Thinking Out Loud

December 6, 2018

Remembering Larry

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:44 am

Admittedly, readers here didn’t know Larry. In the paragraphs that follow I hope you get to know him. The turnout at his funeral astounded me. There were many other things I learned in that short hour. I’ll let Ruth explain.

Guest post by Ruth Wilkinson

A while ago, I posted on Facebook somewhat tongue in cheek that “It takes a village to raise a Larry.” Tuesday night, about 50 people gathered in a cozy room at the Salvation Army to say goodbye to Larry, a man I met when we were having weekly dinners at Greenwood Motel.

Larry was a pain in the neck. Messy, noisy, always drunk. He’d sit in his favourite seat nearest the buffet table and loudly hector other diners to the point where they’d lose their temper, and then he’d laugh. Every week he’d holler at me across the room to bring him a cup of juice, which I’d do. Every week he’d holler his thanks to everyone who’d brought the meal as he headed out the door. He couldn’t remember everyone’s name so he called us “Ruth and all you Ruths.”

But Larry loved Connie, and when she was hit by a truck while walking drunk across the road, it shook him loose from the bottle. He joined AA and did me the honor of inviting me to the meeting when he received his one year chip, and of acknowledging me in his speech as one who, in some way, contributed to that moment. That was cool.

Many of the people who gathered that evening were folks from around town, or from AA, or from one of 5 or 6 different churches whose phone numbers Larry had collected over the years. We’d all take our turn getting phone calls at odd hours, “Hey, it’s Larry. Could you give me a ride to…” wherever. The grocery store, the eye doctor, the sub shop, the bank, the hospital, to Connie’s house. And we all sometimes said yes and sometimes said no. He’d just say, “OK, well, thanks. That’s ok. God bless, eh?” And try someone else.

I remember driving him home from the hospital during a blizzard the first time he’d been in for some really serious respiratory problems. Pushing him down the hall and into the elevator with one hand and pulling the oxygen tank with the other. Getting him through the snow in his slippers from the chair to the car. Skidding a few times as we drove. Then out of the car, through the snow and up a full flight of stairs to his room in a run down house. With him thanking me and thanking me and thanking me.

His health got worse and worse over the last few years and he’d wake up in the middle of the night unable to breathe. Terrified of dying. People who knew him would reassure him that Jesus loved him and that because he’d prayed and asked Jesus to be his Saviour, he’d go to Heaven when he died. And he’d say, “Yeah, that’s right.” But as one speaker said, “Maybe he was afraid to die because he didn’t know whether he’d done enough to matter to anyone.”

He lost and regained his one year chip a few times over the years, but he never gave up. And the more he tried, the more we loved him. The more he mattered.

So I was glad, but not surprised, to see such a good turnout for his memorial on Tuesday. Connie hadn’t been sure how many would come, but she needn’t have worried. He’d built around himself a community of friends and supporters and even a few admirers who wanted to say goodbye.

Because maybe, sometimes, it takes a Larry to raise a village.

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2 Comments »

  1. Sitting at Starbucks sipping a coffee while waiting for Moira, my dear wife, to return from the hair salon. What an amazing story, Ruth. I never knew Larry, but I feel like I will miss him. The weather here is so cold today, and I am sure there are people on the street. Thankfully, Moncton has a shelter called Harvest House. Your story reminds me that I need to call that loving ministry and contribute a few meals or something. You and Paul are like God’s ministering angels helping anyone He sends your way. We miss having you nearby.

    Comment by Bruce — December 6, 2018 @ 1:46 pm

    • I had done a little bit of street ministry in downtown Toronto when I was in my 20s. For all that, and all the books and articles I’ve read, when Ruth started serving at the motel, I was still a little slow to grasp what it is we were there to do. So she gets the ‘ministering angel’ credit; I just went along for the ride. I learned more from her than all those articles and books. (And ‘getting’ Larry was one of the things I needed to learn.)

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 6, 2018 @ 7:31 pm


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