Dates, and times, and places...

We have a VHS tape downstairs that has a handwritten label which reads "March 7, 1997" followed by a cutesy heart. It is our home-made wedding video, filmed by my brother-in-law and inaccurately labelled by my wife after the big day.


We actually got married on March 8. 

Sara has many incredible gifts, especially when it comes to written and spoken words. It's numbers that give her trouble.

Perhaps more surprising than the label is the fact that it took us about 15 years before we watched the video. A few short months after our wedding, Sara's mom was killed in a car accident. When we think back to our wedding, we have trouble separating it from Sara's mom's funeral...same church, same place in the church where we were extended congratulations/condolences, and a lot of the same people.

Because the two events were so blurred in our memory, we never really wanted to watch the happy one.

Dates, times, and places have a way of searing into our memory when significant events occur. And when those dates and places show up again, they can trigger a flood of memories and emotions.

Two years ago this weekend, I watched my father take his last earthly breaths at the same location where I and two of my daughters took our first. West Lincoln Memorial Hospital is full of nostalgia and complicated emotions for me. And this time of year brings memories of saying good bye.

At my dad's funeral, my sister (Joanne) and I spoke on behalf of our siblings, in honour of Dad. We thought we would post the eulogy here, on our family's blog.

(Ralph)

How do you summarize a life of 85 years in a short eulogy? Gerrit Pot was a simple farmer with a deep faith. A shy, quiet man who was loved by many. A smart aleck with a sincere and honest faith. A man who wanted no part in any argument regarding church theology, doctrine or order, but faithfully served and attended as he was able. In many ways, he was a broken man, in his later years physically and at times emotionally, but the light of Christ shone through him. Broken, but redeemed.

This past Wednesday, my wife Sara had the opportunity to be present at Shalom Manor when Dad was transferred to West Lincoln Memorial Hospital. He had just suffered what we now know was a heart attack, and he was struggling. He was on oxygen and two nurses were assisting to prepare him for the paremedics who would be arriving shortly. When the paramedics arrived, Sara ushered Mom out of the room. The nurses and paramedics were going over Dad’s vital signs and the emotion and reality of the moment was clear on the faces of the staff and the tears of Mom. From outside the room, Mom and Sara heard questions about medication and health of the last few hours, and then the paramedics asked Dad a question directly. “Mr. Pot, How old are you?”

There was a pause, and both Sara and Mom clearly heard Dad say, “Guess.”

That was Dad. Though his body was failing, his spirit and humour were clearly not.

Dad grew up just outside the town of Diever in the province of Drenthe in the Netherlands. He was the 9th child born to Gerrit and Gesina Pot. His only younger sister, Tante Truus, is here with us today from Edmonton with her son, Bill. When asked about Dad’s life in Holland before he immigrated, Truus mentioned how he often had to run after things for his brothers that they forgot or needed. "Gerrit, go get the shovel" or 'go, get me the fork." Then when the work was done, his brothers said that Gerrit didn't do anything. 

It couldn’t have been easy being the youngest of four brothers.

All of us children have different memories of Dad. But a number of ideas, stories and events stand out for all of us. As sons, looking back, we are amazed at what Dad allowed us to do at a young age. Perhaps life for an immigrant farmer made it necessary for sons to take on responsibilities, but there was always a belief by Dad that we were capable. As six year olds, it was expected that we could drive a tractor. On the farm, although the ages are disputed at every family gathering, Harvey ran the farm by himself for ten days when he was 16 when Mom and Dad went to Holland, Jim broke his first haybine at age 12, and Bernie milked all of the cows by himself when he was in diapers. I am not sure it was always wise, but Dad had a great appreciation for allowing his kids to learn by doing.

When Bernie and Jim were pre-teens, they raised rabbits for a time, and an Italian gentleman would come by every few weeks to purchase any young 4-5 pound rabbits that they had. This man would then sell them to the Italian community in Toronto. The feed and hay would come from Dad who would allow his sons to negotiate a fair price with the travelling rabbit dealer, and he would just stand back and observe from a distance. Bernie and Jim would keep the proceeds and wonder why so many people in Toronto wanted 4-5 lb. pet rabbits. Dad was proud to see his sons grow in confidence and ability.

Dad was a hard-working man, and he expected the same of his kids. He had a quiet determination and resolve in building up the farm in Bismarck. This same resolve could be seen in his ability to play nigensticken, a simple game we played often on a hand drawn piece of cardboard with black and white buttons. I have never seen him lose a game. Mom even commented that he played a game early last week with her at Shalom Manor. Even though his health was deteriorating, he was still able to win handily.

Vacations were somewhat of a rarity in the Pot household, as there was always work to do on the farm, no matter the season. When our family would take an annual camping trip to Byng Park with the Schilstras, the Attemas, the Fledderus' and other Dutch immigrant farming families , Dad’s vacation usually looked like this:

Get up at 5 A.M. when it was still dark, take at least one son along and drive home, milk and feed cows, travel back to Byng around 10 am, sit around campsite, have lunch, drink some beer, maybe fish, (although I’ve never seen him catch one), drive back home at 5 P.M., milk and feed cows, come back to campsite around 8:30 P.M., sit around campfire and tell stories and jokes with the other farmers, go to bed, repeat. When Dad was on vacation, he only worked 9 hours each day.

I am not sure that he was very well rested after a week at Byng.

Other than trips back home to Holland on the rare occasion, those were the holidays that Dad took while he was farming.

Dad’s tireless work ethic eventually got the better of him. In 1984, he became permanently disabled due to some complications with severely herniated discs in his back. Dad spent the last 30 years of his life dealing with pain and significant disability. Sadly, I only have vague memories of Dad the farmer, and none of the grandchildren present here knew Opa without a cane, a scooter, or a wheelchair.

But even through that, although there were definitely times when the brokeness was evident more than the light, he never wanted to be a burden to anyone and made all his kids and grandchildren his focus when they were present. He loved to be with them.

Over the last number of years, I have grown to appreciate his love for all his grandchildren. He developed a special bond with all of his grandchildren in some way, but I was continually moved by how he cared for and coo-ed over my two youngest daughters, Rachel and Janneke. At family gatherings, while everyone was playing some silly game that someone had thought of, Dad would sit with Rachel and Janneke and simply enjoy their presence. And Rachel and Janneke enjoyed him. He would talk with them and it seemed that they had a common, unspoken bond, that the rest of us, able bodied people are incapable of having with R and J. Dad and Opa will be missed..



(Joanne)

Dad made each of us feel like we were the only daughter he had.

But then again he made each grandchild feel like they were the special one. It was not what he said to us, but how he said it. He really did not say much very often because that's what Mom did best. :) He would say, "Ah It's GRACE" or "AH JOANNE..." ...and he said it with a smile and a twinkle in his eye and would grab your hand if you were close. We will miss that. But even how special he made us all feel, he did have one special person he loved most of all- and that was MOM. He loved her dearly and he said it often. Usually with a smoochie kiss when Mom came to visit him at Shalom. (Which was everyday.) They say behind every good man, there is a strong woman- and Dad had a very strong woman in his life. Mom kept Dad going for 30 years after his accident. Think about that for a moment.

Mom tells me that she was attracted to Dad because of his deep love of Jesus. That, I think is a testament to the grandkids here today. They were in their teenage years when they met.

"I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5.

This was Mom and Dad's wedding text.

Bearing much fruit, Dad and Mom were not rich in material possessions, but their love for God and their family was very evident and very rich. Dad’s family was his pride and joy, and he expressed his love for each and every one of us.

I remember having a conversation with my Dad when I was still quite young. I was probably helping him feed the calves or something because he had a pail. "You can fill it with many things," he said. He referred to rocks, pebbles, sand and then water. He told me that if you fill up your pail with small things first like sand water and pebbles, the pail will not have room for the large rocks – they just won’t fit in anymore. But if you put the rocks in first, then the pebbles, then the sand and then the water – it will all fit. The pail is like your life. The rocks he said are the important things – The biggest rock would be God of course and then family and friends; after that the less important things in your life. They will all fit into your life but you must remember to put the rocks in first.

Dad was a hard working farmer, but he always had time for us. I have fond memories of my Dad taking me to bed at night. First is play time. He would take me by the hands and flip me upside down. He called it an airplane ride. “Do you want to go to Holland?” I would giggle and laugh and Mom would say “nah...you get the kids all excited...then they won’t sleep”.


50 years ago this week, Mom & Dad lost their first born son, Jerry, in a tragic accident when Jerry was only 6 years old. When Dad left us early last Friday morning, I kept thinking: Dad is in heaven now…. and when he sees Jerry again….. I’ll bet Dad will give him airplane rides.