs on the sly to get a wee bit extra.  She also put ourhunger ahead of herswhen there was little food to share.  But none of us showed or spoke of any affection or caring toward the others. Perhaps Mother and Granny had never been shown affection and didn’t know how to do so.  And if they didn’t know how, my brother and I didn’t have a chance to learn by example.  I don’t know where I learned it, maybe showing affection was something that just was innate in me and eventually came out when I had my own wife and children. As an adult I’ve made special efforts to tell my family members that I love and honour them and have always been ready and willing to take care of and help them to the best of my ability.

Q. What role did your membership in the Salvation Army play in your early life?

A. It taught me how to live a respectable and God-fearing life. It gave me a place where I knew I belonged, was respected and valued (although I rebelled off and on at a lot of restrictions it placed on my choices of entertainment).  Most importantly, it gave me an opportunity to learn to sing and play several instruments.  Because of that I can truly say that my real avocation in life is music making.

Q. What was the greatest single decision in your life that started to lift you out of a life of poverty and how did it do so?

A. That would be quitting my apprenticeship to a drunken, cruel blacksmith and enlisting in the Royal Air Force. Overnight I had three decent meals a day, a decent-paying job, a bed with sheets on it, all the decent clothing I needed and future prospects through career training.  Plus that, I could continue to play in a band and had money left over to send home to my mother to help her out a wee bit.

A. I understand you use humour in your writing.How does this connect with the tragic circumstances of poverty?

A. Poverty is bad enough. If you can find anything humorous in whatever day-to-day happenings you encounter, then you should celebrate those things.  Laughter can elevate you from the depressed hole of poverty – at least a wee bit.  If you really look, there are comical aspects to a lot of things, even those that are essentially negative.

Q. What is your favourite humorous story in your book?

A. Soon after we immigrated to Canada, my wife Mary and I were at a dance in Toronto. A group of us were standing and chatting at the edge of the dance floor when I announced that I was going to the bar for a drink.  When I returned, a young, good-looking woman put her arm through mine and I understood her to say, “I like the way you roll your arse!”  I hesitated a little and looked down at one buttock and then the other, wondering what it was I did with my “arse” that got her attention.  It wasn’t until I thoroughly thought about it that I realized that she was saying that she liked the way I rolled my “RRRRs!”  I guess she enjoyed the Scottish accent.  Boy, what a relief!

Q. You claim that musicianship is integral to your life. How is that reflected in your book?

A. When my wife/editor first read my story, she was struck by how much music was woven into the narrative. She encouraged me to expand on those instances, leading me to quote from songs or to fill out descriptions of the song connections with my own story.  For instance, when I am describing my hometown Campbeltown, I mentioned the folk-song made most popular in the ‘60s by Scottish folk-singer Andy Stewart: “Campbeltown Loch, I Wish Ye Were Whisky.”

I eventually wrote the following: “As we were growing up, three or four of us boys would go arm in arm down the street singing the first few words—‘Campbeltown Loch, I wish ye were whisky.  I would drink ye dry!’

“The song imagines how nice it would be if the loch were full up to the brim with whisky and you could anchor a boat in the whisky-filled bay to go in for a nip and a dip ‘by night and by day.’  Clan gatherings would feature wading into the loch with toasts of ‘slainte bva’ (meaning ‘good health’).  The only problem would be the police showing up in a launch and shouting, ‘Time, Gentlemen, please!’”

Q. Your book is permeated with “Scottishness.” Why would someone who has no Scottish connection want to read this book?

A. Lots of people like to read biographies or hear stories of other people’s personal experiences, especially if they are out of the ordinary. It also seems to me that a lot of non-Scots show a curiosity about and interest in Scottish things like tartans, kilts (or what is or isn’t worn under them!), bagpipers, Robbie Burns’ suppers, Scottish parties called “caleidhs”, Highland games and the like.  I hope they’d enjoy a first-hand account of one Scot’s unique experiences.  We Scots are known as folksy and sometimes blunt people who put our own colourful slant to our language. I attempt to reflect that in my writing.

 

A Reading from Revelation 21:1-7,22-27 – Pastor Erik

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal.

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

 

Reading and Solo – “The Holy City” – Darryl Pokrant

A reading from Ian’s not-yet-published Came to Canada, Eh? Memoirs of a Scottish Nomad. (The story finds Ian in 1997, recently retired and moved from Winnipeg to Flin Flon.)

“I found Flin Flon a great little place. I met more people and made more friends in the short time I was there than I ever made in any other place I’ve lived in Canada. [I had joined the 120-voice Community Choir and was delighted that we had a successful presentation of Handel’s Messiah, first in Snow Lake and then in Flin Flon.] …

“Our choir also performed and was well received at the Cathedral in The Pas a little after the New Year. I was asked to sing a solo in the service immediately before the Messiah was to be performed, and although I’m not Roman Catholic, I said that I would be honoured. (I was delighted to think that I was considered good enough to do so!)

“The Holy City” was my choice–my old standby from way back when I first sang it as a young boy in Campbeltown’s Salvation Army worship service [and then later when I was in the Royal Air Force and stationed near Cardiff, Wales, I was thrilled to sing it in a concert in Abertillery in the Rhonda Valley. I considered that quite an undertaking, because Wales is the “land of song.” For a Scotsman to be asked to sing a solo; well, that could be seen as maybe a wee bit presumptuous. It seemed that I “knocked them dead,” as the saying goes. Maybe they were just being nice, giving me an “E” for Effort, I don’t really know; but the applause seemed very genuine. I’m a tenor, and the top note was a healthy “G” which I was able to achieve with no trouble at all.]

“The song is a bit operatic and I fancy myself emulating the great Scottish singer, Kenneth McKellar, who was famous for that piece. I always get a rush of joy as it paints a majestic picture based on Revelation 21 of the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” 

Solo: “The Holy City”,  Darryl Pokrant, piano accompaniment by Corey Francis. (Lyrics by Frederick E. Weatherly, Music by Michael Maybrick, writing as Stephen Adams)

    1. Last night I lay a-sleeping, there came a dream so fair, I stood in old Jerusalem beside the temple there. I heard the children singing, and ever as they sang Methought the voice of angels from heaven in answer rang, Methought the voice of angels from heaven in answer rang, Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Lift up your gates and sing, Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna to your King!
    2. And then methought my dream was changed, the streets no longer rang. Hushed were the glad Hosannas the little children sang. The sun grew dark with mystery, the morn was cold and chill, As the shadow of a cross arose upon a lonely hill, As the shadow of a cross arose upon a lonely hill. Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Hark! How the angels sing, Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna to your King!
    3. And once again the scene was changed, new earth there seemed to be. I saw the Holy City beside the tideless sea. The light of God was on its streets, the gates were open wide, And all who would might enter, and no one was denied. No need of moon or stars by night, or sun to shine by day; It was the new Jerusalem that would not pass away, It was the new Jerusalem that would not pass away. Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Sing for the night is o’er! Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna forevermore! Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna forevermore!

 

Prayers of Intercession & Commendation – Pastor Erik

Let us pray. Almighty God, in holy baptism you have knit your chosen people together into one communion of saints in the body of Christ. Give to your whole church in heaven and on earth your light and your peace. God of mercy,  C. hear our prayer.

Give courage and faith to all who mourn, and a sure and certain hope in your loving care, that, casting all their sorrow on you, they may have strength for the days ahead. God of mercy,   C. hear our prayer.

Grant to us who are still in our pilgrimage, and who walk as yet by faith, that, where this world groans in grief and pain, your Holy Spirit may lead us to bear witness to your light and life. God of mercy,           C. hear our prayer.

Help us, in the midst of things we cannot understand, to believe and trust in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection to life everlasting. God of mercy,    C. hear our prayer.

God of all grace, we give you thanks because by his death our Savior Jesus Christ destroyed the power of death and by his resurrection he opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Make us certain that because he lives we shall live also, and that neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come, will be able to separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.   C: Amen.

Lord’s Prayer; Gathered into one by the Holy Spirit, let us pray as Jesus taught us: C: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.

 

Commendation. (Pastor Erik places his hands on the urn.) Let us commend Ian to the mercy of God, our maker and redeemer:

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Ian. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.   C. Amen.

 

 

Video Presentation of Ian entertaining

1998 – Selections from the musical Brigadoon, including Ian singing “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean” – Community Production: “Flin Flon Remembers,” Flin Flon, Manitoba;

2003 – Scenes from Ian & Gayle’s Wedding at Sherwood Park Lutheran Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba, including Ian singing Robbie Burns’ “My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose” at the church reception and of Ian speaking at the evening reception/smörgåsbord at Winnipeg’s Scandinavian Centre;

2005 – Ian participating in Scottish Country Dancing during a Robbie Burns’ supper Ian hosted at St. Andrews Anglican Church, Riberas del Pilar, Mexico;

2007 – Ian and Gayle entertaining at New Year’s Eve (Hogmanay) Party, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Penticton, British Columbia, singing “Campbeltown Loch, I Wish Ye Were Whisky,” “Donald, Where’s Yer Troosers” and “Auld Lang Syne”;

2008 – Okanagan’s Mr. Scotland and His Bonnie Lassie entertaining at the Kelvern Celtic Society’s Caleidh in Vernon, British Columbia; singing “The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen,” “Misty Islands o’ the Highlands” and “The Song of the Clyde”;

2006 – Ian recording “Scotland, the Brave” at a recording studio near Chapala, Mexico;

2018 – Photos of Ian and Gayle at home in Winnipeg on their 15th Wedding Anniversary with a recording of Ian singing “Come In, Come In, It’s Nice T’ See Ye.”

 

Congregational Hymn:“Amazing Grace” (words projected on the screen), accompanied by recorded bagpipes plus organ (Corey Francis) and trumpet (Janet Giese).

    1. Amazing grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.
    2. ’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed.
    3. Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; ’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.

 

Grace & Blessing– Pastor Erik

God of all mercy and grace, the eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. We give you thanks for your servant Ian, bless our conversation and fellowship, as we remember him and give you thanks.    C. Amen.

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do God’s will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in God’s sight; through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.       C. Amen.

Postlude:“Ode to Joy”

 

LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE and, by the way, “GET STUFFED!”

LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE and, by the way, “GET STUFFED!”

The old saying goes: Laughter is the best medicine. In addition, sometimes the strangest things can help one make, or accept, important, even life-altering, decisions. So we found out a few weeks ago. As a result, a new expression has become significant in our lives.

“Get Stuffed!”

 

First a bit of back-story. I (Gayle) grew up in an American-English speaking environment. To me the term “get stuffed” meant that one was preparing to overeat. Only after moving to Canada in my forties did I learn that “get stuffed” is a British colloquialism meaning, in the politer sense, “go away” or “get lost” or, in the cruder sense, “piss off” or worse. I became aware of the term while enjoying the satirical rants of Scotsman Jock McBile of CBC TV’s Royal Air Farce fame. Jock McBile, one of the most beloved alter egos of the late comedian John Morgan, was a mutton-chopped, kilt-and-sporran-clad curmudgeon, leaning on a cromach and using a thick burr to sarcastically and comically comment on current political and cultural happenings. His frequent climax to any dismissal of the antics of those whose actions met his disapproval was to tell them to “get stuffed!” as he marched off stage, menacingly brandishing his cromach. After marrying my own feisty Scotsman some 14 years ago, there were times when I wondered if Jock McBile’s cousin had come to live with me!

 

Now, what in the world does that have to do with me making or accepting life-altering decisions? If you have followed my blog, you will know that I started it to publicize the writings of my Scottish-born husband Ian and the books that he and I have produced over the past years. Recently, progress on future publications has slowed as Ian’s health has deteriorated. I’m struggling to continue with editing future books since care giving is taking up most of my time. As things settle down a bit with the provincial palliative care that has recently begun, I’m looking forward to finding more time to get back to editing our next book, Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrant’s Story and, hopefully, progressing to other of our unpublished writings. But first, let me relate our most recent adventure.

Ian had a check-up with his GP to assess if his breathing distress (that had increased after his inoperable rectal cancer diagnosis in September) was being helped by a month’s dosage of morphine and whether it was time to curtail some of the other medications he has taken for other serious long-term medical problems like heart disease, a history of small strokes, peripheral neuropathy, GERD, hypertension and dementia. As the cancer would eventually be terminal, did he need to keep on all the other medications to prevent serious complications from other diseases? In other words, has all the medication become overkill? Ian is content to leave these decisions to me. (A daunting task indeed.) However, I already have lost my late husband to early onset Alzheimer disease and multiple small strokes, so have a bit of perspective to aid me. At the moment I’d prefer Ian not have a stroke that could cause paralysis so I could no longer care for him at home with palliative care until or near the end (which we would both prefer). So we opted for him to stay on Warfarin to aid in preventing a stroke, even though it adds to the bleeding from the incurable rectal cancer.

Next it was time for the clinic’s nurse to administer an annual cognitive test to decide whether Ian should keep on the dementia-slowing drug that he has been on for the last three years. His memory continues to worsen but the regression has slowed on the medication – a luxury that my late husband didn’t have as the drug wasn’t yet on the market when he needed it. Our nurse started the familiar test and I could see that Ian’s awareness of time had deteriorated since last year – “What year is it?” (“Well, it’s later than 1932.” – Smart Aleck – that is his birth year!) “Do you know what month we are in?” – (“Spring?” – hardly!) He could follow sequential verbal directions to take a piece of paper, fold it and place it on the ground, but only remembered one of the three words he had been given and then later asked to recall. “Truck,” readily came to mind but he had no recollection of “velvet” and “church” which he had repeated multiple times just minutes before. He correctly answered a few questions involving numbers and did not do too poorly in copying two geometric figures on a second paper. Then came the last assignment: “Write down a sentence, please.” I smiled thinking of what Ian had written last year. “I love my wife.” This time he readily jotted down a two-word sentence, handing it to the nurse with a smirk. She let out a hoot when she read: “Get stuffed!” There was a twinkle in his eye, though, so we saw it as a touch of sarcastic humour and not a nasty protest at the process.

Ian’s score was only a point below last year’s so I thought he should keep on the drug rather than taking a chance of his memory and abilities getting worse at a faster rate, even though this could also add to his bleeding. The medical staff thought differently, though, and recommended a trial period of 10 days off the drug to see if its absence made a difference. Those 10 days did not go well, however, as Ian had a growing number of disturbing hallucinations and worsening memory. As I still had about a month’s worth of the medication on hand, I started him back on it and will be monitoring him before we see the doctor again to assess whether to continue it. After only a few days, I’m encouraged that the hallucinations have lessened, though I’m not sure about the memory.

 

As irascible as he gets at times, I’d like to keep my old sassy Scotsman around awhile longer if possible. I’ve also started to tell him to “get stuffed” a few times when he gets carried away. That usually brings a chuckle, followed by a cuddle, which helps to alleviate the grumbling. Here Ian is a few years ago, all decked out to sing at the Okanagan Military Tattoo when he was still able to walk with the help of a cane (instead of a cromach).

Ian summed up his “get stuffed” afternoon with: “If you have a choice, it’s better to laugh than to cry.” The day following his medical exams he was so exhausted after our outing that he hardly got out of bed. At least it gave me some time to do some creative writing and fuel another blog post.

As difficult as care giving is, I’m determined to help Ian in these last years (or months) to make life as positive as possible and try to keep myself healthy and productive at the same time. Thank God for palliative care that offers growing support, as it becomes needed, and for the love and concern of family and friends.

 

 

What encouragement old friends can bring, even those who live far away. A recent letter came from Friedemann, a dear friend from my days living in Germany in the 1960s and ‘70s. He had recently lost his wife, Maria (another beloved friend) to cancer and was writing to comfort me after hearing of Ian’s cancer diagnosis. His profound words bear repeating:

“I am really grateful to you for keeping in touch with me and now with the follow-up news on Ian’s health crisis which will no doubt continue to occupy you both. I was sorry to hear that surgery is no safe option for Ian and do hope and pray that he remains without pain and comfortable and that you can both continue to live your interesting lives together.

“I seem to detect a note of optimism in your account–but then you always had what is basically a positive attitude to life, and although I have never met Ian, from your letters I have the impression that he is a person who prefers to see the bright side of life, too–a very healthy attitude (that I sometimes wish I had more of). Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Maria and you always got along so well, way back in the Heidelberg days. You both might have had good reasons for complaint in your lives, but you always managed to see the silver lining: a result of being embedded in your faith?

“Anyway, I do hope you can both find something to look forward to and enjoy each day. I often think of the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’, i.e. give us today what we need just for today (and tomorrow we will ask again).

“A month or so before Maria died she wrote an article for a magazine in which she quoted a poem by a German cabaret artist, writer, author of children’s stories and actor who died in 2005, Hans Dieter Hüsch. The poem apparently appealed to her way of thinking–I imagine also to yours and Ian’s—(In German–which you presumably still read? ):

Psalm

Ich bin vergnügt, erlöst, befreit.

Gott nahm in seine Hände meine Zeit,
mein Fühlen, Denken, Hören, Sagen,
mein Triumphieren und Verzagen,
das Elend und die Zärtlichkeit.

Was macht, dass ich so fröhlich bin
im meinem kleinen Reich?
Ich sing und tanze her und hin
vom Kindbett bis zur Leich.

Was macht dass ich so furchtlos bin
an vielen dunklen Tagen?
Es kommt ein Geist in meinen Sinn,
will mich durchs Leben tragen.

Was macht, dass ich so unbeschwert
und mich kein Trübsinn hält?
Weil mich mein Gott das Lachen lehrt
wohl über alle Welt.

Hanns Dieter Hüsch

 

“In English (roughly!):

I’m cheerful, redeemed, set free.

God took my time in his hands,

my  feeling, thinking, hearing, speaking,

my triumphs and despondencies,

the anguish and the tenderness.

 

How come that I’m so cheerful

in my own small domain?

I sing and dance to and fro

from the cradle to the grave.

 

How come that I’m so fearless

on many gloomy days?

A spirit comes into my mind

that seeks to carry me through life.

 

How come I’m so light-hearted

and no gloom has hold on me?

Because God teaches me to laugh

at the whole world no doubt.

 

“So I hope God continues to give you both your daily bread and brighten your life for as long as God sees fit.

“Cheers and the very best of wishes.

(nicer in Latin: Pax et gaudium–et fortitudo = peace and joy–and strength!)”

SHARING OUR STORIES – THE SNOWMOBILE TO STRASSENBAHN SAGA

SHARING OUR STORIES – THE SNOWMOBILE TO STRASSENBAHN SAGA

We send greetings to all our readers, hoping that you have had wonderful Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations and that you will have a happy and peaceful New Year 2017. This year’s celebration has been a cozy one for us, though Ian’s health is fragile, necessitating a lot of sleeping, sometimes into late afternoons. He has to be cajoled (Gayle’s task) to get dressed and participate in some of our celebrations though he didn’t get out for church services, Gayle’s choir concert or the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s glorious performance of Nutcracker. We did host his Winnipeg family of daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren and their spouses, plus five great-grandchildren on Christmas Eve, though. Thirteen of us in our small penthouse floor apartment made the choice of the description “cozy” a true reality, but our gathering was nonetheless enjoyable. Chinese takeout and frozen pies made for a festive but easy supper. The adults and one teenager huddled in around our large dining table while the four younger kids enjoyed kneeling around their own festive coffee table. With city lights twinkling below us through our decorated windows on our 17th floor apartment, candlelight inside, festive decorations, goodie bags for all, new pjs for the kids to don, some early presents to exchange and some Christmas carol singing and dancing, we all had a great time. As a long-time percussionist, Gayle has a collection of rhythm instruments that she brought out to enhance the music from our Christmas CDs, so we could all participate in singing and making music.

 

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How enjoyable we find reading through many short stories in a favourite Christmas present: the 2016 “Chicken Soup for the Soul” anthology: The Joy of Christmas: 101 Holiday Tales of Inspiration, Love, and Wonder, compiled by Amy Newmark with a foreword by “Mrs. Nicholas Claus” and highly recommend it for your holiday enrichment. We also love to re-read and recall holiday stories of our own.

Cover full size

In past years we have shared several holiday stories from Ian on this blog: (Dec. 10, 2012) “Unusual Holiday Flavoured Passages from My Memoir” (including “My Non-Event Christmases of Childhood” and the New Year’s Eve story of his youngest daughter’s premature birth and how her life was saved by a bottle of Scotch whisky) and (Dec. 31, 2012) “Happy Hogmanay! Happy New Year” an excerpt from our yet-to-be-published autobiographical book “Mexican Follies.” Below pictures Ian, Gayle and our poodle Peppy in our motorhome patio in Mexico in December 2004.

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In December 2014 we blogged a spontaneous play that Gayle and her then-4-year-old daughter had originated “The Christmas Story According to Gwynne” complete with Gwynne’s original illustrations.

manger scene for Christmas story

This year Gayle wants to share her story of a unique holiday trip she and her late husband Gus Johannesson made in December 1972 from their home in Germany to visit Gayle’s family in North Dakota. She calls it “The Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga.” For those who don’t know German, Strassenbahn means “streetcar” or “tram.” Those who read her story will understand why Gayle is reluctant to consider any more extensive travel during the wintertime. Pictured below are Gayle’s family at the time: back row: husband Gus, Gayle, sister Barbara, niece Danelle, mother Grandma Mil, sister Doreen, nephew Todd and brother-in-law Bill; front row: nieces Billi, Lisa and Lori. Missing is brother-in-law Danny who presumably took the photo.

moore-family-christmas-1972-photo-1

The Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga

Gus and I had moved to Germany in summer 1965 where he began to pursue a doctorate in systematic theology at the University of Heidelberg and work part time as a civilian chaplain with the US military and I worked as a secretary for the Judge Advocate, U. S. Army, Europe and Seventh Army. By 1972, we had already spent seven Christmas/New Year’s holiday seasons in Europe, either with Gus’ aunts, uncles and cousins in Norway or with our friends in Heidelberg and were excited to finally be flying home to the States to spend the holidays with my family members.

In many ways, 1972 had been a disastrous year for us–mostly because of Gus’ health. He had lost over 30 pounds due to an illness which was finally discovered in July and had already taken four bouts of rectal surgery for abscesses and fistulas, leaving him with a lot of pain and sapped strength, all of which grossly interferred with continuing work on his doctoral dissertation. In addition, I had shattered nerves after terrorist bombs had killed three people in the barracks where I worked and our headquarters were plagued with continuing bomb scares and security precautions. Despite Gus not really feeling well, we had been able to get away to Spain in June for a few weeks’ respite touring the Moorish treasures in Grenada and then relaxing at the home of friends on the Mediterranean island of Minorca, sunning, swimming, snorkelling, exploring ocean-side caves and touring quaint fishing villages with Gus doing a lot of napping. However, returning to Germany and our daily routines led to more stress and, for Gus, the string of surgeries. We were really anxious to get away from it all and back to family and a traditional holiday at “home.”

In December, after several days with friends and attending to business in Chicago and Minneapolis, we flew on to North Dakota, spent some time with each of my two sisters and their families and then finally took a bus from Fargo to my mother’s home in New Rockford (middle of the state). We had a few relaxing days alone with Mom before the rest of the family arrived for Christmas. Here’s Mom (Grandma Mil) and Gus on one of our walks.

gus-grandma-mil-christmas-1972

It was wonderful for me to bask in the smells and flavours of the traditional Swedish-American Christmas of my childhood. Picking out and decorating the live Christmas tree, stringing coloured lights, putting up the manger scene we had sent Mom from Germany,

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singing melodious carols in English, Swedish and Norwegian, helping Mom to bake spritz cookies, sandbakelse, krumkake, Julekake, pepparkakor, and Swedish almond bars (from my grandmother’s recipe brought from Sweden), buying and wrapping gifts, preparing turkey, ham, Swedish meatballs and even Lutefisk (though I still didn’t like it, but good-old-Gus sure did!).

gus-gayle-pose-on-the-frozen-james-river-christmas-1972

Gus and I got away a few times for walks alone. The photo above shows us posing on the frozen James River, not far from Mom’s two-bedroom apartment in a four-plex right across from the church where I had spent so much of my childhood. (I had been shocked when we first moved to Heidelberg to find out that the Neckar River there usually stayed open all winter long, only having frozen up once during the Twentieth Century, right after World War II.)

Once my sisters and their husbands and children had arrived, we were a family of 12. One sister had married a local boy so those five could overnight at his parents’ house just a few blocks away. However, my other sister’s family of four stayed at Mom’s, as did we. She and her husband slept in the living room on the couch bed but their two little ones got to sleep with Grandma Mil. Gus and I, as the “honoured guests from across the Atlantic,” got the guest room. This was fortunate as I had to be the nurse who cleaned his open (rectal) wound several times a day. (Surgery in that area has to heal from the inside out without any stitching.) It was a bit difficult to maintain much privacy, however, especially with five little ones underfoot. We got the biggest laugh of the holiday one evening when our two-year-old niece came out of the bathroom wearing two long “q-tips” (that I’d previously used to probe the wound and thought I had disposed of discreetly), one in each ear!!! (Even now in her late forties, she doesn’t appreciate the humour when reminded of the situation.)

moore-family-unwrapping-christmas-presents-1972

Other laughter was more pleasant, while unwrapping gifts, joyously sharing the Christmas story, telling the little ones of Jesus’ birth, singing, eating, going to church, playing games, taking walks in the snow, shopping and loving being together. Billi, Lori and Todd even got in some ice skating time. billi-lori-todd-skating-1972How wonderful for me to be at worship services in our home church again, sitting with my sisters and singing all those beautiful carols in three-part harmony as we had always done in the past. We revelled in a sunny, snowy North Dakota winter (coming back to a gray, rainy Heidelberg winter seemed a bit of a drag). With five small grandchildren, three daughters and three sons-in-law under foot for a week, Mom (“Grandma Mil” was then in her late 60s) stood up surprisingly well. Here’s Uncle Gus taking nieces Lisa and Lori for a walk. Our church, First Lutheran Church of New Rockford, is in the background at the left and part of the school I attended through Grade 12 is in the background at right centre.

uncle-gus-takes-nieces-lori-lisa-for-a-walk-christmas-1972

After our week together my sisters and their families drove back to their homes further east and we had another couple of days resting at Mom’s. Then came the start of our return trip, which I’ve named the “Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga.” The trip started with a wild bus ride in a near-blizzard to Fargo. This is usually a three-hour drive and took about twice that long. We were met by my sister Doreen and driven to her house in Fargo’s twin city of Moorhead, Minnesota.

Instead of flying out the next day we had a day’s delay caused by full-blown blizzard conditions which closed down the airport, plus everything else in the twin towns. We were to have flown from Fargo to Minneapolis and then on to Chicago where we were catching our international flight (a military charter airline from Chicago via New York to Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany). Listening to the radio, we learned that there was still a possibility of our getting out of town to meet our plane. The Great Northern railroad had a train plowing its way from Montana and across North Dakota, due in at 1 a.m. The only problem was that we couldn’t get to the depot (in Fargo, about five miles away from my sister’s house in Moorhead). My sister’s car was buried under layers of snow and, anyway, the roads were not passable. Fooling around in the snow in front of their house was about all we could do.

gayle-billi-lori-snowed-in-christmas-1972_edited-1

lori-shoveling-doreen-out-of-snowbank-christmas-1972

Absolutely nothing was moving … but snowmobiles. Gus had heard on the radio that emergency snowmobiles were evacuating people. He figured that we qualified for an emergency since we had to meet a “military flight” in Chicago the next day. He called, explained our situation and we were granted clearance from the city police. To my two little nieces’ delight and my terror, we were picked up by two snowmobilers at midnight. Gus and I rode behind one snowmobiler; the other one carried all our luggage. There we went, over the (Red) river, through the woods and over 18 inches of snow, not to mention four to five feet of snowdrifts to Fargo’s train station. I hung on for dear life and had visions of falling off all the way; but we made it, only to have a long delay. The train arrived three hours late, struggling across North Dakota with a snowplow on the engine. I was too flustered by the whole situation to get any photos at the time.

So at 4:00 a.m. we boarded the train. Delay continued to be the motto of the trip, however. We missed our first plane connection from Minneapolis to Chicago and barely squeezed onto the last possible one, making connections at the Chicago Airport five minutes before we were to report in for our charter flight. Luckily, we had friends in Chicago that met us at the airport and got us from the domestic to the international departure area in record time. Had we been on our own, we never would have made it in time. We were delayed an hour getting out of Chicago, had to circle New York for two hours because of fog, were delayed in New York because of waiting for other passengers who were late in coming in from connecting flights, made an unscheduled landing in Shannon, Ireland (we never did hear why) and finally landed in Frankfurt six hours later than scheduled.

Once at the Frankfurt airport, we had to take the subway into the city’s train station, then take the train from Frankfurt to Heidelberg (an hour away) and then the Strassenbahn (streetcar) to our stop on Rohrbacherstrasse and walk a block to our apartment on Turnerstrasse. So – bus to car to snowmobile to train to airplane to another airplane to subway to train to streetcar to foot – and we were finally home. (I think we had just about every mode of transportation but ship and dog sled.) It was time for a long winter’s nap – well, at least two day’s worth – before I had to get back to work and Gus to start cracking the books again … then surgery again. He had 16 surgeries in all over a five-year period before the problem finally resolved itself. I ended my Christmas/New Year’s letter that year with the following: “Neither of us has ever had a great deal of patience, but we’ve had to develop it lately. Once one gets through the inevitable periods of despair and self-pity and gets back to the basic trust in God’s presence and strength, things look better. So, we’re hoping for a year of fulfillment and health – and wish you all the blessings of our Lord for the New Year.”

BODY AND SPIRIT: LIFE’S LESSONS REINFORCED

BODY AND SPIRIT: LIFE’S LESSONS REINFORCED

 

Through the years, Gayle has shared the following with friends who are recovering from accidents or lengthy hospitalizations. Sunday she learned another friend was coping with a fractured ankle after falling on skies as she was getting off a chair lift and was jostled or startled by an over-anxious skate boarder. Here’s to a good healing, Pat! Gayle can’t blame a skate boarder for a previous accident she experienced. She was the over-anxious one wanting to spy a bird building a nest on her roof. And she never did see the darn bird! Perhaps this is what it looked like.

Bird building a nest on roof-bartramsgarden.org

 

Life’s Lessons Reinforced by Gayle Johannesson (later Moore-Morrans)
adapted from an editorial originally published in Esprit magazine, 1999, presented at a Lake Chapala Society Writer’s Group in Ajijic, Mexico, 2005

One fine Manitoba day in early May 1999, I eagerly awaited getting home after a long day at my editing job. After seven months of winter, Winnipeg was a glorious place to be and I planned to spend a long evening on my deck enjoying the warm air, extended sunshine and birdsong. As soon as I walked in, my daughter excitedly shouted, “Mum, you should check it out. I think a bird is building a nest on our roof.”

Of course, I can never leave well enough alone, so had to immediately trot out to the deck to investigate. I jumped up onto one of the benches surrounding our hexagonal deck table and then onto the table, but wasn’t close enough to view the roof. Jumping down, I hauled the table and bench closer and again hopped up onto the bench and then to the table. This time, however, I landed on a corner where there wasn’t a table leg. Down I crashed—all of three feet, mind you—slamming my right leg on the bench and landing wedged against the railing of the deck on my back with my right arm pinned under me. My frantic screams quickly brought my daughter and next-door neighbours to the scene. Soon the fire department and ambulance service arrived. I have little recollection of their rescue other than a vague feeling of horror as they threw all the furniture off our high deck and struggled to get me into a neck brace and stretcher, down the ten steep steps to the back yard and into the ambulance.

All this resulted in seven and a half hours of emergency surgery to repair what turned out to be seven breaks in the right ankle, knee and upper arm. I woke up in considerable pain with 17 pieces of metal in me—a rod and screws through the humerus, a four-inch plate in the fibula, bolts to try to hold the crushed tibial plateau at the bottom of my knee together, numerous screws to keep all these things in place, and, of course, a huge leg cast and arm immobilizer. Because of the multiple breaks it was a long time before I could get out of a wheelchair and onto crutches. My doctor declared me “architecturally challenged” because my bi-level house necessitated going down eight steps to the lower level or up eight steps to the upper level. Thus, I was destined to spend three and a half months in hospital, only being discharged in mid-August when I could finally maneuver steps on my crutches.

Most of my fourteen weeks was spent in a rehabilitation hospital, braving four hours of physiotherapy daily and gradually adding occupational and hydrotherapy sessions. I learned quickly, however, that my injuries were minor compared to most of my fellow patients, the majority of whom had suffered severe strokes, spinal cord injuries, complications from multiple sclerosis or loss of limbs due to accidents or diabetes.

What kept me relatively sane throughout all this was my editorial job. Luckily, my quarterly magazine was due to go to press a week after my accident and most of my work had been done. Our publisher quickly secured the services of one of our writers to complete my editorial and put the thing to bed. One week later I started serious work on the next issue, clumsily using my left hand and the telephone. Soon I became a one-hand whiz on my laptop computer, with the modem enabling me to communicate with writers, the office, our art designer and printer, aided by daily visits from our secretary who delivered papers back and forth. The hospital staff got quite used to me burning the midnight oil at the computer, probably considering me a bit nuts though they were very supportive as long as I didn’t keep my three roommates awake.

I’d like to share with you my editorial for the Fall 1999 issue of Esprit, the magazine of Evangelical Lutheran Women. The magazine is thematic and, as coincidence would have it, the theme for the issue which was finishing up just as I left hospital was “Body and Spirit.” I entitled it, “Life’s Lessons Reinforced.”

“Beginning to write this column brings me full circle since the last issue of Esprit. Then, my horrendous fall and seven breaks in right leg and arm bones resulted in the need for someone else to write this column. Now, after 14 weeks in hospital (most of it in rehabilitation), I have two more days before going home and this editorial is due. What a place this has been to glean ideas for the topic, “Body and Spirit!” I would not have chosen the classroom, but every minute in this environment has reinforced some important lessons in life.

“Lesson #1: I am a combination of body and spirit—an integrated whole that cannot be divided into neat categories of spiritual, emotional or physical. Wound the body and the spirit is wounded. Wound the spirit and the body is often equally affected.

“Lesson #2: It’s OK to cry. Roommates or caregivers need to allow one the chance to release emotions without feeling that the crying has to be explained or “fixed.” And, I needed to give myself permission to cry without feeling guilty or “stupid.”

“Lesson #3: Private moments are precious. I only realized how much so when I didn’t have any. Grasp them, however and whenever they come.

“Lesson #4: The social part of my humanity is equally important. The need for others is as basic as food, water or shelter. The warmth and touch a person receives or doesn’t receive from family or friends can have a profound impact on healing. What a contrast I saw in the progress of two roommates who had had similar strokes. One had no family present. Her four children, in another province, neither visited nor wrote. One son called a few times, promised the doctor he’d visit and take her home with him and then never showed up. Only one friend ever visited and then rarely. Her body healed enough to leave hospital but her spirits were low. The other woman, an Inuit from the far north, arrived with eight family members in tow. They attended therapy sessions with her, assisted in her care and kept her in their midst except for sleeping. Despite considerable disability and almost complete lack of English skills, she progressed with a cheerful demeanor, appearing confident and content.

“Lesson #5: Communication is a wonderful release. If someone will listen, it’s good to be allowed to unload a frustration, share a pain or rejoice in an improvement. When I’m the one feeling up to it, it’s also important to allow the other person to unload on me.

“Lesson #6: God loves a cheerful caregiver—and so do patients. Caregivers love a cheerful patient as well—but patients often find it hard to be cheerful all by themselves. Cheer travels, though, so let’s start with the caregiver.

“Lesson #7: Many of us who have prided ourselves as caregivers have a hard time accepting having to be cared for. It’s a humbling experience to have to ask for everything one needs. Proverbs tells us “humility goes before honour.” However, it sometimes takes a little assertiveness to make your needs known—one shouldn’t be too humble to ask.

“Lesson #8: The little things in life can give the greatest pleasure. When progress towards healing is slow, it’s important to note each little step forward. How uplifting it can be to have a therapist point out the centimeter improvement in bending or straightening a broken knee or the slight movement of a stroke-paralyzed hand. A woman I’ll call “Jane,” silenced by brain injury, one day surprised us by suddenly singing out, “When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles at you!” How we celebrated those words, even though it might be a long time before she could repeat them.

“Lesson #9: The spirit of God dwells within me. The chances for meditation and interaction with the source of my being are endless. The Lord’s presence is there whether I’m lying on a stretcher in a speeding ambulance; being anointed with oil in a healing ritual before surgery; chanting silently God’s assurance from the book of Isaiah, “You are precious in my sight, and honoured and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4a) while painfully trying to turn the arm ergometer; anxiously taking the first steps on crutches; talking about losses and gains with my roommates; suffering neglect from too-busy medical staff; receiving a hot pack or massage from caring medical staff; praying behind curtains closed around my bed nook; or lying sleepless gazing at God’s beautiful night of moon and clouds outside my window. God is always there to sustain and comfort me. It’s good to be healing in body and spirit. Praise the Lord!

Gwynne & Gayle on crutches-Aug 1999_edited-1August 1999, Finally home after 3 1/2 months in rehab. Gwynne, just back from a summer in Norway and Gayle on her crutches. At left is part of our high deck and the steps I had to be carried down on a stretcher in May.

On My Way Home

This blog moved me as I’ve been the parent of a prodigal son who has finally been returned to the family, although not physically. I’m excited to be planning a trip to visit him next month, for the first time in over seven years. I’m also adding at the end of this reblog, my own version of the prodigal son story that I wrote in 2001, during my time as the editor of Esprit magazine. I hope it will be an encouragement to others as Sammy’s post was to me. Gayle Moore-Morrans<!

From the Editor
A Tale of Grace
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8). Grace is a word that is central to our Christian faith and especially dear to those of us who, like Martin Luther, cling to “grace alone.” The grace of God abounds in God’s promise of unconditional love. Grace is evident in the stories of God’s people as they struggle with the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary happenings of daily life—in our relationships, contentions with evil influences and in our striving to live godly lives. Let me relate one such grace-filled tale.
There was a mother who had a daughter and a son. The father had died after a long, debilitating illness that caused tremendous strains on the family. The mother and daughter were blessed with strength they hadn’t even been aware they had—strength to deal with the grief and despair facing the family. Alas, the son was not able to call on those strengths. He lost his pleasant demeanor and easy laugh, his joy of living. God seemed totally distant to him and not able to help. The son began to act out at home and school—dropping out or running away from responsibilities, commitments and relationships. He alienated teachers, authorities and finally the family itself. Beginning to associate with others who were estranged from society, he soon was into the drug scene. He sold, pawned and traded his own and family members’ possessions to support his habit. Whether the cause of, or a consequence of drug abuse, a severe depression overcame the son. The depression only increased as the drugs interfered with any medication prescribed to treat the disease. The mother arranged for school, personal and family counseling, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and treatment programs. The son consented to try some, but soon dropped them; others he flatly refused to cooperate with or participate in. In the midst of this it became necessary for him to leave the family home, entering into a series of foster homes and residential schools.
Over the years, the mother kept up contact with the son when he would allow it. She slowly learned that the only way to help her son was to let him go—let him experience the consequences of his own actions, no matter how badly or helpless it made her feel. The one action left to the mother was prayer—calling on the grace of God to work in the life of her son and to eventually bring home the prodigal. And pray she did—bombarding heaven with clenched hands, tortured words and sighs too deep for words—beseeching God’s Holy Spirit to work in the life of her son.
As the years passed, the family relationship continued, with numerous ups and downs. On two occasions the son returned home for awhile, full of promises of reform; the mother full of hope that a change had really taken place; the daughter skeptical, but resigned to another attempt at reconciliation. Twice the attempt failed, with the son again embarking on the wayward path.
Then came the gift of grace—God’s free, undeserved gift to the son and the mother—and maybe even to the daughter. Being not much given to self-revelation, the son never really said what had brought him to the realization that he was on the fast track to destruction. Whatever it was, he finally cried out for help. On his own, he sought hospitalization, counseling, an addictions treatment program and reconciliation with the mother. All this took months with many stops and starts, fears and despair. But he did not waver from his stated desire to get away from the lifestyle in which he was mired. Finally, released from the hospital and beginning addictions treatment, he asked the mother to let him return home on a trial basis. It took all of her faith in God to call up the trust she needed to let him try again. Following a pattern set by the brother of the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable recorded in Luke 15, the daughter blew up, rebuking the mother for putting her faith in a lost cause and leaving them open once again to exploitation and disappointment. All this was followed by slammed doors and the silent treatment.
The tale is still unfolding. The mother was encouraged by a hug between siblings as the sister embarked on a summer’s vacation. Adjustments in medication are still causing ups and down for the son. How to deal with old friends from the bad times is still a problem to be solved. Getting on with life, carrying through with his stated intentions, continuing treatment, completing an interrupted education, rebuilding estranged relationships, making room for God in a life where God has not been welcome—all this takes time. But God’s grace has become more and more evident to the mother. She prays it will continue to unfold for her son and her daughter—grace for renewal, unreserved love and forgiveness for new life.
This issue contains other tales of lives enriched and renewed—all through the undeserved grace-gifts of God. (Perhaps some of us will even be moved to record our own or others’ grace stories.) May we celebrate this summer—and always—basking in God’s grace!
Gayle Moore Johannesson, Editor
(reprinted from Esprit, the magazine of Evangelical Lutheran Women, Summer 2001 issue, copyright © 2001)
Note: That was not the end of the story. More grace was needed as problems caused by addiction returned and returned, the family was again separated and estranged over a long period of years. But God’s grace, though sometimes it seemed absent, has returned and been renewed. Thank God for grace, faith and endurance. Gayle Moore-Morrans, 2013

Insight-Seeing From Within

Come Home Title ScreenI must have read the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) to my children a million times over the span of their childhood. I am not going to proclaim it was their favorite or even mine. But it was a good story that related to others and not me because in those days I was on fire for God and there was no way that I could or would ever become a prodigal son.

Unfortunately I labeled others who I saw seemingly leaving Gods will, forsake their calling, burying their talents etc.

See the problem was this, I never really met a real live contemporary prodigal.

I mean, no believer goes out one day and says, ‘that’s it I am going to be a prodigal son.’

I know this because, well, hmm, oh God help me say this, ok do it….I became a prodigal son myself.

Let me explain.

After…

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