If I'm honest, I will tell you that there have only been two times since we've been on the West Coast that I wished I was home. One was a birth - the day our friends Terry and Carla welcomed their twin girls into their family. The other is right now - only it's not a birth I wish I was home for, but the Celebration of Life for our dear friend Lorne Sullivan who passed away last week.
Mike and I got to know Lorne and his wife Nancy fifteen years ago when we started going to Gateway South Church in St. Vital. We were young, newly engaged and didn't know anyone at the church. Nearly every Sunday an incredibly friendly slightly more "mature" couple greeted us at the door and handed us our bulletins. They were warm and kind. They had a great sense of humour. You could just tell they loved being together. I was instantly drawn to them because they invited me "in".
A few years and a marriage and a baby later we were asked to lead a housegroup together with two other couples. One of those couples was our good friends Terry and Carla. The other couple was Lorne and Nancy. I couldn't have been more excited or comfortable to be part of a team with them. Together, the six of us spent many hours together planning and praying and telling our stories in a safe place. This is where I really grew to love Lorne and Nancy. They had already walked the road that we were walking. They had grown daughters, grandchildren, and years of life experience that they were willing to share. They encouraged us, challenged us, and laughed with us many many evenings. Lorne became a sort of father figure to Mike and I.... a great example of how we hoped to shape and nurture our own family.
He hadn't seen Lorne and Nancy in this past season nearly as much as we would have liked or should have. Nancy would send the occasional email reminding Mike to eat his vegetables. We'd hear updates on them through other friends of ours which always brought back great memories of a great man. Here are some of mine...
Lorne was faithful.
Lorne and Nancy were each other's best friends and partners for nearly 52 years. He adored her and treasured her. They walked quite a journey together, and were a team through it all. Lorne was an amazing dad to his two girls and their husbands and one of the most involved grandpa's I've ever seen. He and Nancy spent hours and hours with those beloved grandkids make huge investments in them. They weren't the kind of Grandparents that are just "there" - they were intimately involved with those kids and invested time doing things that mattered together. If Lorne was in your corner, he was there to stay - whether you were related to him or not.
Lorne was a creator.
Lorne was the perfect combination of artist and handy-man. If he had the vision to see something in his mind, he could probably make it with his own two hands. The cottage he built at Hillside Beach was his labour of love and it is simply beautiful. Their house is full of things Lorne has painstakingly created. But Lorne didn't only create things. He created community. He had friends and relationships in all kinds of corners that he maintained and valued over the years.
Lorne was generous.
Lorne was a man who loved to give. He gave hundreds and hundreds of hours to people and organizations that needed him. He was most passionate about the hurting, the poor, and the lonely. He was the heart behind the Mercy Ministry team at Gateway South for many years and that's where his heart lived. He received great gifts from giving, and he had a way of getting you to give too, because he knew it needed to be done.
Lorne was authentic.
Many years ago, Lorne overcame an alcohol addiction with the help of AA and that journey was a big part of who he was. He was a faithful friend to many in AA, and his story of overcoming addiction was one he was willing to share with anyone. He never hid from his struggles, but was open and real about who he was and who he was becoming - rough parts and all. Lorne didn't mince words. He had strong convictions and he'd gladly stand up and share them even if they weren't popular. When Lorne spoke, you listened. His words were worth listening to - even if you didn't always agree.
Lorne was inspiring.
After having a heart attack a few years ago, Lorne radically shifted his lifestyle. He changed the way he ate and added even more physical activity into his already fit life. This was something for a man who already was in the best shape of most men his age. Lorne took great care of his body - working out, walking, and feeding it with good things. He loved to share his knowledge of healthy living with you if you were interested. He was a great steward of the body he'd been given.
Lorne was steadfast.
Lorne was a good and faithful servant. He loved God and he loved people with his whole heart. This is how I will remember him.
I spent some time with Nancy on the phone today. Lorne's death has left a huge hole in her life. But through her tears she was still laughing like only Nancy can do. She shared her life with a great man.
We will miss him.