Monthly Archives: February 2013

bye, wally

ok, i’m ready.

a couple of blog posts back i said i wasn’t ready to talk about my friend, wally.  i am now.

wally looked like he had been a handsome man at some point in his youth, but age, addiction and cancer had robbed him of that.  his sunken eyes and cheeks spoke to his sickened state better than any other feature on his dying body.  i’ve seen pictures of holocaust survivors in concentration camps that looked healthier than he did.

one day wally asked me for a new pair of pants.  i grabbed the key and we went up into the donations rooms to find him something.  since he didn’t own a belt, we tried to find pants that fit him snug.  we couldn’t.  he was too skinny.  it was then that it hit me how sick wally was.

i apologized for not being able to find him a pair of pants that fit but wally just shrugged it off and told me not to worry.  the dirty and torn jeans he had on would have to suffice.  i offered to find a pair at the clothing store down the street but he wouldn’t have anything of it.  he shook my hand, thanked me for my time and left.  his hands were bony and cold.

there are some memories that always stay with you.

on one overnight shift i was able to sit and talk with wally about his life.  he had not had an easy go at life by any stretch of the imagination, but, as he told me, ‘other people have had worse lives’.  i wasn’t sure then and i’m still not sure now whether he said that to comfort me or himself.  possibly both.

chemotherapy was wrecking his body, inside out.  the cancer he had was an aggressive type so the doctors were meeting it with equally aggressive therapy.  and there was wally stuck in the middle, his frail body barely holding up under such horrendous conditions.

drinking alcohol numbed the pain, he told me.  he didn’t care that it made things worse.  he was going to have as much fun with his friends as he could before he passed into the next life.  his immune system could just suck it up, he told me.

ha!

wally coughed up blood and i panicked slightly.  i think he saw the worried look on my face as he wiped the bloody spit from his lips.

‘don’t worry about it, lucas.  i’m fine’.

he wasn’t fine but the way he said it almost made me believe him.  his voice carried such warmth and care.  the type of voice that puts you at ease.  i wanted to believe him so badly but i knew the cancer had him in a bad way.

‘do you even want to beat cancer?’

i regretted asking it as soon as the words left my mouth.  how insensitive could i possibly be?

‘on most days, no.’

silence.

after a few moments, he continued:

‘i think i’m ready to die, lucas.  i’ve dealt with a lot of pain in my life and i think when i die the pain will end.’

i haven’t talked death so frankly with anyone in my life like i did with wally that night.

‘but, there are some days when i’m with good people – my friends, what remains of my family and relatives – that i gain more strength to want to fight and live longer.’

‘conversations like the one we are having right now, lucas, they give me more strength and desire to keep pushing forward’.

with that, he shook my hand and limped his way to his bed,  blessing me beyond any words could ever describe.
thanks, wally.  i hope your pain is gone now and you are finally at rest.

rip wally

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the struggle

i’m lenting right now.

i decided to participate in lent again. the past two years this season has brought about some well-needed spiritual growth so i figure i have to let it ride and see how deep i can go.

i’m not giving up food or booze or tv or chocolate or anything. instead, i’ve decide to spend more time meditating and praying, something i have always struggled with.

toughest obstacle so far: my forgetfulness.

i quickly forget that i’m meditating on a passage from scripture i’ve read purposefully for meditation. i forget that in the midst of all the activities of my life i can still pray and offer up my thankfulness.

i know why monks go live in monasteries now. it’s much easier to work through and focus on spiritual disciplines when there aren’t as many distractions around. no gadgets to text, tweet and check stats on. no movies, sitcoms, tv series and video games to visually consume.

and consume we do. more and more and more.

i really, really don’t want to be a consumer anymore. i’m underwhelmed by the consumer way of life. it doesn’t deliver. their lies are desperate actions to keep us distracted with things that don’t matter. if we get that car or the girl or the latest smart phone or the big house or the big job or (insert another lie), etc, etc, ad nauseum.. we will be happy, as if happiness is the pinnacle of our existence.

it’s not, no matter how many people and marketing campaigns try to tell us different. we were created for some thing much larger than to worship ourselves, which it becomes when we make our personal happiness the top of the mountain.

instead, let’s focus our attention outwards. let’s focus on the community and loving our neighbors. instead of ‘friending’ people on facebook and complaining that our neighbors aren’t more like us, let’s get out from behind the computer and engage our local community.

so here is to less online friendship and more of the real thing. here is to less complaining that our neighbor is this or that and loving them regardless. a good friend of mine used to always tell me she would rather ‘kill someone with kindness’ than get caught up in all the other externals that often just lead to our hearts becoming weighed down by anger, bitterness and unforgiveness.

sound advice.

i’m tired of being distracted by the things that don’t really matter. are you in the same boat?

if you feel like reading my journey through lent, check out my other blog here.

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ashes to ashes

‘pick three items, lucas’.

he was already up off the couch and heading towards the kitchen.  this is dave at his best.

after street soccer on sunday night, dave came over to hang out for a bit.  he’s not living in the best of neighborhoods at the moment and as much time spent away, the better.  we debate whether or not it’s better than him living at the shelter.  the shelter was recently shot up.  7 rounds into the front of the building in a drive-by.  we side with his present location but have started apartment hunting again.

dave is an incredible cook.  everything he has ever made me to eat has been nothing less than amazing.  everything.  and he can do it with next to nothing in the kitchen.  he thrives off of making tasty dishes with as little as possible.  i think its his game.  it’s a fun game when you’re the one eating good food.

dave teaches me a bit about cooking.  he believes cooking is really easy and attempts to convince me of his truth.  after 10 minutes im pretty sure i can cook just as well as him.  power of persuasion takes another one down.

1o  minutes later we are eating a delicious meal.  kat and i compliment dave as we scarf down his recent creation.  he humbly brushes it off likes it’s nothing.  he picks up my guitar and starts playing some of his original licks.  he’s a good musician, too.

good times.  community at it’s finest.

dave has been making it more of a habit to come hang out.  i like that.  in the past, dave would disappear from months on end.  when you work with guys on the street it plays with your mind when your friends disappear for a while.  you dont know if they’re dead or alive.

the longer you do not hear from them, the deeper your fears become.

i hope dave keeps this habit up.

 

i lost another one of my friends back in east van last week.  wally had a lot of health problems when i first met at first united, constantly in and out of the hospital.  he had a very gentle spirit about him and a calming voice.  he always looked on the bright side of things, aware of but not willing to settle for the darker side of reality.

every time i asked wally how he was doing, he always answered ‘copasetic’.  i had to look up the word in the dictionary to figure out what he meant.  completely satisfactory.  when i pressed further what he meant, he told me that no matter what life threw at him, he wasn’t going to get too high on life nor would he go too low.  everything has a purpose, he would tell me.

i think he found great comfort in that.  i do too.

wally was another member of the first nations crew that spent their time drinking rubbing alcohol and mouth wash.  im not sure if it was the alcoholism that killed him or the cancer that ate away at his body.  im not sure what’s worse.

i’m pretty sure i could write a big, long post about wally that i did about africa but i don’t feel like doing that today.  i’m going to keep these memories inside for now.

 

lent started today.  happy ash wednesday.

i decided to give up losing any more friends for 40 days.  hopefully this works.

your prayers are appreciated.

 

you’ll be missed, wally.  dearly missed..

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quitting

i just woke up from an unscheduled nap and felt compelled to blog.  nothing in particular in mind to write about but just a desire to put something down.  ill just start writing and see where it takes me.

im looking around my room right now for something to trigger a recent memory during the past week that i would enjoy writing about.  my cat sits on the old trunk in my living room licking himself as he so often likes to do.  the large dump of snow this weekend has dimmed the light from entering in through the small basement windows in my apartment, as if it werent dark enough down here.  my plants are drooping from either too little sunlight or water.  its probably both.

my living room is not going to be a good source of inspiration, but im not getting up from my chair so my inspiration will have to come from elsewhere.

one of my players quit on his team last night at street soccer.  it made me really mad.  madder than a mad hatter mad.  ok, maybe not that mad but it certainly irked me more than i was prepared for.  its one thing to quit at something when it only affects you (ex. tennis, track and field, etc) but its much different when you’re quitting lets down others/teammates.

in my last year of university basketball i hurt my back pretty bad.  for a while it was a struggle to simply get out of bed and get changed.  putting on socks was sometimes a 20 minute endeavour.  i rehabbed everyday trying to get my back better.  i saw the physio daily, the massage therapist every other day and followed a yoga dvd in my living room twice a day trying to get back into shape.  eventually my back started to respond and i was able to begin playing again, albeit, still with a considerable amount of pain.

at the christmas break my parents sat me down and had some candid talks with me about the health of my back.  as much progress as i had made, i wasnt close to 100% and every practice or game i played moving forward would threaten the health of my body for the future.  i knew they wanted me to shut it down and end my senior year prematurely.  the thought was unthinkable, no matter how much the pain in my body said otherwise.

my mom asked me if i wanted to play sports with my kids one day.  if i kept going the way i was going, she insisted, the likelihood of me watching from a wheelchair became increasingly more likely.

no pun intended but that was the straw the broke the camels back: my basketball career was officially over.

i cried.  it may seem silly to some, crying over a game, but that game had been my life, day in and day out, for over a decade.

sure, i had a medical reason to not go back and finish out the season with my team but it still felt like i quit on them and i hated that feeling.

i really wish things had been different.  not a day goes by that i dont wish that.

does everything really happen for a reason or is that just something we tell ourselves to make us feel better?

my cat is still licking himself.  now hes scratching his face with his hind leg.  i wish i were that flexible.  am i turning into one of those really weird people who give play by plays on their cats?  this may be a new low.  its like he knows im writing about him.  he just stopped and is staring at me now.  maybe he can read my mind.  maybe my cat has telepathy!  maybe this is the weirdest and all-over-the-place blog i have ever written.

im not about to go back through the last 3 years of blogging to figure that out.

later.

/endofreallyweirdblogpost

qutting

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sunday recap

sunday was quite the day.

it started off with a huge dump of snow.  a good 8-10 inches of snow covered everything and more was falling from the sky.  walking to church in the morning was a bit of a trudge but it was a nice trudge.

kat’s friend had asked us to come check out her church some time so this sunday was that some time.  the community church was located inside a small elementary school gym in the south end of the city.  the new zealand guy that lead music was incredibly gifted, not to mention the other two musicians.  the pastor preached for 20 minutes and then decided the sermon was over so they could pray for one of the campus leaders who attended the church.

ive never seen that before.  heck, im not sure ive heard/seen many preachers who deliver their message in less than 40 minutes.  but he got his point across and thats all that matters.  i told him so after the service was over.  humble guy with a very missional heart and love of community.

my kind of guy.

we finally decided to get bigger nets for street soccer.  for the last year and half we have been playing, both indoor and outdoor soccer with two small nets.  they are about two and half feet high and three feet wide, shaped like a semi-circle and weigh next to nothing so most hard shots knock it back most of the time.

not anymore.

new nets werent the only new additions to street soccer this sunday.  nick, the captain of the winning team of our last street soccer tournament, has been coming out to play with us lately.  we have been talking with him about coaching our guys and hes shown considerable interest.  nick is an incredibly talented player with the natural ability to connect with others and build positive relationships.  he also has a non-profit business that uses those two gifts to their maximum potential (no, nick is not paying me for this ad, haha).

anyways, nick brought a few friends out to play with him, and those friends also invited a few friends so we had 7 new international players come out to play with us.

what a difference in play!

our guys got a show on sunday night.  some of the guys that came out did things with a soccer ball that they have never seen done before, im sure.  one of the guys from morocco, an international doctor doing research at dal, mesmerized guys with his style of play including yours truly.

guys were loving the faster style of play so much that we went past 8pm, which we hardly ever do.  when we stopped around 830 guys were still wanting to keep playing.

we have come a long way.  ha!

there are a lot of international student, immigrants and refugees that call halifax home (if not just temporarily) and the one thing they all usually have in common is their love for soccer (football to them).  hopefully now that we have so many talented players and community builders on board, we can begin bringing street soccer into the  poorer immigrant and refugee communities in the great halifax area.

i dont want to count my chickens before they have hatched but i love it when a great idea comes together!

a special thanks to my friend, brother and partner with halifax street soccer, valentin.  you rock, dude!  couldnt have done this without you.

night, world.

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death, where is your sting?

the past few days have been difficult. africa dying hit closer to home than i ever expected. his passing has me thinking about death more. no, not in the morbid sense. im not completely off my rocker yet. its got me thinking about life and the death of life. big picture stuff.

death isnt really the end. its a new beginning to the rest of your life. well, thats what i believe. i think we live forever and ever, somewhere. heaven, paradise, city of gold, kingdom of God, home.

i know atheists will probably scold me for saying such a thing, but i feel bad for atheists. i really do. genuine pity. if i understand atheism, and i think do, the logical conclusion of its philosophy is that there is no meaning, no purpose, no life after death. not only does nothing really matter nor any truth really exist, but when we die thats it.

what an awful thing to believe.

worm food. lights go out and they dont come back on.

i realize that this isnt an argument against atheism, because something being unfortunately terrible doesnt make it wrong, but it does make it terrible and something that offers very little hope for this life. no thanks, atheism.

id rather see and embrace the hope we have in the gospel. thanks, Jesus.

im going to leave it at that. for now.

i miss the dtes a lot right now. i havent missed it there this much since i first left. i wonder how so many people are doing. i wonder how aj is doing and if he has kicked his addiction. i wonder how elizabeth is doing and if she beat cancer. i wonder how daryl has been and if he has gone home to nunavut like he told me he needed to.

i wonder about many others and wonder when ill go back, if ever.

i hope to.

today i worked the door at hope cottage. eddie had taken the night off and andrew asked if i wanted the gig. no apron, greet everyone that entered the building and carry a clicker to count guests. its even better than it sounds.

cheque day was on wednesday so business is slow. the regulars are all there though and a few new faces. kenny comes in with rap blasting from his cell phone. a few heads in the room turn in his direction and he graciously turns it off as he grabs a tray. considerate member of the community.

skylar comes in for dinner late. he grabs some bread and dinner and comes to talk with me. he finally got an apartment! i congratulate him and we high five.

high fiving is a great celebratory gesture on the streets. i quite enjoy it.

skylar was a youth that was living at the shelter when i worked there. i got to know him there and when he came out to play street soccer for a while. smart cree kid, very athletic, advocate for others, but with a bit of a temper.

he has had housing for just over a month. he moved in just before christmas. good gift from santa, id say. already its helping him. he is taking his addictions more seriously and doing what he needs to do to be healthy. hes staying out of trouble which means the police arent harassing him.. as much.

i couldnt be happier for him!

we talk school and where things are at with that. school is next on his list of things to do but he feels lost. hes not sure where to go from here. i agree to help him figure that out. hes too smart and gifted not to get his high school diploma and give himself a better chance at life. he agrees. he promises to come out for street soccer this sunday and bring his sudanese roommate who loves playing soccer with him.

i hear they start playing soccer in the womb over there. i expect this guy to be good.

skylars big success has me hopeful. even in the midst of death, grief and sadness, theres a lot to be hopeful for. hope for at-risk youth getting housed and educated. hope for my other friends on the street rising up out of poverty. hope for me seeing my friend, africa again (and all the others) on the other side.

bye, grief. hello, hope.

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