Every week, on Tuesday mornings, I travel to a quaint little place that is the home for some pretty spectacular people. I first stop to pick up a couple of special church ladies to take with me. When we arrive at our destination, we push on a little buzzer, and identify ourselves. A Voice from somewhere inside the brick edifice suddenly asks “Who is it?” and after I identify myself, the door magically opens and they release us to enter into the hallowed halls of the Parkview Retirement Home.
Parkview has seen a radical transition in the past few years, including renovations to their building (it looks like a cozy little hotel now), staff changes, change in ownership (Ko and Helene Tamminga and family) and a slight name change. It’s transformation is the result of answered prayers and the heart and hard work of the Tamminga family. It didn’t have the most stellar reputation when I first began my weekly pilgrimage, but now it has come alive with cleanliness, beauty, warmth and welcome.
I had received a phone call, just a brief few months after becoming the Lead Pastor at Life Quest Community Church, from a woman who’d seen our church sign as she’d waited in the drive-through at the Tim Horton’s across the road from our church. She identified herself and asked me “Does your church accept anyone?”. My simple reply: “Yes”. She proceeded to ask if I’d come and do some music and/or ministry to the people at the Home. Her qualifier was that the people there were “from all backgrounds and faiths, so would I be “ok” with doing something for everyone?”. My simple reply again “Yes”. I suggested perhaps a mix of music would help break down barriers, and perhaps we could just come and see if she was ok with what I’d do?” That was almost 10 years ago.
On a typical Tuesday, we will join with Rose, Dorothy #1 and Dorothy #2, Carl, Franco, Marg #1, Marg #2, Mary, Martha, (so Biblical), Marilyn, Teddie, Colleen, Eileen, Janet, Heidi and Vonda. In their ranks are veterans, choir members, retired professionals, homemakers, business people, woodworkers, and musicians. We will pray together and then we will ask them to suggest a song. We’ve compiled songs from all the requests they’ve had through the years.
We will sing Teddie’s favourite: “O Danny Boy”, or one of Carl’s favourites: “Church in the Wildwood”. Franco, our Italian friend, gets in on the fun with, “That’s Amore!”. We will sing our hearts out on “This Land is Your Land”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “In the Garden”, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”, and “White Cliffs of Dover”. We even get in on the “Sister Act” by singing “My God”!
We laugh, pray, tell stories, listen to memories being recalled and occasionally cry. It started me to wondering… what songs are my fellow retirement home friends going to request when we’re living together in our senior years? Have you thought about it?
If I am privileged to live a long life, I can imagine what the requests from my fellow retirees may be: “Hey, could you play “Soon and Very Soon” or “It won’t be Long”, by Andrae Crouch? ( a little intentional ironic commentary) or “Do you know “The Great Adventure” by Steven Curtis Chapman?”. I think someone will still ask for a song that Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote, because, well, let’s face it, they seem to write and live forever!
Perhaps someone will ask for a tune from Rez Band, Randy Stonehill, Larry Norman (“I Wish We’d all been Ready“), U2 (“Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For“…cuz I can’t remember where I put it) Simon and Garfunkel (“Sounds of Silence”), Garth Brooks, Paul McCartney, Amy Grant, Stevie Wonder or … Justin Bieber!!!!???? Perish the thought!
By the time I’m in the throes of a retirement home, there’s a good chance technology will have made the need for “live music” events like “sing-a-longs” at retirement homes, obsolete. (Remember when every church had an organ, a grand piano and hymn books? Or when, if you wanted to hear a song from the radio again, you went to a “Record Store”, bought the album, and played it over and over again on your stereo record player? … -insert 8-track player, cassette player, cd here …). So don’t get too attached to the “spirit of reminiscing”!
But… until my turn comes, I will weekly gather my little church ladies, travel the roads in my city to arrive at Parkview and wait on “the Voice” from their hallowed halls, making the door magically open to let us come in, and share in an hour of toe-tapping, laughing, smiling, clapping and singing, with some really spectacular people.
It’s taken fifty-plus years – but today is the day! Over the past number of weeks, Charlie, my hunk ‘ o’ love, and I, dug, scraped, tamped, reinforced and laid out all the necessary components for… a pool. Nothing fancy. Nothing too big. Just one of those bulbous, blue, rubber-like vinyl pools that are supposed to go up real easy.
What perhaps you might not know, is that my brothers and I love water. When I was a pre-schooler, and playing in the bathtub at our little home in Burlington, Ontario, I would pretend to swim. I would imagine splashing about in the lake near our city, or travelling to the East Coast of Canada to frolic in the briny water. Yes – a pre-schooler. It’s in my genetic code. My Dad is from New Brunswick and grew up next to the Restigouche River. My Mother is from central Newfoundland, where the mighty salmon is King and the salt of the great north Atlantic is in the very breath of the air and fibre of the land.
So, all our growing up years, first as young children, in Burlington, then living in different parsonages because of my Dad’s profession as a minister, the one thing we always hoped for, was a pool. It didn’t have to be fancy, just something we could play in, cool off in, or exercise off, the stress of the day. Then, fantastically, finally, when my parents accepted the ministry call to a church in Niagara Falls, a miracle occurred. To us, it was like the deliverance of the children of Israel from Pharaoh, or the multiplication of the loaves and fishes for the famished and hungry. There – in the backyard of the parsonage – not shiny – not new – our own miracle. In the backyard, with stairs leading up to the landing, on the edge of glory, lay… a water basin, also known as, an above-ground pool!!
To put things into perspective: We moved into the parsonage just days before Christmas. My brothers were both attending college/university that year. Being in Canada, we would have to wait until after the Spring Thaw and the first warm days of spring before we could even remotely venture into the glorious water that awaited us.
At the end of the post-graduate year, my brothers returned home, anxious to try out the promised cool, refreshing, healing waters of our first truly, genuine, family-sized pool. It was a beautiful, unusually warm Spring that year, and my parents had gone to their cottage for a brief respite. Consequently, we had my Grandma come and stay with us for the duration of their vacation. I was home for lunch visiting with my Grandma when my brothers made their way out of bed and deciding to be decadent, make it a true “welcome home” “welcome to summer” occasion. They tried (and failed) to cook steaks on a make-shift grill in the back of the property. When it failed to light, they tossed gasoline… yes – gasoline – on the sticks they’d rounded up. This attempt made the two of them smell like the back of a grease-monkey’s work rag, so they gave up and decided to initiate the pool.
My Grandma and I sat at the dining room table facing the backyard, watching, talking and laughing as my siblings shivered and dunked each other. My youngest brother Dave, quickly felt the cold of the water and hopped out, but my middle brother, Gord, who never minded swimming in cold water, decided to splash around by himself. Shortly afterwards, we heard Dave, frantically yelling out to us. We looked out the window, only to see Gord standing in the centre of the pool, hands on his hips, a look of disbelief on his face, and water flowing like a river out through the newly formed hole in the side of the frame. Appropriately, the water poured out so rapidly and under such pressure, that it formed its own version of the great Horseshoe Falls! To say that our hopes were dashed that day, is a gross understatement.
Perhaps now you can understand my great yearning – longing- passion– to have my own pool. Being in a semi-country part of our area, we are on a well water system. This meant that we needed to call for water to be brought in. The water hauler, “Barry” came to the rescue.
The moment of truth was here. Will the pool leak? Will I have to run around and support the walls? Is the water going to pour out the side? I was nervous and excited and hopeful that we would be splashing around in our little piece of heaven soon.
Barry told me to hold on to the water pipe atop the pool ladder, as he turned on the water source. No problem. Then, as the pool started to fill, he lifted up a couple of sections that were wrinkled. No problem. I suggested that where the ladder was sitting in an awkward position. “Let’s move it up a bit. First gush of water over me and Barry. As the pool began to slowly rise with the pressure of the water, we noticed that it was tilting ever so slightly to the left. No problem. The pool was 98% full. Barry told me to hold on to the water pipe while he left to shut off the water source. I didn’t quite get there in time. Second gush of water all over me. After the water was off. We could see that the water was reeaallly high on the left side. But… no problem I assured Barry. I’ll ask my husband, and we’ll take away the bricks we put as a safeguard on the south side, which was obviously a little higher than the other sides.
“Thanks Barry”. “Bye”. Then off to change out of my wet clothes – laugh the whole time at what a spectacle I must have looked like, fighting a “pvc pipe” of pressurized water spraying out all over me – call Charlie to share the laugh and tell him it’s done. Then… like a slow-motion bad dream, I look outside… The “Horseshoe Falls” have transplanted themselves in my backyard! Quickly, I run out and begin to pull out the bricks I can reach, water recedes back, and the pool slumps down in defeat, a lesser shape of its former glory.
“I have a dream…” that I will one day enjoy the cool, refreshing, glistening, inviting water of my own pool. I will swim and play with abandon. I will exercise with graceful strokes across the radius of my blue gem with health and life surging through my joints. I will share restful moments of quiet enjoyment grinning blissfully across the watery expanse at my wonderful husband. I will share the joy of the St. George artesian spring water in my pool, with my loved ones. I will baptize members of my congregation with glowing face and misty eyes.
Yes, I will.
Perhaps, but not today.
I realized the other day why I have procrastinated at adding another post: I’m not that interesting. Yup, just an ordinary girl, with a regular, simple life. I don’t live in a big city. I don’t know lots of “in” people. I definitely don’t have a wealth of knowledge that the world is craving for. So why would I even attempt to write a “blog”?
Well, I guess – as uninteresting as my life may seem to some – I do like to stay involved, aware and alert to the culture and people in my world. This doesn’t mean that I condone or champion their opinions or causes, but it does mean that I care about their unique perspective, personalities and experiences.
For instance – I have a dear friend who has one green eye and one blue eye. She’s stunningly beautiful even at an age when people judge you by the number of years you’ve lived – she’s a head-turner for many a male species. But – she’s also smart, incredibly creative (her ability to decorate and choose colours is beyond most designers), and she’s a woman who has endured horrific life experiences, walked through spiritual, emotional and physical challenges… and yet retains a grace and dignity that others would envy. Now there’s an interesting lady!
Except, my friend would tell you that she doesn’t think she’s all that extraordinary either.
I however, “beg to differ”. When I think of the people throughout my life, the stories, experiences, tragedies overcome, graces developed, creative projects, the loves, the joys… I’m so grateful. I get to know, love, listen and learn from these “Wonders of Creation”.
I think that’s one of the most gratifying things about being a Pastor. People. God loves them, and he put a love in my heart for them too.
I met with a Pastor/evangelist/trucker/Ministry leader (interesting person alert!) a couple of days ago. His life experiences are so varied and he’s so great at story-telling, that as he related an experience he had sharing his faith, I could have spent several hours listening to him.
And you – there’s a good chance you and I know each other. I’m grateful to in some way discovered the unique “you”. Maybe together we’ll be thankful, laugh, remember and share some of the ways God made you so interesting!
I found this picture from the downloads of wallpaper for my cell phone. There’s something so intriguing about it. I don’t know the artist (my apologies), but I like the picture.
First there are the two hands upon which the smaller figures stand.
Then, there are those two robe-clad figures.
All amidst a shadowing of multi-hued orange, yellows, reds… it’s full of light.
What comes to mind for me, is the words from the prophet Isaiah, chapter 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:though your sins are like scarlet,they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson,they shall become like wool.”
I just think that everyday, all around the world, in the remotest places, in the most populated places, in high-rises and little tents, people are battling the pain of family discord, political anger, unforgiveness, bitterness of soul, separation and loneliness.
When we look at the great loss of life in recent days in Syria, Ukraine and Philippines, it’s like we all just want to plead for a sense of peace and reasoning!
As depicted in the Artist’s work, the two strong hands of the Lord are reaching out pointing people to reconciliation, undergirded by His strength and direction. There’s healing to be found, if we’d just extend our hand.