Honoring a friend.
My host for the day picked me up at 9:30 am . “You need to see Glen. He’s ill but I’ve been having these wonderful conversations with him.” With only three months left to live, his reflections were becoming increasingly more important – life-giving – which I needed to hear, she explained.
Glen had been in trouble with the law since he was a child and spent twenty-three years behind bars. He was sentenced to 21 years to life in 1980 for shooting to death a Hudson’s Bay store manager during a Brink’s hold-up in Toronto. But he changed his life’s direction while he was at Kent Institution in 1982. In 1987, he married his wife Sherry at William Head Institution. Paroled in 1992, Glen became the founder and co-facilitator of L.I.N.C. (Long-term Inmates Now in the Community).
I had met Sherry and Glen a long time ago in Sorrento at an exploratory retreat on Restorative Justice. Glen was the token offender at the table and I was the token victim at the table - of doctorates.
I hadn’t seen them that often after that – but through mutual friends we were always in touch.
When my host and I arrived at the hospital front desk, we found out that Glen had been moved to the hospice unit. When we walked into his room, it was clear that everything had changed. He was now beyond words. Heaven had opened its gates and was waiting. We both cried. We prayed with him – encouraged him.
After that we went to see Sherry at Emma's Acres run by the LINC organization, Glen had founded. Sherry was sitting in her car crying. We had a wonderful conversation crying and laughing - and remembering. It all felt like the Mount of Transfiguration – very close to heaven.
Still red eyed and emotional, we continued on our journey along the Fraser river until we stopped for lunch at the Sasquatch Restaurant to debrief. Then we drove up a steep winding, mountainous road to the Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village which is located approximately 140 kilometres east of Vancouver, British Columbia in the community of Harrison Mills. The institution is tucked away in the trees - a minimum - where men are free ranging.
We met with the residence in the long house - a beautiful big log building. It had bleachers for the residence - and two wooden stoves opposite each other in the middle of the room. I sat right in between those two stoves where it was warm! It is so cold here in BC! They think Winnipeg is cold – little do they know.
And I just told my story again.
It wasn’t much different then the story I had told in Surrey the day before at the Pacific Region Victim Advisory Council, Community Forum on "Confronting the Horror." I spoke from 9:00 to 12:00 noon. – with one break in between. Apparently now I can ramble on for two hours without effort. It seems I’ve got so much story material that I don’t know what to choose sometimes. What is different now in my story that I include the new development - the law suit and our surprise. I'm still trying to make sense of it.
At the end of this trip to BC – after two days of presentations - I met my sister-in-law for breakfast before flying home.
It was the first time we had met after the new development in our story. We recalled some of the drama that had happened during the trial.
“A lawsuit?” we both looked at each other aghast.
“What do you think?” I asked. “What do you make of it?”
“I talked to my minister about it,” she said. “And he said – 'I guess the story isn’t over.'”
When is the story over?
Glen passed over the next morning – and now on Facebook, I am hearing his story celebrated over and over again. There is still so much to learn from him.
I wanted our story to be over – to be free of it. But maybe it will never be over. It is Candace's story and she passed over a long time ago. Maybe there is still something to learn from this.
“We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.” - Jimmy Neil Smith