I attended a funeral for a long time resident of the Salvation Army Community Services today. He stayed with us for several years after the death of his wife and the alienation from his children. During the funeral today, the priest mentioned his time at the Salvation Army several times and each time he would mention it, I found myself thinking of our time together.
At the funeral there were some residents of the nursing home, not all of them were even aware what was going on and who Andy was and there were four of us from the Salvation Army and that was it. Now he was buried earlier and four other staff and officers attended that service and that’s it, eight of us over two services. No one else.
It struck me because if you wanted a visualization of the Salvation Army’s vision, that would be part of it. When there is no one else, we will be there and we were there a lot for Andy. At the same time Andy just didn’t take from us, he gave back in terms of friendship.
He never talked much and could never remember our names. He wouldn’t even try. He never called me Jordon but rather Susan, Joe, Frank, Peggy, or Patty. Apparently he wasn’t big on gender differentiation either. He remembered my co-worker Vi’s name and when he was a little ticked at her, he called her Viv. Not sure why but it made us laugh. While he never got my name right, we would hug me once a month and tell he that he thought we were going a good job. Getting hugged freaked me out but I appreciated the sentiment. He also said it like it was. One day he came down and said, “Give me a bucket, I just s— myself” and there was a trail coming all the way from his room and down the stairs. At least he offered to clean up after himself (our janitor took care of it). Another time a highly intoxicated man had some in and immediately passed out in the lobby, splitting open his head. He was almost bleeding out and there was paramedics and blood everywhere. As someone came in and asked what happened, Andy replied, “I told him not to mess with me” and didn’t crack a smile. Perhaps my favorite thing Andy ever said to me was he walked up to the front desk and simply said, “Damn Blue Jays. No pitching at all this year” and wondered off.
Andy was fiercely independent but he let the staff close enough to care for him and also for us to see a bit of his life as well. I’ll really miss him. As the priest said, Andy had a hard life but there was some good times as well. I’m glad I was there to see some of them. I am not sure what all of the ups and downs of his life were but I am quite sure the time spent with us was good for him.
During the service I kept thinking that Andy brought out the best in all of us. I can’t think of Andy without hearing my co-workers joking with him, fussing a little bit over him, or just chatting with him. It’s rumored that I may have shed a tear in the service thinking about all of it.
Of course since I have been rather sappy, I’ll spoil all of it for you with this story. One really funny part of the funeral was when the chaplain at the Sherbrooke Community Centre acknowledged that there was people there from the Salvation Army and a women said, “I’ve already given them money, I’m out of here” and stormed out of the funeral. One more really funny memory to cap of his life.