015_HaroldDettweiler_portraitat29On Wednesday morning, the day of Dad’s funeral service, I woke early and went downstairs with my iPad to write out my eulogy in full. A search for the words of the verse I had gone to bed meditating on turned it up in Psalm 116:15. I have a developed preference for quoting complete passages of scripture, whenever possible, and I saw that this Psalm had both several All-Star verses (the type we might highlight) and had an overall theme which is more than compatible with describing the life experience of one who “calls on the Lord”. I decided early to read the Psalm in Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” version, not because it is any stronger or says more what I’d like to say in that version but because I know my weakness and how I can become incapable of continuing to speak when Scripture slays me with its “sharper than a two-edged sword” nature. Eugene Peterson uses different words and perhaps I thought that these words would be somewhat duller to my emotions. So there I was, in a different way than usual, using the words of Scripture for my purposes.

I am a fan of historical fiction, especially when the writer has done his or her research. Much of the time that I spent sitting in Dad’s room at A.R. Goudie I needed no more occupation than to think about dad’s life. In my eulogy, I tie the dated photo [January 1948] of dad with 120 other students at Kitchener Bible School with a note that dad wrote about his “first job” which included milking Uncle Norman’s cows besides their own. When he wrote that he would hitch up the horse to the sled in the winter and head across the fields in the morning I had a romantic image that I just couldn’t resist. It is quite probable, now that I’ve done a quick Google of Howard Dettweiler’s birth year, that Dad was referring to his chores circa 1936, when he, as a 14 year-old, would be more capable of hand-milking cows than 7 year-old Howie, Uncle Norman’s only son. But a little compression of a lot of chore-doing between 1936 and 1948 is only taking a tiny bit of poetic license.

some of Kitchener bible school January 1948 studentsAmong the witty one-liners that Dad so often used in Karen’s biographical exercise book to avoid the hard work of filling out the facts, there are, in fact, a few interesting facts. It is recorded that Dad made Mom’s acquaintance (for the first time?) when he was invited to Cecil Mader’s Sunday dinner (dad’s employer from 1943 through to 1946) along with the [all-girl] Arthur Hachborn family who went to the same Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church in Breslau as the Maders. Mom verified [in a phone call today] that this would have been when she was 15 or 16 years old. I said in the eulogy that Hitler delayed dads life, but that God uses for good what was intended for evil. I’ve no doubt that Harold took note of the young woman, Margaret, on that Sunday dinner in 1943. I can imagine him contemplating if God was beginning to call him to the church that in 1947, after the war, changed its name to the “United Missionary Church”. A girl hardly 16 is much too young to be a wife, however, and Mom was busy boarding in Kitchener to continue her education at K.C.I. The next we hear of Dad and Mom is Christmas of 1948 when the youth groups join to go carolling. Margaret is now 20 years old and Harold is not going to miss his opportunity to drive Margaret home and begin a 4 year courtship.

When I read the eulogy based on Psalm 116, I finished with an uninterrupted reading of verses 16 through 19. Bear in mind I was expecting to have difficulty delivering this eulogy without choking up and being unable to speak. Carol and I had prayed that I would be able, contrary to many previous experiences, to overcome my emotions, so often brought on by the word of God, and deliver this to the end. By the grace of God I had reached this point without any tears or debilitating emotion and, I must say, I was rather elated. It could be that I stretched my hands in the air as I read with the psalmist “Oh God, here I am, your servant”. Afterwards at least one person described my delivery as being “like a Pentecostal preacher”. I must say that careful listeners might have noted that I did ask that they consider these last words of Psalm 116 as the “theme song of Dad’s life”. As I entered into the character of my father addressing these words to the Lord, I just don’t see him doing it with nonchalance or with his hands in his pockets. This is not a kid struggling through a scripture passage and missing the meaning of the words. I know I get a lot of practice, singing in a gospel choir, but Dad will seize the moment when he stands before his creator and he will break forth with all the emotion that God gives him and give praise, give blessing to God.

My life goes on in endless song
above earth’s lamentations.
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it’s music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

Life when busy

It is my 55th birthday weekend….and what a weekend is planned!!!!  We didn’t plan it this way because it is my birthday, but, this is definitely my idea of how to celebrate a birthday!

I’m giving myself 2 more minutes to write this blog post….so here is the weekend plan.  I told myself that I would start putting together the merchandise for the Jireh concert today in Sainte-Genevieve.  That’s on the island of Montreal so it is a home-game type of affair.  Around 9am, I should pick up the drum shield from Steve’s music. Sometime in the afternoon we’ll have the various |Jireh CD’s and the Get Up t-shirts and my wardrobe (intermission change of look – I sincerely love that, because ‘au fond’ I am a true blue performer and performers do multiple wardrobe changes during the same show) and the Jireh banner for the merchandise table and (have I forgotten anything?), oh yes, there is Carol, my wife and director of Jireh Gospel Choir.

Thinking of Carol, she would find it SPOT ON if I would suggest, maybe around noon today, that we stop what we are doing and pray for the concert today in Sainte-Genevieve and for the second part of the birthday mad weekend which is a Black History Month concert in Burlington, Vermont with Montreal Gospel Choir.  We have much to pray about, you can see.  We want to do the choir thing well – both choirs.  Do well in our interactions within the choir and in our brief but important relationship performing before an audience.

So, there will probably be a cake or two on my choir extravaganza 55th birthday weekend, but the thing that will make it so special is that at 55, I will be celebrating with people I love doing something that is such a big part of my life, something that I LOVE doing and that gives my life fulfillment and purpose.

More on this weekend, later – perhaps a resumé of highlights when I return from Vermont on Sunday evening!


engagement rose

The roses at my local-preferred flower shop, Florateria on des Pins in Montreal, are magnificent and fittingly they have names to inspire the imagination.  “Engagement” did that for me.  It brought to mind the time, 19 years ago, when I had entered into an engagement for life together with Carol Bernard.  Such good memories of being on the edge of a permanent life change and enjoying every anticipatory moment.  I had to buy the rose – it had singular beauty, one was the only appropriate number, five or a dozen would only diminish the glory.

In the months between the day when Carol accepted my proposal and the the day we married we searched out and found a home that will most likely be the only place we will ever need to call home.  We didn’t know just how perfectly it would fit with our future lives.  I knew at the moment that I carried our first Christmas tree two blocks home from the supermarket that I would enjoy bringing my country ways home to our condo in the city.

Engagement rose on dining tableOur engagement to each other has, from our very first moments together, always included the engagement to a joint “projet de société” of being in, about and all through a gospel choir.  As friends, we began Jireh together out of being brought together in Union United Church Gospel Choir.  The years added River’s Edge Gospel Choir and then Montreal Gospel Choir.  This Sunday, that last choir and its’ 90-some singers will be blowing the lid off of the church that Carol and I call home.  We didn’t imagine something big like that when we began our life together but with God life has been ordered, blessed and the kind of thing you could describe in the most positive words the prophet Jeremiah can muster, “a future and a purpose”.

Step of Faith

Ted_Carol_withbananatree_croppedI love this picture from June of 1997 because I love the woman next to me, who, inconceivable to her as this photo was taken, would become my wife within 6 months time.

Marriage might be the biggest step of faith that a human-being takes.  Compared to the step of faith of believing in God, marriage is deciding that you are going to link your future to a person that you have only recently become acquainted with. God, on the other hand, if you believe what I believe, had initiated a relationship with you and was absolutely committed to you from the moment you were conceived.  You became aware of his existence years after God knew about you and then you decided for any one of many great reasons that you would link your future to God.  It’s one small step for man, but it seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable step to take to commit to someone who has known you as long as you were.

Even if you married the girl next door, at some point you took a risk in thinking that if you lived a little closer together it would make for a better relationship.

For my beautiful Carol, the man with the perfectly contented grin next to her might turn out to be so perfectly full of himself that he wouldn’t give the appropriate time-of-day every day to developing his relationship with her.  That happens in marriage.  Marriage relationships are work – who is to say that this grinning man wouldn’t turn out to be too lazy to do that work?

I love this picture because that girl with her both feet standing on a hot driveway next to me took that step of faith in me and it is turning out fine.  So fine!