Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Good Bye Old Friend ...

Ms. H, Laverne Baumbach, Noahkila, and Beetle
in January 2007, Stratford Ontario.
It's hard to describe what Mr. Baumbach meant to me, and to my family ... after Dad's death, Mr Baumbach was like a dad to me. He opened the door of his garage-workshop on numerous occassions and with the humour and patience of a saint endured my poking through drawers and storage cabinets asking a million and three questions, and no doubt getting in his way as he tried to re-upolster furniture of every size and shape.

Mr Baumbach was a neighbour, but he was also a friend. As I grew and matured, I stopped knocking on the door of his workshop, and instead would sit with him shaded from the summer sun under the canopy of the massive maple trees that bordered our properties. In time Laverne told me stories about my dad, shared with me his memories, and deepened a decades long friendship that spanned the generations.

As Noahkila, Ms. H, and Beetle came on the scene, Mr Baumbach, or "Baumbach" as Ms. H called him (in the same way I did three decades earlier), extended his circle of care to include them ... they saw Mr. Baumbach like a grandfather in the absence of their Grandpa Sam.

When Mom died, I tried for two days to reach Mr. Baumbach by phone, then finally called his daughter to pass the message along to him ... I wept on the phone when she told me that Mr. Baumbach was in the hospital, and was approaching his own death at the age of 87 ... on the phone that day we laughed, and we cried, and we shared memories and recollections of a fabulous man, who touched every life he encountered with laughter, gentleness and love.

I shared with Lyn, his daughter, that I owe my success in ministry to her father ... long ago, almost a lifetime ago, I sat and had a drink with Mr Baumbach in the days after he buried his wife ... her service was an unmitigated disaster ... the presiding minister offered absolutely no pastoral care or concern, and left a family already grieving, very very very angry.

I remember that afternoon very well ... Laverne lost his temper, and for one of the very few times in my life I heard him swear - and I mean REALLT swear ... then he had me make a promise to him that if I went into ministry, I would NEVER treat a family the way he and Lyn had been treated ... I willingly made that promise.

Now, almost 25 years later, it is a promise I continue to honour. A promise I openly acknowledge when families thank me for my help and ministry in the face of death. It is a promise I continue to take very seriously ... and remarkably, it is a promise that Laverne himself forgot ever extracting from me.

But, that is typical of Laverne ... his anger passed quickly, and the values of humour, gentleness, care and love, that defined him never faltered.

Last Monday, as we gathered to say good bye to Mom, Laverne's daughter came and told us that her dad had passed away through the night ... in tears shed for mom and for Mr Baumbach, she honoured me with the request to offer a eulogy for an old and precious friend ... it was a request I readily accepted.

On Thursday, January 20th, I stood before Laverne's family and friends, and a large collection of neighbours who have known me since I was born, and I offered a heartfelt eulogy for a man who was a friend, a mentor, and in many ways like a dad to me ... As I shared my memories and my recollections, there was laughter, some tears, and lots of smiles of recognition as people recalled their own memories of a wonderful man with a warm and caring heart.

Looking back, I can say that not only have I honoured the promise I made to Laverne in his kitchen many years ago, I also took that promise to a new level by ensuring that I offered him the eulogy he deserved.

I miss Mr Baumbach ... but my life is better for him having travelled the road with me ...

Good Bye Mr Baumbach ... you will be missed !!

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