Sunday, July 14, 2013

Shelagh Loretta Neary Mikulak - March 6, 1953, to July 14, 2013

(Photo courtesy of Shelagh's family)

"Shelagh Mikulak passed away peacefully at home this morning surrounded by the love of her family, just as she wanted. The AHS Palliative Home Care team were wonderful over the past week and, in particular, the last 2 days. Shelagh fought a valiant and courageous battle against ALS with strength and determination. I have never been more proud of anyone in my whole life. I had my hand over her heart as she took her last breath on this earth."

- Written by Shelagh's husband, Murray, on July 14, 2013. 

(Photo - Ted Rhodes, CALGARY HERALD)
This is the day we hoped would never arrive. The world has lost a unique woman today. Vibrant, courageous, unafraid to fight for what she believed was right. Her passing leaves an enormous gap in the lives of her family and her many friends. We were blessed to know her.

(Photo - Ted Rhodes, CALGARY HERALD)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kerala: "His Precious Ones"

In Dad's ministry and work he was privileged to travel with a team of some of the finest men ever to pass through the College's halls.

G.S. Nair
Joy Benjamin
Mathai Varughese

These men comprised the Kerala Gospel Team and they worked tirelessly in the villages, travelling, sleeping, eating, speaking, ministering, praying, weeping, laughing, helping the locals in whatever way they could - all in often merciless heat and what would seem to us softies today like untenable conditions.

Dad worked right alongside them. He slept on thin straw mats outside the front door of houses where the home was already too tiny for even the family that inhabited it. He ate the food that all the people ate. He drank water from wells and streams and other questionable sources.

As Mathai said in his introduction of Dad at a chapel service, "I do not know whether he travelled with us or whether we travelled with him."

He poured his life into these men, teaching, listening, discipling, counselling, leading by example. There was nothing that they could eat, nowhere that they could go, no one that they could speak to, that he too would not do the same. He stayed in their homes, was involved in their weddings, followed their progress even after the members of the team struck out on their own for different aspects of ministry.

He loved them wholeheartedly, unconditionally. He was always available to them. He showed them that the work they were called to do is a joy and a privilege, not drudgery.

Mathan, one of the next generation of these men, introduced Dad at the chapel hour a couple of years ago when we visited as "a good friend to God"

And this time when he came back home to be with them, all they wanted was be near him, to love him and to do even the slightest thing to show him how much he means to them.

GS Nair was unable to be there and, sadly, was unable to work his schedule to see Dad at all this time. But Philip and Mathai, Mathan and OJ John were there.

The following are a couple of series of pictures that capture in a slight way the depth of affection Dad and "his boys" have for each other:

Mathai introducing "my Sir" at Chapel
The first day in Chapel:

Dad going up to speak:
"These men are very precious to me"
After Chapel - Philip had traveled quite some
distance to be able to see and hear him again!
Another happy surprise - OJ John ...
Dad and the boys leaving chapel
Mathai and Dad sharing a laugh

They just wanted to make things easy for him throughout his brief visit with them. As we got to the shade of the office building, they cracked young coconut and gave us glasses of the refreshing coconut water. There is NOTHING like that coconut water on a hot Kerala afternoon ...

But what they really wanted to do was sit and talk with him. Philip came over first:

BA and Deb joined them, enjoying the stories and the reminiscing. Then they noticed that Mathai and Mathan were hovering close by, so they willingly gave up their chairs and perched on the perimeter of that close-knit circle.

Four old friends enjoying each other

We all trooped off for lunch when Dad was a little bit rested. Sadly, Philip was heading back to his place immediately after lunch, so he said a heartfelt goodbye to Dad in the cool of the dining room:

Mathai taking charge of the O2 concentrator
after chapel

The next day no one kept him chatting for too long after the coconut water was consumed - the day was extremely hot and they were concerned for their Sir's well being. They led him tenderly into the office, and there he found a bed - placed there so that he wouldn't have to climb the severely steep stairs up to the guest suite above the office - taking up the bulk of the office floor space ... They made sure he was comfortable and then everyone cleared out to allow him a few moments to rest.

When Dad arose it was time for lunch, and not a moment sooner. This day, Mathai rarely left Dad's side; and Dad didn't mind a bit.

If Dad is a good friend to God, Mathai is a good friend to Dad. In many ways he has modeled his ministry on Dad's, coming quietly alongside people and leading them by example; by quiet words of direction, correction and encouragement; by giving them his time and his undivided attention. I happened to step out on the back verandah of the college dining room to wash my hands after eating. There I saw Mathai walking with a young student, his hand on the younger man's shoulder exactly like Dad's hand had been on his as they walked together to the dining room. He was building up this man who was in fact not much more than a boy still and who had come to tell Mathai of some silly error the boy had made.

The other bond that Mathai and Dad have is an extremely rare one. Because they travelled so extensively together through the villages of Kerala, Mathai was more often than not Dad's translator when the latter preached. Dad would speak in English and Mathai would translate into the local tongue. People have said about the two of them that they were so in sync it was like one man speaking.

On the Sunday morning we were there, they asked Dad to preach at the local church. Mathai was right next to him to translate; there was no question that it would be he who stood next to his Sir that morning. The clip below is just shy of 12 minutes long. In the first five minutes Mathai introduces Dad to the congregation in words so tender and heartfelt that my heart was filled to bursting point; and as Dad responds just before he begins the sermon, my heart overflowed.

The message went on for close to an hour - rather short for what they are used to! - and people were blessed and challenged and moved by what they heard. The presence of God was very real that morning in that simple, humble church building with the raw, uneven concrete steps and the dog barking incessantly outside.

As they were leaving, Dad looked over at where Mathai was standing and, with a smile in his eyes and lurking at the corners of his mouth, he commented: "It was like we have never parted ..."

From 2012: Dad with some of his boys - and Debbie, the daughter of GS Nair, one of his original boys, who has also entered the ministry and teaches at the college!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

O Canada!

Where it all started: Bapa & Nana Ironside's
little house on the prairie
O Canada!
Our home and native land!

The road back ...

True patriot love in all thy sons command ...

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

A new entry for Montreal's Canada Day parade
(Graham Hughes / Canadian Press)
God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand 
on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Canada Day in the badlands

O Canada! Where pines and maples grow.
Canada Day at the ball park: Toronto beats Detroit,
8-3! (Mark Blinch / Reuters)
Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow.

How dear to us thy broad domain,
From East to Western sea.

Part of my sister's volunteer clean-up crew (CIRONSIDE)
Pumping out the water

Thou land of hope for all who toil!
Thou True North, strong and free!






God keep our land 
glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard 
for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard 
for thee.

O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies


May stalwart sons, 
and gentle maidens, rise

To keep thee steadfast through the years
From East to Western sea.

Carswell's Academic team on the
evening we gathered to honour Bruce:
PQ, ON, AB represented
Our own beloved native land!
Our True North, strong and free!

Twelve hours old ...

Landmark on the road to Hanna

Ruler supreme, who hearest
humble prayer,
Hold our Dominion in
thy loving care;

Help us to find, O God, in Thee a lasting, rich reward,

Helping the helpers ...
(Both pictures CIRONSIDE)

As waiting for the better Day, We ever stand on guard

God, keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

All will be well ...