I’m grateful for the amazing life I’ve lived
As I move into my sixties I’ve been reflecting about my life, my entire life. I don’t want to compare my life to anyone else’s. The way I feel about my life is based solely on how happy it’s made me, on the varied life experiences that have filled my life’s journey. Given where I am now, at sixty-one, I hope and anticipate it will continue along the same arc.
I was blessed to be born into a family with two loving parents. Their love for me and my siblings is at the root of much of my happiness. I thank them, especially my mother, for leading me to my faith. It’s played an integral part of my journey.
My earliest memories of my childhood are filled with happy times. Playing with my sisters, making friends in my neighbourhood, then having a baby brother, and learning about Jesus as a young boy of three or four are just a few of the memories I cherish. I remember playing in our backyard in Azilda, a community of Greater Sudbury. A creek ran across the end of our property. It wasn’t fenced off. One winter, when I was four years old, I fell through the ice into the creek while my mother had stepped inside for an instant. Luckily, I didn’t panic. I remember calmly climbing out of the ice, drenched from head to toe and walking up to the back door. I don’t recall my mother’s reaction, but I imagine it was relief at my safety, and not anger at me straying to the creek.
When I was five years-old we moved to Hamilton where my childhood continued to be filled with great adventures. I made friends easily. When not in school, I spent my time playing outside most of the day in the summer and winter. We played street hockey, baseball, made carnivals in the open backyards that joined the Hamilton Housing community we lived in. It was a rental housing development geared to family income. They were called wartime houses—built after World War II for the population boom. We didn’t know we weren’t rich. I had a roof over my head, food, clothes, parents who loved us, and lots of friends to play with. For a young boy, life couldn’t get any better.
I have fond memories of playing hockey on homemade rinks in our common backyards during the winter and baseball in the summer. We’d play for hours on end. I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Life was great. Even as a kid I knew it was awesome.
Our street ran along the edge of Red Hill Creek. The creek was a magnet for me as an adventurous boy. I couldn’t help but go to it, even though my mother forbad it, I couldn’t resist. I’d make rafts with my friends. We would ride our rafts up and down the creek endlessly. We would climb up the ridge to the edge of Dead Man’s Cliff, a red clay creek bank with a twenty-five-foot drop to the water. Luckily, I never heard of any kid falling over its edge. I would spend hours on my own making rabbit traps or exploring the forest area around the creek. Today the Red Hill Valley Expressway cuts through the creek area, but when I was young it was my playground. I loved it so.
My teen years were just as exciting to me as my earlier youth. The main focus for me from eleven to fifteen years old was hockey. I started late, at eleven, playing organized hockey, but once I started, I couldn’t get enough. When I was thirteen to fifteen years old, I’d play on two or three teams per year just to get my fill. I was a passionate player whose drive allowed me to excel beyond my skill level. I was never in the top two or three talent wise on any team, but I was always a leader and a main driver on most of my teams. My passion for the game was obvious.
Despite being fairly popular and involved in sports I was a good student. I always loved school. I have many fond memories of my high school years. They were some of the best years of my life. I played on the school hockey team and got involved in a few committees. If I could do it again, I’d get involved even more. My parents didn’t go to high school. They grew up in rural Quebec, pursuing a post-secondary education wasn’t something that was part of their mindset. Even though I was an honour student, I didn’t go to university immediately after high school. I began a technical apprenticeship. I was married by the time I was twenty-two, and had my first son by the time I was twenty-five. I chose to go back to school to pursue a university education when I was twenty-nine years old. I did so while I worked full-time, on night shift, and attended classes during the day. I did this for four years with the love and support of an amazing wife.
Like most people, my life wasn’t spared heartbreak. When I was twenty-seven years old my dream of living as a happy family with my wife and two boys forever was shattered. I thought I was living the dream and all was well. Little did I know my wife felt differently. Our marriage ended. Though broken, I moved on to make a life with my boys and made sure they always felt loved. A few years later I met my wife, Judi. She blessed me with a third son, Scott, her fourteen-year old son. In our first year of marriage she supported my desire to go to university while we balanced our commitment to our family, our work, and our dreams. We’ve now been married for thirty-two years. Like all couples, we’ve had our challenges. We love and respect each other. We share the same values and dreams—for which I am grateful.
I worked at Dofasco, a steel mill in Hamilton, for thirty years, straight out of high school. The first fifteen years in the mill as an Instrumentation Technician, and the last fifteen years in the office in the commercial department. During the last five years of my time at Dofasco I started doing part-time studies towards my theological degree. When I retired from Dofasco in 2007, I spent the next year finishing my studies. Just as I graduated in October of 2008, I was thrilled to get my first position as a pastor. My dream and true calling had finally come to be.
I was a pastor in Parry Sound for a year. I helped an existing community church transition to a church I had been a part of for four years. I often say the year I spent in Parry Sound is the best year of my life. I was living my dream. We lived in a small bungalow at the edge of the woods along the bay’s edge about two kilometers from the main roads. I had the opportunity to walk alongside some amazing people, live next to the water with fabulous walking and running trails at my doorstep. As often as I could I’d have my breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the back deck overlooking the bay. I knew I would always cherish my limited time there, so, I tried to soak up as much as I could. It was beautiful and spiritual. My soul was pleased.
Upon the end of our time in Parry Sound we moved back to our home in Hamilton, within a few months I obtained my next position as a pastor in Stouffville, Ontario. Much like my first year as a pastor, I had five great years there. It was a time filled with excitement and passion. I was deeply moved by Judi’s love and support during our time there. She had always been afraid to be a pastor’s wife, but she stepped into it with love and grace. We have many fond memories of our time among this loving community church. Once again, we were blessed to walk alongside some beautiful people.
We chose to move back to Hamilton, our home, after being away for six years. Judi needed to be home and I was happy to take some time to work on writing a book. Over the past ten years I had attempted to start writing a novel, writing only about three chapters—so, not doing much writing. But within the first year of moving back to Hamilton I completed three drafts, over three hundred pages. It felt good.
Just as I was about to begin my fourth draft I chose to say yes to going into business with my son, Phillip. In the fall of 2016, we launched a renovation company. It’s been a rewarding and challenging experience. I’ve always tried to instill the concept of going after one’s dreams to my children, so, this has been a rewarding part of my life to share with my son.
We have a seven-year old granddaughter, Olivia. She’s been one of the greatest pleasures of our lives. I love watching Scott and my daughter-in-law, Samantha, be amazing parents. It’s such a joy to be her grandfather. We have a special relationship I cherish and hope to nourish for the rest of my days. We also have a new grandson, Luca, who is three months old. His mother just posted the cutest group of photos marking his 100th day. Getting to know him has been a bit more challenging than it was with Olivia because of the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. However, he’s already brought us lots of joy, especially seeing our son and daughter-in-law, Cheri, shower Luca with love. We’re committed to being part of his life too.
My youngest son, Daniel, lives in Spain with his partner, Violeta, who he met while completing his masters in Barcelona. He’s now thirty-four years old. For almost the past eight years he’s lived away from home, the last five in Spain. Even though we communicate on a regular basis via FaceTime, having him as a regular part of our daily lives, like with our other two sons, has been a challenge for us as parents. We’re happy he’s found a life there he loves, that brings us peace.
In addition, I have two awesome sisters and a younger brother. We get along great. I suspect it’s in large part because our parents loved us equally, though perhaps in different ways as required, and as best they knew. We grew up without any significant jealousies of each other. This helped us have the strong relationships we enjoy today. I’m blessed to have them as my siblings. I’ve also been blessed with good friends. My closest friend, Mike, and I have known each other since kindergarten. Another great friend, Paul, and I have been friends since we’re about twenty years old; we also went to the same primary school together. Another good friend, Guy, and I have been friends since I moved to the commercial department at Dofasco in 1992. Judi and I are also good friends with my three friends’ wives, Sharon, Lyne, and Mary. We hang out with each these special couples on a regular basis. They’re an integral part of our lives.
Life is good.
My life is made up of so many good things. I’m blessed. I have many other good relationships and friendships I haven’t talked about here. My church community has been supportive in many ways. Just a few years ago they were instrumental in getting me through some emotional and stressful times. I thank God on a regular basis for all I have. My life has been filled with many challenges, with God’s help, Judi’s partnership, and with the love and support of my family and friends I continue to move forward. My goal has always been to be the best person I can in a way that reflects the values I hold dear to my heart: God, my family, and my friends.
I’m grateful I was able to emerge from that creek as a young boy and live the life I have. My wish is that we might all look back at our lives and see them for the blessings they are.
Peace and love to all.