Forget-Me-Not

My Kung Fu Panda is gone and I am feeling the loss.
This animated martial artist of whom I speak is a resident in the long term care community where I work. I gave Lily (not her real name) this alias. When I would wheel her to her room after exercise class, she could only use her feet to open the door; her arms had already betrayed her in the battle against arthritis. She remained a feisty and determined power house barely exceeding four and a half feet. Given the signal from behind her wheelchair, “Hi-yah, Kung Fu Panda!” she would erupt into giggles as she kicked the door open wide.
This soft-spoken widow came to live with us six years ago. With a dignity that evades many at this stage of life, she took this season in stride and with remarkable class. The only thing she was insistent upon was that her single room must replicate her former home as much as was possible. When one has to cram over eighty years-worth of memories into one room, it’s no small undertaking. Her children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren however, rose to the occasion. Lily’s room was like stepping into your own grandmother’s house, albeit a miniature version. What some people would refer to as kitsch, her choice of décor told stories of days gone by. With needle point tapestries framed alongside family photos, knickknacks and children’s art adorning the walls, potted plants lining the window sill, one could almost hear the woodstove crackling in the corner. Her very first Christmas with us, her granddaughters took to the pine tree outside her room and decked it out with larger-than-life Christmas tree ornaments that Lily could enjoy from her window on the first floor.

20171205_153202

This single room created a home-like atmosphere that would see staff go in to complete one simple task, but emerge sometimes half an hour later as the draw of both Lily and her home lured the visitor in, much like a warm blanket on a cold day.
The simplest of things brought joy to Lily. Being able to tend to her plants was one of them. How many times I caught her tottering towards the window sill to water or dead-head her plants are too numerous to mention. All I could do was ask her to be careful; she was doing what made her heart sing and who was I to quench that fire? While her family kept vigil around her bed during these last days, I recounted a story about a Lily-inspired escapade. My own memory fails me when I try to remember how we had found ourselves on the topic of “forget-me-nots”, but somehow it became a mission to find these dainty blue flowers and plant them outside Lily’s window for her to enjoy. But do you think I could find any in even the most reputable nursery or garden centre? Nope.
Confession is indeed good for the soul:
I. Stole. Some.
Enlisting the help of a friend, (ok, I wanted an accomplice) we ventured to a public park at dusk where there was a beautiful spread of these prolific blooms. With my friend keeping guard, I produced my little spade and dug furiously to free from the earth, a sampling destined for a new home. Satisfied with my excavation, I loaded the contraband into the back of my car and my partner-in-crime and I sped off into the night.
Arriving at work the next day with the spade and stolen forget-me-nots, I got right down to the business of transplanting. Lily had tears running down her cheeks as my confession of thievery unfolded. Sadly, it was only a matter of weeks before a careless grounds keeper weed-whacked her little blossoms, but the story remained long after the flowers’ demise.
In the health care profession, we are cautioned against getting too close to our charges, but remaining objective and professional. While I agree with this in theory in a general sense, compassion fatigue being the typical fall-out of not following the suggestion, I think Jesus had a different approach to caring for people and I tend to like His way better.
Jesus says to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep.” There’s something that happens when a family member sees staff openly cry over the loss of a resident. The life of their loved one is affirmed as being one of substance, value, and one that made an impact even in their final days. Their loved one was cared for AND about; their absence will be felt.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” (Colossians 3:23)
Working in long term care comes with plenty of challenges and opportunities to burn out, but when I keep my eyes on Jesus and the mandate He has set for me, I am reminded that I am doing so much more than working for a company. I am working for Him, doing the job for which He ordained me. It is not by accident that I am where I am. He has a way of highlighting a resident for me that tells me that I’m on assignment. He provides the grace, the skill and the wisdom to know what, when, where and how. He only requires a willing heart.
Lily, I believe, was one of my assignments. She entrusted me with stuff that weighed heavily on her heart; things that required prayer with her and for her, all of which she readily accepted and appreciated. There is a deep satisfaction in knowing that you helped someone tie up loose ends before they made their final departure and being assured that you will be laughing about forget-me-nots when you meet again.
The Christmas tree ornaments still adorn the tree outside the room that was Lily’s final earthly home. They’re faded and not quite so spectacular as when they were first hung, but no one has the heart to take them down. So there they will remain as a reminder of a life well lived and loved.
Yes and amen.

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Breakthrough That Came Through Eating-not Fasting

All through biblical history, we read of kings and prophets that call a fast in order to move the heart of God, petitioning Him to heal lands, people and hearts.

This still occurs today; the church body pressing in for deeper revelation, greater intimacy, and breakthrough for churches and individuals.

fasting

As I observed the somewhat discreet fasting of those around me,  I questioned my own lack of passion to do the same.  I’d heard the same message from my own pastor after all, and yet I could not be moved.

It’s certainly not because I don’t have areas in my life where a breakthrough would be most welcome, quite the opposite.  The thing is this.  I have a daughter who is acquainted with an eating disorder. She denies her body of food on a regular basis, or quickly relieves it of same when she does indulge, so to seemingly join her in this journey seemed to be ironic in the least.

I am writing this with her permission, and before the reader thinks this is going to be a sad story, let me assure you that God is in the breakthrough business. This is a good story.

I have been praying for a breakthrough in this issue for my daughter for quite some time.  I don’t call it “her bulimia” because she doesn’t own it and it doesn’t own her.  I have long since learned that a blood-bought child of the King doesn’t have to beg for healing; I call forth everything God says is mine and send the enemy packing at the first sign of intrusion.  The Lord loves a prayin’ mama because thus far, my declarations have lead my daughter to professionals whom she respects and trusts-that’s a miracle itself.

This kid is very forthright and has no problem telling anyone what she needs, wants, or requires.  So, when her dietician recommended set meal times and specific foods, she had no qualms about telling me what my role would be.

“Mom.  I need to eat at the same time everyday.  We can’t have food being prepared at different times during the day and there’s food that I just can’t even look at.  Like, you can’t even bring it into the apartment.”

I smile at her bossiness and ask if there is anything else I can do to help her. I have to reassure her that I’m serious, so she continues, “Yeah, like maybe we could eat together.  And I’ll do the cooking too.  No offence, but I’m picky.  I need to cook it the way I like; you won’t be able to make anything I’ll be able to eat.”

To some, this may sound like I’m taking orders from my kid.  Truth be known, this was an answer to prayer.  I grew up in a family that ate together, all the time.  Every dinner, without exception, you sat at your designated spot at the table at five-thirty on the dot.  A little Leave it to Beaver-esque, but it was a routine that brought us together to communicate as a family, regardless of how good we were at actually doing it.  When I was married to my children’s father, I replicated this routine.  Meals were eaten in the kitchen with the television off.  No exceptions.  When their father and I divorced, I maintained this routine in my home for as long as I could.  As our seasons of life changed, so did the dining routines.  I would watch as meals were taken behind bedroom doors, eaten in front of the television, if they were even had at all.

For my daughter to embrace eating together, to request it, to need it as part of her healing is huge.  Just to allow herself to ask for what she needs without fear of being rejected has catapulted her that much closer towards wholeness.  My belief is that the whole eating disorder issue stems from faulty wiring in one’s identity, a lack of sense of family, belonging, or simply feeling unloved.

breakingbreadSo now, I sit down at the dining room table and I eat what’s put on my plate.  Veggies.  Lots of veggies. And lots of conversation.  I will admit after months of not sharing mealtimes together, it felt a bit like a first date.  What to talk about, what not to talk about; could we even talk about the whole eating issue thingie?  I needn’t have worried.  It’s been 7 days (yes, the number of completion) and she proudly announces,

“I haven’t puked!”

I know enough to not make a big deal of it–she hates melodrama, but inwardly I’m over the moon.

I think I am experiencing the fast that is spoken of in Isaiah 58:6.  Although not denying my body  food,  I have given up the quarrelling and fighting with my daughter and together we are working at “letting the oppressed go free” and “removing the chains that bind people.”

Yes and amen.

 

 

One Last Hug

This year seems to be ending with goodbyes.

First it was my childhood home(The Last Christmas in Nowhere.  )And  now it’s a good-bye to a dear friend, Reta.

I first met Reta almost twelve years ago when she was a mere seventy-six years old.  She was a resident in the nursing home where I work.  She had moved in not because she needed care, but because she refused to be separated from a husband who did.  If he was moving in, she was too.

Years later however, her beloved Cecil passed away.  Reta moved past her grief by continuing to do what came naturally to her–loving on and caring for others.  It was difficult to do anything for her; she was so independent that you almost had to beg her to let you do the simplest of tasks for her. She certainly knew how to care for others, though.  She was a constant comfort to her fellow residents; many of whom couldn’t speak English in this multicultural care community.  She would merely hold their hand, nod at the right times and smile.  This would be enough to make them feel validated and heard, and it was enough for the family members of these residents to come back to visit her, years after their loved ones had passed on.  Reta definitely made a lasting impression.

Staff often found themselves being the ones cared for rather than the other way around.  She was “Ma” to more than just her two children; she had adopted several of us as her surrogate children and grandchildren, and you were treated as such. Good days and bad days always received the same treatment–a genuine, bone-crushing hug.    She was the keeper of secrets, the non-judgemental listener, and giver of hugs.  She was proficient at dispensing this brand of medicine and everyone got the same prescription–she was no respecter of persons.hugs-poem_1

 

Reta was the type of person you wanted to go the extra mile for.  She was the mother of two children, but with one living far away in the states, and another with health issues that made even local travel difficult, getting out for a change of scenery was next to impossible.  The rules in Long Term Care forbid staff from taking a resident out of the facility without permission. Since Reta was her own Power of Attorney, coupled with my belief that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission (in some circumstances), an opportunity to sneak out merely required  letting her kids know through a phone call that she was “busting out” for a while.  Such subterfuge made way for  the chance to go see the movie Heaven is For Real, a movie that intrigued her after having read the book.  I still remember the three of us (her surrogate son, my co-worker, was also in on the AWOL adventure) having to crane our necks in the first row, the only place available to accommodate Reta’s wheelchair, while happily munching away on buttery popcorn.  Sneaking a peek at Reta from time to time brought a smile to my face; she hadn’t been to a theatre in probably over fifty years, not since the days of her beloved Cecil courting her. This was followed by a trip to a Thai food restaurant where she laughed as she unsuccessfully tried her hand at using chop sticks. She was returned safe and sound with a wink as her accomplices silently and discreetly disappeared.

Reta was a great woman of faith, but hadn’t been able to attend a service in an actual church for years. So, another day, and another white lie later,  she was sitting in a Christian church with the two of us again.  My co-worker is Muslim, but he too, would do anything for her, including sitting through a Christian message.

As is often the story in long term care, Reta’s health began to deteriorate, but not her sharp mind and her ability to hug.  With a sense of knowing, she implored her daughter to come visit before Christmas, which she happily obliged.  While Reta did see one more Christmas,  it was to be her last.  Two days later, she was in the hospital where she would later pass. Her son wrote:

She was there for my first breath, and I was there for her last.”  

RetaS

There is something satisfying about knowing where your loved ones will spend eternity and there is no doubt in my mind where Reta is.  In a devotional in her room, she had underlined the following passage and written it out on a separate piece of paper as a bookmark,

“No one comes to the Father except through me..” (John 14:6)

This devotional found it’s way into the hand of my Muslim co-worker.  Even on the other side, she is still loving, encouraging, and hugging–and now she has help.

Rest in peace, Ma.

Yes and amen.

The Last Christmas in Nowhere

On Monday, December 25th I will be celebrating my last Christmas in my childhood home.

I knew this day was coming, and for my ageing parents, I was looking forward for them to be free of the responsibility of maintaining an entire house.  With it just being the two of them now, it made sense for them to sell.  But now that the inevitable is a reality, I am doing a bit of reflecting and discovering that This. Is. Big.

CattoHouse (2)

We moved to Nowhere when I was six years old.  I remember the first morning, looking out my bedroom window and crying.  Instead of seeing people strolling down a sidewalk as I had just a day earlier, I saw a field of bull-grass, and I thought, “Where the heck am I?  What were mom and dad thinking?!”

I was convinced that our parents were punishing us for some unknown offense.  As a youngster being taken miles (it was a 10 minute drive, or an hour on your bike if you pedalled fast) away from civilization as I knew it,  could only be seen as cruel and unusual punishment.  My young and selfish mind could not conceive of home ownership, affordability, or the fact that 5 children–7 on weekends- required space to run and play.

When I realized that begging to go home  was not going to work, I started to make peace with my new home as did my six siblings, and that’s when the adventures began.

This is going to make me sound really old.  But looking back on those days in Nowhere, I can truly say that in my day, we knew how to create our own fun; we knew how to use our imagination, and we had a unique sense of what it meant to be a good neighbour, something I have not seen since and doubt I will again .

Among my list of friends in Nowhere, was Sadie.  I first spotted her by an apple tree.  This in itself is unremarkable, but Sadie was in her eighties, and she was actually IN the tree. I decided that this made her some sort of Wonder Woman and we became fast friends, not just me, but all of us kids.  We learned that Saturday morning was her baking day and we took turns offering quality control of her baked goods- pies, crinkle cookies and fresh bread. We marvelled at her house; it was like a museum. A wood stove, a genuine feather bed, water that you had to pump to get a glass, and of course an out-house completed the Little House on the Prairie theme.

Sadie’s property spanned acres and all of it was our playground.  Building forts in the back fields, chasing the heifers back into their pasture when they got loose, and tobogganing off the mink barn roof in the winter (and knocking the wind out of your lungs in the process) was all part of our childhood.

“I’m bored!” were two words only the bravest of children would use in Nowhere.  You were quickly told to “go outside and find something to do!”  And we always did find something to do, even if the end result found us in hot water.  Attempts at relieving our perceived boredom included chasing mom around the yard with a dead mouse ( it wasn’t me–you couldn’t pay me to pick up a dead rodent), placing the skull of a dead cow on the shed roof to see how long it would take a grown-up to notice, and raiding the neighbouring apple orchard at night when the countryside should be asleep.  (Turns out that a lot of country kids got the same idea at the same time).  In the summertime, we learned that if you started hounding dad in the early morning for a trip to the beach in the afternoon, he would eventually succumb to our incessant pleading and we would pile victoriously into the car for a trip to the beach.  If his resolve was particularly strong and he couldn’t be persuaded, we still had a nearby lake that we could bike to.  As long as you weren’t squeamish around water snakes and blood suckers, a jump off the dock offered sweet refreshment after pedalling over gravel roads, dodging tractors and combines to get there.

While much of our entertainment happened in the great outdoors, the home itself was, and remains the heart beat of our family.  The little brick house was a labor of love. Originally purchased almost fifty years ago, it was definitely your fixer-upper.  Discovering the hard way that the kitchen plumbing was nothing more than garden hose, dad got an honorary diploma as a plumber.  Later he earned the titles of  painter, brick layer, carpenter, and dry waller. His determination (and stubbornness) to learn and do things himself literally saw him with broken bones, burns, and blood,  but he wouldn’t change a thing.  He could rest satisfied at the end of a hard day.

Mom was pretty talented too.  If home renos didn’t happen quickly enough, she revealed her talent as a demolition expert.  But along with her ability to de-construct, was her ability to create.  The garden that once spanned one third of the back yard, was her medium of  choice.  Out of the earth and from her hands came entire meals-as long as you were wise enough to stay out of her…..kitchen. cattoKitchen (2)

Summer dinners elicit the most mouth-watering memories for me .  Multipliers dipped in salt (multipliers are onions, for those who don’t know their varieties) cucumbers soaked in vinegar, radishes, potato salad, steamed asparagus, and tomatoes that actually tasted the way a tomato is supposed to taste.  A visit home wasn’t complete without leaving with a jar of homemade pickles, peaches, pears or salsa.  I confess I hid the dill pickles at the back of my own fridge so I wouldn’t have to share.  Confession is good for the soul.

As an adult, some trips home to Nowhere have often left me sad, glad to be heading back to the city, and others still, longing for the chance to play one more game of up-the-ladder with mom and dad at the kitchen table, sipping on a rum and coke, and then finally falling asleep in my old bedroom with only the stars in the sky to offer any ambient light.

If I have learned anything about growing up in this obscure little hamlet, it’s about remembering my roots, remembering where I came from.

Who dares despise the day of small beginnings…..? (Zechariah 4:10)

Over the last forty-four years, children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren have travelled through Nowhere on their journey through life.  Some have passed through without looking back, while others return to be refreshed, to be grounded, and to just take a break from the world.  Dad has permitted some up on the roof to repair shingles, and mom lets the odd one of us into her kitchen. We’re all learning.

As I reflect on this last Christmas in my childhood home, I’ve come to this  conclusion.  You weren’t Nowhere.  You were Everywhere and Everything, and Christmas will never be the same.

Thanks for the memories.

 

 

 

Needed: A Few Good Men

I, along with a colleague, recently spoke in a  high school in the Toronto area about violence against women and the issue of human trafficking. We were surprised to learn that much of what we were sharing was falling on virgin ears; they had no idea just how rampant the epidemic ran throughout their city, including the school system.  In Canada, 90% of victims of human trafficking were born in Canada; the age range being between 12 and 21, with the average age being 17. While aboriginal women make up one out of every two victims, there is no discrimination between rich, poor, academically advanced, nor intellectually average.  Any young woman (or man, although the prevalence is predominantly female) can be a target. These things ought not be so, people.

Part of our objective in speaking to the youth of this school was to raise awareness–and to raise the bar.  Raise the bar on responsibility for our actions/in-actions and accountability for the type of society in which we wish to live.

A round-table discussion amongst the students gave us the opportunity to eavesdrop on their conversations and really hear what was front and centre on their hearts and minds.  There was some concern as to why there was a “girls only” time allotted in the schools gym.

“Are you kidding me?” a young man said.  “Do you hear the way some of the guys talk about the girls in the gym?  The rude comments they make?  It even makes me uncomfortable.”

I couldn’t resist the opportunity to interject.

“How difficult would it be for you to speak up in a situation like that?” I asked.  “To say that those kinds of comments are inappropriate- just plain wrong?”

His face flushed as he searched for an answer.

“You men have an opportunity to be change-agents,”  I gently encouraged the group.  “While it may seem difficult at the time to speak up and be a strong voice for women now, you could very well be someone’s hero twenty years from now.  We will be remembered for the things we say and do throughout our entire lifetime.  Wouldn’t you like to be remembered for taking a stand, for being the one who said NO to violence and objectification of women?”

Three Monkeys(Portrait man)

In my recent post, Trafficked I received a comment from a passionate/compassionate blogger  who was touched by the story, but as a man, felt at a loss as to what impact he could make in the life of one of these young women.

Plenty.  Human trafficking and violence against women is not a woman’s problem.  It’s a man’s problem. As long as men believe it’s okay to  view women as a commodity to be purchased,  the focus of objectification, and the brunt of sexist jokes, human trafficking will flourish.  Prostitution has only remained “the oldest profession in the world”, because society still views it as acceptable.  Consider cigarette smoking.  Where it used to be okay to smoke inside buildings, public transit, and just about anywhere a smoker chose to light up, it is now no longer allowed.  Why?  Because society said that it wasn’t acceptable.  Laws were changed because people spoke up.

Speak up.

“You’re here to defend the defenseless, to make sure that underdogs get a fair break.  Your job is to stand up for the powerless and prosecute all those who exploit them ” 

Psalm 82:3-4 (The Message)

 

 

Men can take a lead role in seeing an end to violence and modern-day slavery. You would be the first to jump up to defend your daughter, your sister, your friend.  I know you would. Challenge the status quo. Don’t let gender-based slurs go unchallenged.  Intercede in prayer for women who go into the places where women are exploited to support these women. Mentor an at-risk male youth in your community.  Show your own sons how to respect and value women. One of the biggest indicators for young women falling prey to a trafficker is the lack of a father figure in their lives.  I would suggest that the same is true for young men who have yet to learn what it is to respect and honour women. MenSupportWomen Be a role model.

Be Jesus.

Yes and amen.

Trafficked

 

I first met Katrina on one of our monthly outreaches.  In a drunken stupor, she railed at me, “Why won’t God just let me die?” She’s tried to overdose, walked in front of cars; all to no avail.  She’s still very much alive, although her real name is not Katrina.

With courage no doubt brought on by the alcohol, she recounted a story that shattered any naiveté I may have had about the human trafficking epidemic that plagues Toronto and all of Canada.

While driving with her boyfriend (I learned that part of the victim mind set is to refer to your pimp as your boyfriend) she dared to challenge him on the new girl he’d been seeing.   Angered by her audacity to question him, he threw her out of the car in the middle of the city, leaving her with nothing.  No money, no ID, and no water, on one of the hottest days of the summer.  Afraid and tired, she stumbled wearily into a park rife with the city’s lost and broken.

“You know who actually helped me?” she asked.  “A homeless crackhead.  He gave me water, food, and bus fare to go back to my boyfriend.  Only someone who knows what it is to be looked down upon would help someone like me.”  Bitterness etched on her face, she weaved side to side in her stilettoes.

“You do know that I’m being trafficked?” she asked matter-of-factly.  HumanTraffcking

This information, is seldom, if ever offered.  It is an unspoken truth among many of these working girls.

Feeling inadequate at this point, I dared to ask, “Have you ever tried to get away from him?  Have you gone to the police?”

“I have a nine year old brother.  He’s already told me that he’ll hurt him if I ever try to leave,” she said trying to hold back her tears.  “Besides, he has my passport, my driver’s licence, everything.”

And then the moment is over.  The club’s manager barged into the change room and bellowed, “Katrina, you’re up,” signalling her turn on the dance floor.

So, how do you tell someone whose experience seems hopeless, that there IS hope?  That their life does, in fact, have purpose when their identity and every tangible piece of evidence that says that they even exist, has been stripped from them?

By showing up.  Remembering her name—not her club name, but the one her parents gave her at birth. Being persistent in your pursuit of connection.  Texting until one finally get answered and lead to a dinner together at the Keg.  One that requires training on how to safely meet up with a trafficked woman in the sex trade.  This is eye opening in and of itself.  You are given a cultural lesson on the difference between a common street pimp, and the more dangerous variety, one involved in organized crime.  Should the pimp be present when Katrina arrives at the restaurant, you’re not to be afraid to make eye contact.  He will be more afraid of you than you are of him, you’re assured.  After all, for him to show his face to a square person, he is exposing himself.  Aside from attempting some intimidation tactics such as a menacing stare-down, there shouldn’t be any issues.20160514_220038

With some semblance of confidence, you proceed.  You discover over steak and merlot that she’s just a girl- a girl with a family, a girl with a painful past.  You offer to drive her to work, as sad as it is that you’re actually driving her to a strip club, but then you laugh as she refers to you as the church lady, even more so when she learns that you, too, have a story.  Maybe not as racy as hers, but certainly one that didn’t begin in a church.  Then she stops calling you the church lady.  We become Katrina and Monica.

I am not as strong as Katrina, but then again, I don’t have to be.  I am blessed to know her, to walk alongside her, and to learn what it truly is to be strong, when it’s the only choice you have.

 

 

 

The Objector

350px-poppies_by_benoit_aubry_of_ottawa259445386.jpg

You could have put a potato peeler in his hand for the duration of the war, but you could never have convinced him to pick up a gun. 

While not as well-known as Desmond Doss, the American medic whose heroic efforts were memorialized in the movie, Hacksaw Ridge, Laurence Morton, too, was a conscientious objector who served in the Great War. 

“There’s no glory in war,” he would tell me during the many visits I shared with him, sitting in his window sill in the nursing home where he lived, listening to his stories.  “The medals are worth nothing.  The war was worth nothing.” 

This particular conversation took place during the planning stages of a pilgrimage back to the place where it all began-Vimy Ridge.   

Morty (as his friends referred to him) had been invited by Veterans Affairs Canada, to return to France to observe the eightieth anniversary of the Armistice, where he would also receive the Legion of Honour Award, France’s highest decoration for his contribution in the Great War. 

While he was excited at the prospect of seeing France during a time of peace, there were some obvious concerns, too, both physical as well as emotional. 

“I’m too old to travel,” he argued. 

“That’s kind of an eligibility requirement for this trip, Morty.  You have to be old.” 

He gave me “the look” that said I was pushing my luck with this centenarian. I gnawed on my bottom lip to keep from laughing.  I knew he would go and he knew he would as well; it was too good an opportunity to pass up.  

Without prying too much, I asked how he would feel about visiting his brother’s grave.  While Laurence had been vocal in his refusal to take another man’s life, his brother Louis, ironically, had been a sniper. He had been killed by the enemy three weeks prior to the signing of the Armistice Agreement. 

Nodding, he whispered, “I need to see him one last time. Yes, it’s the right thing to do.” 

Laurence Morton had been born in 1896 in Rat Portage, in northern Ontario.  When war broke out, he said he “prayed with heart and hand” that he could serve his country. In 1917 he headed for France. 

“We thought it would be the time of our lives,” he had told me wistfully many times.  

Unlike Doss, it didn’t appear that Morty took too much flack for being a conscientious objector.  In fact, he was revered among his comrades.  

“I remember one night in the bunk house,” he recounted.   “I was just kneeling beside my bed, praying the way I always did.  It got real quiet all of a sudden.  I looked up from my bunk, and I saw all these fellas just staring at me.” 

While definitely different than his fellow soldiers, his integrity and compassion appeared to make him stand a head taller than the rest.  They knew that he was the one to come to for support, advice, and just about anything, when in need. Apparently this included cash, when their army pay was denied.  This would happen when the soldiers would go into a brothel for a night’s entertainment and leave with a case of syphilis. 

“I always got my money back.  I was good at keeping things quiet and I didn’t judge them boys.” 

Refusing to fire a gun did not preclude Morty from hauling its ammunition for the 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion. 

Referring to gun cotton, he laughed, “I hauled that blooming stuff all over the country.  We never thought of it exploding.  If it ever blew up, they wouldn’t have had to dig a grave for me!” 

 

So, that particular Remembrance Day, I played hooky from work.  Determined to catch a glimpse of my friend, I set up on my sofa, tissues in hand, to watch the event coverage from France.  I was not disappointed.  The camera scanned the veterans, and, as if just for me alone, the camera zoomed right in on Morty, looking older than his 101 years, if that were even possible.  He suddenly appeared fragile, something I had rarely seen in this man.   

I learned later that Morty had become somewhat of a celebrity in this, his second trip to France. Being relentlessly sought out by reporters to tell his story, he learned to dodge probing questions and to answer the mundane ones with his quick wit.   

When asked by Sunday Star reporter, Laura Bobak, what his secret to long life was, he responded, “I like to breathe, as it satisfies the necessity for living.” 

Morty satisfied the necessity for living for another three years after returning home from France, but he just wasn’t the same. Wounds believed to be long-healed had resurfaced with his visit to Louis’ grave.  I couldn’t begin to surmise what thoughts were going through his mind in his last years, but I’m sure there is no glory in war was one of them.