Posts Tagged ‘Memorial’

Dave Brubeck has passed away at the age of 91.

Fifty years ago I watched the Dave Brubeck Quartet play “Take Five” on television and though at 8 years old I wasn’t sure why, I knew this music was different; mostly, I suppose, because of my parents reaction. There was just something about jazz. It would be some years before that seed would grow into a personal love for jazz, but grow it did, and Dave Brubeck was always there watering and feeding the music within me.

In 1991 Dave Brubeck and the Quartet flew to Moscow to meet and perform with Russian jazz masters and to perform his jazz mass “To Hope” with the Russian National Orchestra. The DVD of the documentary of that trip is the most played DVD in my house. It is a true mass, celebrating the Lord’s supper, in remembrance of his sacrifice.

In honour of his life and passing I present this clip of my favorite part of the mass.


I’ll tell you up front, this is the same post as I placed on my Java and Jesus blog two days ago. I Just felt I needed to post it here as well. The subject seems appropriate for this venue. For me it’s a pretty black and white issue….

I had fully intended to write the next episode of ‘Exploring the Kingdom Gospel” this week, but then something unexpected happened. Late Wednesday night a man walked out of a local bar, got into his truck and drove off. Because he was drunk, instead of taking the on-ramp to Hwy 6 south, he took the off ramp and wound up driving south in the North-bound lanes. A few minutes later he drove head on into a car, killing the driver. That driver was a wonderful young woman named Anna Graham.

I first met Anna about a year ago. Her uncle asked me to work on a production of “Death of a Salesman” that he was directing for Guelph Little Theatre. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and Anna was no small part of it. Anna, along with Anthony “Pooch” Brown, was designing the lighting for the production. You didn’t have to watch her work for long to know that this woman not only knew what she was doing, she enjoyed it immensely and had a real gift for creativity. You also didn’t have to watch for long to see just how proud her uncle, my friend Lloyd, was of her.

And now she’s gone!

As you scan the status lines of her friends on Facebook you can see the range of emotions. One person “is sad“, another “is numb“, one more is “trying to come to terms.” The most vocal of the lot is “Really mad….and hurt…and not understanding why this life has to be so f**kin unfair!!!” (the asterisks are mine). I know how he feels. I felt the same way when James died a year ago (I wrote about it here.). But somehow, I don’t feel the same pain about Anna, not the same way.

I know part of the reason is the simple fact Anna and I weren’t as close as James and I were. It’s no reflection on Anna; we worked together on ‘Salesman’ and then went our separate ways, her to her circle and me to mine. Most of the pain I feel is for her uncle Lloyd. Him I do consider a friend, and as both actor/director and human being, have a great deal of respect and admiration for the man. I can only imagine what he is going through. He’s never far from my thoughts.

But the biggest difference in this case is there was some good to be found in Jame’s death. He had been sick for a long time. In many ways his passing was a relief. His suffering is over and the spiritual part of me can at least begin to wrap my head around the idea that God decided it was for the best.

But in Anna’s case this logic does not apply. The hard cold fact is Anna died because someone couldn’t find anything better to do with a Wednesday night than get drunk watching naked women dance on stage. And even that might not matter except he then compounded things by making the selfish decision to drive himself home, and no one, not the bartender, not the servers, not his friends, nor the big burly guy at the door took the necessary steps to stop him. Anna is gone because human beings made selfish and wrong choices! Plain and simple!

Do I sound like I’m ranting? Of course I am. I’m angry! Because the simple fact is THIS IS WHY WE NEED GOD!!

Every day on the news and in other media I hear people trying to tell me how outmoded a concept God is. How human beings don’t need some invisible being in the sky, they are quite capable of conducting their own affairs. Morality is a flexible concept and changes from day to day, what’s good for you is bad for me, etc. etc. etc. Religion is no longer required because we can run our own affairs quite nicely thank you.

But the fact is, human beings, generally speaking, as a species, are no where near smart enough, wise enough, deep enough or insightful enough to be their own moral compass. When push comes to shove each of us, left to our own devices, will make a decision based not on the common good, or the welfare of others, but on our selfish wants and desires. The only hope for us is to have a moral guide that comes from outside of ourselves. A culture of accountability which holds us personally responsible for our actions on a level above and beyond the human trappings of law and order. This is the role religion fulfills.

And before you get started on the evils of organized religion, let me say it’s not the institution of religion I’m talking about. Rather it is the ground level, day-to-day belief that God is watching, and that someday we will have to face Him one-on-one and He will say, “Explain it to me again why you were a complete and total moron” – or words to that effect. For thousands of years the love for and fear of God has kept human beings from acting out of selfish motives and inspired us to think twice before we act, even if the only reason is the slim possibility that if we don’t behave we might find ourselves spending eternity roasting on a spit over a lava-fed barbecue. Though personally I have always suspected the lake of fire in Revelation is a metaphor for something far worse.

I know – I’m preaching. I’m taking advantage of Anna’s death to get on my soapbox and call down fire and brimstone. Well, I make no apologies for it. I’m not trying to be comforting, I’m trying to stop this kind of thing from happening the only way I know how.

I know full well that if it were not for the work of God in my life, I could well be that same moron getting drunk watching naked women dance. Or possibly something much worse. This is why Jesus came to earth as a child and sacrificed himself as a man – to save us from ourselves. To give us an option other than hopelessly trying to be our own moral compass. He is God’s response to our insistance on doing things our own way.

The hard cold fact is that this world is the way it is because human beings, collectively and individually, have said “Sorry God, we don’t need you any more. We are totally capable of making our own decisions. We are the captains of our own fates. Thanks for all your help in the past – we’ll take it from here.” And like it or not – this fractured, faulty, unfair world we live in is the result. I don’t like it either, but that’s the way it is.

The good news is this; when we said that, God responded by saying, “Fine. Have it your way. But when it all falls apart, when the unfairness of it all gets to you and you just can’t take it any more – please, please, PLEASE! Come crying back to Me and I promise – I WILL HELP YOU GET THROUGH IT!”

Good-bye Anna.

Shalom everyone.

Goodbye Old Friend

Posted: October 24, 2007 in Personal

I’ve been stalling on writing this one for a while now. I’ve even considered not writing it at all. But the need to write about it is not subsiding in the least. So here goes…

Two weeks ago Roberta and I had to put our cat, Remington, to sleep. You never fully realize just how much these small furry creatures infiltrate every corner of your life until they are no longer there. It’s been two weeks and I still wake up every morning wondering why Rem isn’t sitting on the landing outside our bedroom waiting for me to get up and feed him. It only takes a second to remember why. The heart sinks, and I wonder how long before I stop forgetting he isn’t there.

I’ve had three cats in my life and Remington is by far the most human of the lot. I know, we all tend to anthropomorphize to one degree or another, but Remington was scary sometimes.

From the beginning this Siamese/Russian Blue/Manx cross just did not behave like other cats I’ve had. He loved to play fetch, chasing a small nut and bolt wrapped inside a plastic baggy till my arm wore out. He had this almost human need to be around people, never aloof like other cats. Wherever we were – he was.

His penchant for conversation was enough to make you wonder about reincarnation. The most bizarre example of this was after his evening meal. He would wander over to the patio door and then look out into the back yard expounding to the neighbourhood about Lord knows what for about five minutes. I’m not talking a few meows here – I’m talkin’ full blown sentences made up of meows, mews, grunts, purrs, and other all too human sounding syllables complete with syntax, inflection and identifiable punctuation marks!

For over 15 years, from when he was just a kitten of seven weeks, my wife and I have been blessed with his companionship. He warmed our laps and our hearts, filling the quiet moments with the sound of laughter and contentment – ours.

Thank you Remington. You are greatly missed.

A Call to Remember

Posted: January 13, 2007 in History

I’m currently involved in a production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (I’m one of the ‘techie’ guys) and I have to tell you it’s been a great experience. Today was the high point of the process so far. There’s a step in the process called “polishing” in which an person who has not been a part of the production is invited to make observations, comments, offer advice, and in a word, help to “polish” the performance. Today I was thrilled to watch as R.H. Thomson, a great Canadian actor, held our polishing workshop at Guelph Little Theatre. It was one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had, watching as Thomson worked and reworked scenes with the members of our cast.

As great as it was to sit in on this experience, it’s not the workshop I want to tell you about. it’s what he had to say after the workshop I want to share with you.

April 2007 marks the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The monument to this event will be rededicated this year in France as part of the ceremonies marking the anniversary. To acknowledge the event here in Canada R.H.Thomson has initiated “The Words from Vimy Project.” Full details are available at the projects web site, but in a nutshell what they are seeking to do is hold a virtual role call of the Canadians that fought in that battle, many of whom lie buried on that very site.

To do this the project is seeking to contact the families of all the men who fought at Vimy Ridge. With the family’s permission, pictures, letters, personal thoughts and reflections, and comments by the surviving relatives will be collected and digitized to create a narrative of the Battle of Vimy Ridge using the words of young men who were there. This archive will allow Canadians to not just remember that so many young men gave their lives in April 1917, but to connect individually with many of the 97,000 Canadians who took part.

So if you are the relative of someone who fought at Vimy Ridge, or know someone who is, I ask you on behalf of the project (with R.H.Thomson’s permission) to contact the project and discuss with them having your relative’s memories added to the archive. You can link to either this blog or the project itself.

Help create a lasting and very personal memorial to these brave young men.

It should be noted that this is not RH Thomson’s first foray into the virtual world. Click on this link to read an article on his involvement with Canada’s Virtual War Memorial.

Lest We Forget

Posted: November 6, 2006 in History, Politics
Tags: , ,

Each November we see a wide variety of things come to light that are intended to help us remember the men and women who have given their lives in the service of their country. Some of these are good and honourable ideas, others are just attempts to cash in on the emotions that run high at this time of year. Every once in a while however an idea surfaces that is an unqualified ‘ one of ‘ that makes you sit up and take notice. Today, I came across such an idea.

There are three Canadians left alive who served during the First World War. They are: 105-year-old Dwight (Percy) Wilson (shown in photo getting a kiss from his grand-daughter on his 105th birthday) and Lloyd Clemett and John Babcock, both 106. They are the last remaining links to the 619,636 Canadians who served between 1914 and 1918. Soon, when they too have passed on, there will be no one left to say, “Thank You” to from that terrible time in our history.

The Dominion Institute has suggested that when the inevitable day comes that the last of Canada’s WWI veterans passes, they should, on behalf of all the 66, 655 Canadians who died in service to their country during that war, be given a formal state funeral. I fully agree.

The passing of the last WWI veteran will, in fact, mark the passing of a generation, even an era. We should do all we can to make sure that their sacrifice does not fade from memory. To give the last veteran a state funeral as a significant tribute to every soldier who died in WWI is by all means a very fitting act. I hope you agree as well.

I am therefore asking you to join with me in asking our federal government to do just that. There is an online petition available to be signed at . You may well have heard about this on the news by now, so what I have written here is not news. Some of you have already signed and for that I thank you. If you hadn’t please take a moment to click on the link above and do so. You will receive a verification email that requires you click another link to verify your email address is a valid one. The whole process takes only a few minutes.

The passing of the last Canadian WWI veteran will only happen once in our entire history. Let’s make sure it is an event that is well remembered.


It’s Not Fair

Posted: June 10, 2006 in Personal

It’s been two months since I last wrote anything here. I know it’s an over-used excuse to say that I have been busy, but the fact is — I have. What I’ve been busy with I may talk about some other time but for now I just need to write something. Let me explain.

In my 50 years I have had the privilege of knowing many of the souls that populate this world; some great, some not so great, some good, some bad. This week one of the gentlest souls I have ever known was taken to be with the God he loved so much. I have often heard the Lord described as “gentle Jesus meek and mild”, but I never had a clear picture in my mind of what that phrase meant until I met James. My first reaction to the news of his death was simply, “IT’S NOT FAIR!”

I know, I’m a Christian. I’m supposed to believe that God has a plan and since so many have been praying for James for so long and this is the result then this must be part of that plan. And let me say that I do believe that – truly, I do; but I still find I want to stand in the night, facing into the wind, and scream at the sky, “God, your plan is not fair!!

It’s not fair because it doesn’t include James healed of his cancer and out of his wheelchair walking with the people he loves. It’s not fair because it doesn’t include James and his wife Loo Sar holding each other and looking towards the future. It’s not fair because it doesn’t include James watching his little girl Angie grow up and graduate and get married and make him a grandfather. And God forgive my selfishness, but the biggest reason it’s not fair is it doesn’t include my spending more time with him, getting to know him better than I do, and continuing to learn the art of gentleness from a man who had mastered it so well.

How do I justify such a childish attitude when I’m supposed to be a man of faith?

Simple. I may be a man of faith, but I am also still a child – a child of God. And like a child sometimes I just don’t understand why life has to be so unfair. When I was physically a child my father must have heard me whine, “It’s not fair!” a thousand times or more. Sometimes he would tell me that life wasn’t supposed to be fair. Sometimes he’d tell me I would understand when I was older. But the time that stands out most in my mind was when my dog ‘King’ died.

King was a white Siberian Husky and I loved him a lot. One day he got out of the yard and was run over by a truck. I remember crying for what seemed like hours and looking into my father’s eyes and saying, “It’s just not fair!” He looked back at me and said, “You’re right, it isn’t fair, but there’s nothing I can do. For whatever reason, this is the way things are and I can’t change it. I’m sorry!”

These days, whenever someone whom I’ve been praying for dies, I remember my Dad saying those words to me. I also remember how helpless he looked that day. It was then I realized that there were some things my Father couldn’t fix.

Now I can imagine what some of you are thinking. “Dennis, this isn’t much of a comfort. There’s nothing God can’t fix, after all – He’s God! He’s not limited like your Father was.”

You’re right of course, God is all powerful. But this isn’t about God, it’s not even really about James and unanswered prayer. It’s about me.

It’s about me learning to live with the fact that just like my Father there are some things that I just can’t fix. There are things in life that even with the power of prayer I cannot control. That, for whatever reason, this is the way things are and I can’t change it! It’s about me and every other Christian coming to grips with the fact that we don’t know everything. I don’t know why James wasn’t healed. I don’t know why James had to die. The only thing I do know is there has to be a reason. And since it is God’s reason it’s probably a good one, though I can’t for the life of me imagine what it might be.

So, there is nothing for me do but cry for my loss, reach out as best as I can to others who will miss James, and take comfort in the fact that his suffering is now over. He is, I believe, pain free, out of his wheelchair walking with Jesus in the garden, learning even more about being gentle from the gentlest man who ever lived.

Goodbye James.
Catch up with you later.
Say hello to Ignatius for me.