Monday, October 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Month, Day 23: Giant in a Leather Jacket

You see their ranks growing smaller each time you attend a funeral in Three Hills. Here are some of them who have already left:

Mr Erickson

Mary Pettifer

Donna Thompson

Wilf Watson

Norline Rendall

Leona Davidson

Martha Wunsch

Kay Enns

Marion Warnock

Gordon Ironside

Patricia Christeen O'Halloran Ironside

There are many others, of course, quiet giants in the Christian walk of life and prayer warriors in the town of Three Hills. And as the bell tolls for each of them, as the cars wend their solemn blinkered way out to the graveyard in bleak procession, the sound gets a little fainter, a little weaker, down here on earth: the sound of voices being lifted to God for loved ones, for friends, for the community, for the country, for the world.

There is a voice that continues still, albeit a little more frail these days. That voice came into Nilgiris yesterday afternoon and there was nothing frail about it: "I'm not wearing my leather jacket - I guess it's safe for me to come in?!"

Tony Hanson!

I can't claim the privilege of knowing Tony for a long time or very well; but every encounter I have had with him has been memorable. Our acquaintance started when he came to the TH with his girls shortly after his wife had passed away. He was wearing a black leather jacket.

"Nice jacket," I commented, patting his arm.

"You can't have it," he responded, eyes twinkling. "My dear wife gave it to me and when I wear it I feel close to her."

"Well, then, you'd better not take it off in here!" I laughed, and moved on to another table.

He came in a couple of months later, wearing his jacket. "Would you like me to hang up your jacket?"

"Will I get it back?" he retorted, not missing a beat but putting his leather-clad arm around me in a hug.

He was not a frequent guest at the TH - "mobility is what keeps me away," he told me once - but every time we spoke, either here or when we would greet one another at one of the funerals of a friend of his and Dad's, we would banter about the jacket. And I always felt, especially at a funeral, that it was his way of acknowledging his dear Esther's presence.

The reason I got to meet Tony in the first place was because of Mum and Dad. Tony used to conduct the Tuesday morning Bible study at the Robertson Manor; when he felt it was getting too much for him, he recruited Dad to take his place. Then when Mum started to get frailer I would go along to help out by playing the piano or doing whatever I could do. Now it's my regular gig on a Tuesday morning when I'm in town.

Tony and my Dad have great affection and respect for each other. Each have traversed through deep waters, but each are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt of the unchanging love and goodness of God, no matter how turbulent the waters or how desperate the situation.

At my Mum's funeral, Tony came and wrapped his arms around Dad. "You know, Allan," he said in his gentle, quiet voice, "She is with God. And God is with us. So she's not very far away." 

These words, almost above all others, have offered Dad and all of us such comfort in the time since that day.

Yesterday his daughter Sheila and his grandkids brought him into the TH. Pecan pie with ice cream - what else was new?! Why did I bother to go through the list?! - and some tea is what he chose. They sat at the table named the Island (because no man is ...) and the deep love between the three generations was apparent.

I tried not to interrupt; but there are some people who I just want to be near, whose presence I want to absorb as much as I can when I have the chance. Tony is one of those people, so I hovered around him more than I should have.

When they were ready to leave, he stopped for a few words with me as his family waited in the entrance way.

"The Lord bless you and this place," he began. "... I'm happy where I am, but I do miss this place." I made some comment as to how I go to that Bible study now and how we pray for him regularly on Tuesday mornings. "I don't know how much use I am any more," he said a little wistfully.

"Well, my Dad quotes someone who said that we are indispensable until our work is done," I replied to him. "You're still here, so clearly your work is not done yet ..."

He chuckled a little bit and stood up a bit straighter: "Your Dad's a wise man. And he's right - there's still work to be done!"

As he left that afternoon, I had his benediction ringing in my ears; I said a little prayer of thanks for this gentle giant of a man whose life has touched and influenced so many for good.

And I wonder when he wears his leather jacket if he reminds himself of the thought he shared with my Dad that bittersweet afternoon in September, knowing that some day soon his own reunion with his beloved will be complete and he'll no longer need to wear the coolest leather jacket ever to enter the TH because the one who gave it to him will be with him, never to part, and they will all - as they say in fairy tales, though this one will be true - live happily ever after.


  1. oh goodness, karyn.

    the tears come faster with each of your posts - and this one hits so close to home.

    your beautiful spirit shines brighter with each day of thanksgiving.

  2. Thank you Karyn for this tribute to my dear Dad. We both have such an amazing legacy in our parents. SO much to be thankful for! This reminder was just so perfect. I sent the link to all my family so that they could read and cry with me too..

    Bless you my friend!

  3. This is so beautiful Karyn! I have enjoyed reading each of your thanksgiving days but this especially touched my heart.

  4. What beautiful words you have spoken of the greatest man I have known thank you so very much we love and cherish grandpa very much! Grandparents are precious gifts from God!


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