HOMILY AND TRIBUTE TO OUR DEAR FRIEND TED VANDERLAAN
A MAN OF LOVE AND INTEGRITY AND FAITH WELL LIVED
Jn.14.1-6, 18-19, 27 Book of Ruth 2Tim 4.6-8
This is an occasion we have been anticipating for some time, yet hoping for more time, but the moment we feared most, came last Wednesday morning 11am Melbourne time, 8pm Tuesday evening Whitby time, when Joe WhatsApped me the sad news of Ted’s passing at 67, only 2/3 of the century we might wish he had had.
And so my WhatsApp response: “Thinking of you, Ruth. It seems surreal that our dearly loved Ted has gone. (And I think our friendship just about dates from your pairing up with Ted!! Remember IHM church on Riverside, where he introduced you to me after Mass around November 1982? So we’re up for our 40th anniversary! And what a wonderful friendship it has been and will continue to be with you and Joe and Anna and Laree and Luke.) So glad too I could be with you near the end, with a prayer and a blessing. Love and deepest sympathy. john (me).”
We offer our sympathy to Ruth, Joe and Anna, partners Laree and Luke, and look forward to the young Vandy to come. We also offer our sympathy to his brother Rob and wife Vera, and their daughters Alyssa and Andrea, their partners John and Mike, and children Amelia and Jack, and the extended family all the way to The Netherlands, with Eliane representing them here today.
On behalf of Ted’s family, I offer you all a very warm welcome, and thanks, for joining us, both physically present and in spirit, on-line and later, from near and far, a truly global event! I mention especially friends from the Pencil Lake community and banking world where Ted worked.
I have to confess that I am more than reasonably familiar with the family, having visited them only 33 times, since my ski crash in Vail in January 1989, every year since then, apart from the COVID lockdown period, twice in 2005 including once in Texas in 2011. In return, they’ve visited me only 3 times, so there’s a slight imbalance there! I guess there are some examples in being free and single!
I always say I am a small ‘c’ catholic, the word meaning universal, so I particularly acknowledge and welcome those who are of different religious persuasions or nothing in particular. Feel at home and free to participate as fully as you can in our celebration of Ted’s life and contribution to our lives.
HOMILEULOGY FOR TED
Well, here we are, on Remembrance Day, gathered now to remember and celebrate the life of our friend Ted, a man so capable of friendship and fun, wherever he encountered anyone, anywhere! I had the good fortune to encounter him first outside Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on Alta Vista Drive, in November 1982, in Ottawa, when, typical of Ted, he took pity on me without a coat or gloves, shivering and wondering who this strange frozen person with the funny accent was. Next thing he invited me around to dinner at his apartment on Riverside Drive nearby, and thus began my cooking lessons, with baked zucchini, onion and tomato to start (Beer can chook, or chicken to you lot, came later!)!! I’ve never looked back. It was then only a week or two before he courted Ruth, by bringing her to church too, and to meet me, and not long later, asked me to marry her, to him, that is!! (It’s the only courtship in my 44 years as a priest, that included Sunday Mass attendance!)
And so began a 40 year deep and lasting friendship between the 3 of us, well before Joe and AnnA were even thought of! We went ice-skating (well, I tried, but never quite got the knack!), on the Rideau Canal, the longest ice-skating rink in the world, went out for dinner here and there, and then both deserted me for the wilds of Sault St Marie, where I continued to provide dedicated pastoral care, by taking a midnight bus from Ottawa, which broke down in North Bay, just to add to the entertainment, but I got there in the end! Later on, I even took my own Mum there to meet them in summertime, and she loved it. There was Ruth’s mother Vi Omanique’s funeral in Pembroke, just after Easter in 1983, sadly before the big wedding later that year in October! And we can’t forget the many, many pilgrimages to she sacred shrine of Pencil Lake over the years, and the many others who were warmly welcomed there every time! And now I have my holy Pencil Lake stole, which I am wearing today. (Nor can I forget the ice storm I drove through to get to do Joe’s Baptism in Burlington late in 1985.)
(I quote English friends Val and Liam, who have been over twice in the last 3 months, for Anna and Luke’s wedding, and then to see Ted again: “Ted, you’ve been such a big part of our lives. We have created some wonderful memories over the years that we will cherish always. We know you loved life at the cottage and we loved there being with you, Ruth and the family, and back in the day with your parents. You and Ruth have a kind, warm-hearted family; they are a tribute to you. We will miss you.” And so say all of us too! Helen and Peter Addison add: “The world is smaller without Ted; he was so full of life and love…”. Friend Catherine says: “Bringing family and friends from far and wide together… Thank you for being such a wonderful second dad to me… Trivial Pursuit King!!” Versatility could well be added to his attributes.)
But this is meant to be a homily (or a sermon, to you Protestants and others!), so I’d better get religious and holy (Just joking!), although I can never separate the sacred from the secular, the spiritual from the physical, emotional, psychological complex creatures that we all are. The challenge is for each of us to get our act together and try to live a fulfilling and happy life, finding meaning and love, in all of its dimensions, along the way. Ted did this so well, finding a great balance between a living faith, family, fun, frivolity and finance, with work and play. (And he did have an Honours Science degree from Queens University in Kingston, as well as an MBA! Just for rhyme!)
Ted had a deep, and largely understated Christian faith, in the Catholic tradition, but he wasn’t one to foist it onto others. Rather, he lived it in a very practical way, sharing the love, leading by example, always concerned about the needs and welfare of others, starting at home, but also from near and far, as we well know. From the start, however, he took me in, and welcomed me as part of his inner circle of family and friends. As Rob said to me yesterday, once a friend of Ted, always a friend and one of the family, whoever you were.
In his working life, Ted had the great capacity to continue to make friends with his work colleagues all along, where they reciprocated his outreach and interest in them. As far as his work went, I could only see him as a person off the utmost integrity and directness, firm and fair in his dealings with others. (I quote Jeff Patchell, one of his workmates from Royal Bank of Canada: “I had the pleasure of working with Ted at RBC for 10 years. He was a kind, caring, competent and fun-loving man.”)
I know there were some disappointments over the years too, but ‘such is life’ (as Australian Bushranger, Ned Kelly, once said! In 1985, Ted, Ruth and Joe once came to the Glenrowan museum in Ned’s memory!). He’d always face adversity with determination and pursue a new direction with energy, enthusiasm and success, aided by the love and support of Ruth and Joe and AnnA, his loving family who were always dearest to his heart, and then later, Laree and Luke as partners.
Ted was also very close to his parents, later Oma Anne and Opa Bas, appreciating the sacrifices they had made, in order to raise and educate him and Rob, and the difficult, dark and challenging times they had faced in Holland and Germany during the horrors and fears of World War II. I might add, I am more than pleased and grateful they came to Canada, rather than Australia, as I’d never have had the same opportunities over here without meeting Ted! As is Ruth, I am sure!!
And we have to be thankful that Ted made it happily, to walk AnnA up the grass aisle to marry Luke this last August, and to speak with Ruth about what she meant to them, and the memorable bridal waltz of AnnA and Ted, to mark a very happy and loving evening, with the gathering of family and so many friends, from the ends of the earth, literally, The Netherlands, England and Australia! These moments were so precious and remain in our hearts and minds to sustain us, despite the sadness, grief and loss, and the tears that are very natural and real.
Back to the readings chosen, and how could we avoid the one from Ruth? It encapsulates the loving person Ted was to all he knew and befriended, which is why we are here in such numbers today, to remember him and to support his loving family, and each other.
In the second reading, Paul writes to Timothy, towards the end of his life and mission, and reflects on having done his best, despite his self-confessed weaknesses. Yet, the scoreboard for Ted is pretty much in the positive direction, with little to knock! He produced what are called the fruits of the Spirit, pretty well, which are defined by Paul, as love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, not a bad summary of qualities reflected by Ted in his life and relationships.
We could add many more positive qualities too, such as his generosity, humility and sense of justice, social and otherwise, not to forget his sense of humour and a very competitive spirit too. And perhaps I could suggest patience wasn’t always his strongest virtue! Well, no-one’s perfect!!
Finally, from Jesus’ farewell discourse in John’s Gospel, which starts of with Jesus washing his friends’ feet, a symbol of service (moreso than being about dirty feet!), we hear Honest Thomas, as I prefer to call him, rather than the Doubting one. Poor Tom unfairly gets bad press, to my mind, asking out loud the questions the others are too scared to ask of Jesus. Where do we go from here? And how do we know what to do? And if you and I are honest, we all have our doubts and questions, and will never have all the answers to the mystery that is life and death, as we all have to face our mortality.
Jesus is about to go out into the darkness, and face the injustice of torture and death of the good and truthful man, assures them of his ongoing presence in Spirit, despite his mission appearing a failure and tragedy, in human terms. He has shown the Way by his words and good deeds; he gives us the Truth in his message of Good News; and as the Life, he calls us to fullness of life in him, in light, happiness and peace, as he has called Ted to himself now.
The mission of Jesus goes on, and his Spirit endures in us, as we respond to living his Law of Love as Good News on our lives, as our dear friend Ted did so well, throughout his life, cut short by the cruel and debilitating cancer he faced so bravely. “All You Need is Love”, sang The Beatles, in 1967’s song of the year, for Expo 67 in Montreal, the first live satellite global telecast. It wasn’t just about romantic love, but about making the world a better and smaller place, and bringing people together in peace and understanding. (Like me, Ted loved The Beatles!!)
Again, Ted’s life reflected so well, a love of the God of life and love, revealed through the person of Jesus, whose message is universal, love of others, and love of self, as I like to add. We’re of no use to anyone else if we can’t realize a capacity in ourselves to do good for others and develop our own potential.
And so, we commend Ted to the loving God, and the Jesus he believed in, and followed throughout his life, in eternity, as we remember him and give thanks for his love and his life and his friendship, happy too, that he is now at peace, despite our deep sadness and loss. Rest in peace, dear friend Ted. We’ll never forget you. How could we??
(Especially that time you took me out on the tube on Pencil Lake with the boat, and then spun me round rather too fast for my capabilities, as I hit the water rather hard, memorably, with my bung hip, now fixed!!)
john hannon REMEMBRANCE DAY 11th November 2022