Long Story Short – How to Sum Up 83 Years in 2,000 Words

Well, it’s been a while. I haven’t been here since October. Before that it was July. I was actually on a good roll here until then, but for the eight months or so leading up to my dad’s passing on January 13, my focus was on him. His health had declined, so my sister and I devoted most of our extra time to him. Since his passing, I just haven’t been motivated to write. The writing still happens in my head, I just haven’t felt like taking the ideas further than that. I let them come and I let them go. 

One thing I’ve written since being here, is my dad’s eulogy. It was my third eulogy, and if you have ever written one, I’m sure you will agree that it’s not easy. After Dad passed away, my laptop and I immediately began an emotional roller coaster ride of making a long story short—with my sister Elanna’s input of course. We took 84 years and rolled them into 2,000 words… it wasn’t enough. There was so much more to say. As it was, we far exceeded the recommended 500-1000 words for a eulogy advice we found online.

I personally love eulogies. I love to hear people’s stories… whether I knew them or not. I’ve listened to some that have gone much longer than ours did, and I never got bored. “Tell me more,” is my motto. Anyway, I will share Dad’s eulogy below.  

Picture at the top: Dad on the left with his brothers-in-law Eugene and Larry. Uncle Larry shares some fond memories of Dad from back in the day on the Virtual Memorial Site. I’ll share the link below.

There is something else I wrote that I’m excited to tell you about. It’s a one page contribution to a book called Pursuit: 365, launching on June 1, 2022. Pursuit: 365 is co-authored by 365 people from all walks of life. Every day, the book features one of the co-authors and their inspiring story, including mine – a tribute to my sister (sisters/best friends). They also feature an author every day of the year on their Fresh Magazine and Pursuit:365 websites. I chose June 1 (not knowing the book was launching on this day) because it’s one of the most beautiful days of the year—our late mom’s birthday. Go to fresh mag or pursuit_365 to read my story (on June 1) and all the other women’s inspiring stories virtually (the online story is different from the story in the book). Go to Amazon to find the book (it’s the black cover/2022 edition).

One more thing before the eulogy (you may have seen this announcement on my social media), my family is happy to announce that my husband Chris Ryan has been appointed as the new President of Project Wellness/Amazon Evangelism. Chris has a huge heart for missions. He accompanied Dad on his last five trips to Malawi. He also has five missions trips to Casa de Luz, Mexico under his belt. Chris is appreciated for his strong leadership and administrative skills. He has 37 years of retail management experience. He served as treasurer at both, Alderbrook Community Church, and Dunamis Ministries. 

Chris says he is honoured to take over for Dad and has some huge shoes to fill. We are grateful Chris has accepted this position. We are also grateful to have Elanna now on the board of directors as well… a huge thank you goes out to all our board members for their support and the great job they do.  

Project Wellness (Amazon Evangelism) has always been a family affair, but it was our dad’s ministry/baby. It was his blood, sweat, and tears (and of course the prayer support and financial support of many people) that made it the success it was and is today.

We are honoured and so grateful for the opportunity to continue Dad and Mom’s legacy of drilling fresh water wells in Malawi Africa.

A huge thank you goes to everyone who contributed to Dad’s memorial well… coming soon!

Chris and Dad’s first trip to Malawi together.

Learn more about Project Wellness at http://www.projectwellness.ca or feel free to message Chris at amazon2@shaw.ca with inquiries and/or if you would like to donate to future projects. 

Here is the link to the Virtual Memorial Gatherings site. Thank you to those who shared and to those who joined us for Dad’s service whether in person or online.

Here is Dad’s eulogy – Elanna and I took turns reading…

Elanna – Welcome and intros…

Nadine – Dad’s last night at his home was bittersweet. It was New Year’s Eve and he was packed and ready to go to the Abbotsford hospice the next morning. Elanna and I stayed the night. The three of us, along with Dad’s neighbour and dear friend Elizabeth, rang in the new year at about nine. At Dad’s request, Elizabeth brought him just a wee glass of wine.

Elanna – When Dad woke up, Nadine and I helped him get ready and soon we were off. It was a somber exit and a quiet drive. Along the scenic stretch of the Lougheed Hwy from Maple Ridge to Mission, mist hovered over the Fraser River and the sun tried to shine. We listened to hymns. Dad loved the old hymns, and we quite like them too.

Nadine – Dad was born on March 30, 1938, in the mennonite/farming community of Grunthal Manitoba to John and Helen Klassen. He had a big sister, Mary, and 4 older brothers, Jake, Frank, John, and David, and a little sister, Helen. Dad is survived by brother Dave and sister Helen and her husband Jim, and Frank’s wife, Irene.

Elanna – Dad was a natural born shepherd. He fed sheep with a bottle and mended their wounds. Over the years, he often talked about his pet squirrel, and Teddy and Tommy, the dogs he adored. His one room school house was called Spencer North. He referred to the “Great Halls of Spencer” when reminiscing about his seven years or so of education. The true learning was in the hard work of farming. He liked to remind us, once in a while, that as the youngest boy he sat at the end of the dinner table where pickings were slim. And that’s why, as an adult, he liked to spread everything on thick.  

Nadine – At the age of nineteen, Dad hopped on a bus and fled the brutal winter on the prairie and headed for the balmy west coast. Port Coquitlam, BC is where his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was… our mom Sheila. They met at a dance but Mom didn’t show the same interest at first. Dad’s warm smile, charming behaviour, and awesome dance moves eventually won her over and she soon was smitten too.

Elanna – Mom and Dad got married and soon after, they had a baby… they had me. It’s said that Dad wanted a boy so badly but after having a girl, when mom was pregnant with Nadine, he really hoped for another girl, and was over the moon when he got her. He loved being Dad to two girls. Sadly, Mom and Dad lost a baby in-between us.

Nadine – Dad worked as a metallurgist, which gave us full rights to call him our “Man of Steele.” Plus he had amazing pipes. When I was a kid, I was always getting him to flex his biceps. So when I told the other kids that my dad was stronger than theirs, I was just speaking the truth. Our Superman worked at Esco in Poco and then IPSCO in Port Moody. Dad had so many fond memories and interesting stories about his colleagues and other buddies from Port Coquitlam, and the family he acquired when he married Mom. Oh the fun of being related to the Walds and the Wildes.

Elanna – We moved to Maple Ridge in 1977. Mom and Dad purchased their dream rancher on a lovely lot that dad quickly landscaped to his specific liking. Displaying a variety of flowers in the gardens, and his candy apple red 1941 Dodge truck on the driveway, brought him tremendous joy. This is the same truck Dad would fill with our friends and/or our cousins and take for rides, sometimes for ice cream. 

Nadine – One Sunday morning, in that rancher on 214th St, after watching a sermon on TV, right there on the bathroom floor, Dad prayed to receive Jesus as his Saviour and Lord. He was excited to share his experience with others, and tell people how they too could know Jesus. He learned how to use a little orange booklet to share his faith, a booklet he never left home without. He even took some to hospice.  

Elanna – When IPSCO closed, Dad was forced into early retirement. Being a Jack of all trades, Dad juggled odd jobs before he got the call from God to the mission field of Brazil. Dad and Mom helped out in schools and churches and showed the Jesus film in places along the Amazon River with other missionary friends. Eventually, they started a society called, Amazon Evangelism. They led many people to the Lord, including friend Luiz. Dad prayed with eighteen year old Luiz in 1993. Soon after, Luiz became a pastor and has been a minister of the Gospel since then.  

Nadine – Eventually our parents ended up in Malawi, Africa. That was the beginning of Project Wellness, and their response to the need for clean water. Dad was so grateful for the many donors who made it possible for him to drill 61 wells to date and take care of hundreds of orphans in different ways, including providing food and fertilizer for gardens.

Elanna – Dad had two son’s in law, Mike who passed away in January of 2015, and Peter (he actually had three but we’ll get to Chris later). Dad loved these men like his very own sons. Dad often talked about Mike’s bravery in facing ALS and spoke about how much he admired his humour, his positive attitude, and strong faith. Dad and Peter had many things in common, especially their love for gardening. They also enjoyed working together on home renovation projects… referring to themselves as G and P construction.

Nadine – Dad’s soft heart became mush in 1989 when he became a grandpa for the first time. Erin put a “D” at the end of every word… Momma D, Daddy D, Nay-nay “d” and Papa “D” Eventually she dropped the “D” from every name, except Papa and that’s why Dad was called Papa-D. Nathan and Madison naturally called him that too. When Michaela came along, she struggled to say Papa D, it came out, “Pie,“ and that’s why she and her brother Luke called him Pie. Once in a while he was called “grandpa.” Dad answered proudly to all of the above.

Elanna – Dad delighted in spending time with his grandchildren, and would drop everything to give them a ride. He attended many sporting events and had no shame in cheering very loudly when his grandkid scored a goal or made a great play. Dad cheered on his grandkids in all their endeavours. His biggest role though in their lives was behind the scenes, the role of prayer warrior.

Nadine – When great granddaughter Leah came along, and was born with her mother Katrina’s beautiful brown eyes, Dad said, we needed some brown eyes in this family. Leah brought him and Mom so much joy and pride. When Leah’s little brother Emerson came along Dad and Mom were happy to add him to the family and Dad often referred to him as a marvellous little boy.

Elanna – Dad’s third son-in-law, Chris came into his life almost six years ago, and fulfilled an important role. He became Dad’s partner on the Malawi mission field. Chris accompanied Dad on his last five trips to drill wells. They became very good friends, they called each other “Buddy.” With Chris came two daughters, Alexa and Nicola, and son-in-law Frank. Dad quickly added them to the fold and his list of people he adored. And a little less than 2 years ago, great grand daughter Ophelia was born and we watched how a baby can really light up an old man’s world. 

Nadine – Dad embraced everyone we did… teammates, colleges, friends, including Michaela’s boyfriend of 5 years, Zee, and Erin’s boyfriend Kevin, who Dad sometimes referred to as The Bagpiper… and requested that he play his bagpipes here today.

Elanna – “Frequent flyer” was an understatement.

He made so many trips to Brazil and Africa we lost count, but his favourite trip was the one trip he took to Paraguay where he met long lost relatives.

Elanna – At home Dad loved going for coffee. He had friends that he met for coffee as early as 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning at McDonalds or A&W. Lately, it was at the mall at around 11:00. Just a few days before going to hospice, he sat there with Bob, Brent and Denny for what would be their last coffee together. 

Nadine – In recent years, Dad stopped giving birthday cards and focused on the envelope. He drew flowers and other pictures and coloured them with special pencil crayons and sometimes wrote a Bible verse or other note. He put money in them. 

Elanna – Dad always looked forward to his trips home to Grunthal in the fall to witness the changing colours of the leaves and seeing his family. He went to concerts, basketball games, and other events at Eric Langton Elementary where Erin is a teacher and Leah and Emerson attend. He liked fishing, going for walks and scenic drives, participating in his grand daughter’s spin classes, playing Yahtzee, and mostly he loved spending time with family. He attended church here at Maple Ridge Baptist and thoroughly enjoyed going for lunch after every service with dear friend’s Charlotte and Jerry. 

Elanna – Dad was feisty and stubborn, headstrong and determined. He was passionate and compassionate, temperamental at times, generous, funny, kind… 

Nadine – Dad was a man of God, but he was just a man… with many flaws. He’d want us to stress that he was a sinner saved by grace—not by any good thing he had done. He would want us to tell you that he is in heaven with Jesus and our mom and other loved ones because of God’s extravagant love, and because of what Jesus did for him on the cross. He didn’t earn his home in heaven, it was a free gift because of what Jesus did. 

Nadine – On that quiet drive to hospice, I just kept thinking, our frail Man of Steel was putting on a brave face. He knew where he was ultimately going, but still he wasn’t quite ready to leave. Earlier we all agreed we were very attached to one another and that made it so difficult to let go. He told us he was tired and he was going to do a lot of sleeping when he got to his room in hospice.

Elanna – It was only a matter of a couple of days, and dad started to get the rest he needed. Before long, he was mostly just sleeping. God’s peace and mercy showed up in the amazing way it does in this kind of situation—we had witnessed it before. As hard as it is to say goodbye, we are so happy Dad is free of the struggles, and the troubles of human life… We finish by quoting a few words from one of those hymns we listened to on the way to hospice…

Elanna – My Jesus I love Thee, I know Thou art mine. For Thee all the follies of sin I resign. My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour art Thou, If ever I loved Thee my Jesus ’tis now.

Nadine – In mansions of glory and endless delight, I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright. I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow…

Nadine and Elanna – If ever I loved Thee my Jesus ’tis now.

Dad and his brother John’s memorial well in Malawi.
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8 Responses

  1. Hi Elanna and Nadine.
    Reading this brings tears to my eyes😢. But he is with Jesus and Sheila I really miss them and always came out to visit my mom and then we would go for coffee
    and it was such a blessing to have these times and also when their car neede service I would pick the up and we would go for lunch see mom and bring them back when their car was done. I treasure our times together
    My sincere best wishes on your venture to continue your dads mission. Love you all
    From Cousin Elaine

    1. Thank you cousin Elaine! Mom and Dad adored you and so enjoyed their visits with you (and your mom of course – Dad’s oldest sister). Thank you for taking care of them when they were getting their car serviced and for supporting and encouraging them with their ministry and everything. xox

  2. That was such a beautiful tribute to your dad,it was such a privilege to read about a special man thank you ❤️

  3. Beautifully written and expressed with so much love and gratitude that I can feel your absolute love for your father through your writing❤️.

  4. I loved your tribute, you both did a wonderful job. So heartfelt, and it did not feel too long at all, in fact I could have read more! Your father was a remarkable man, and that twinkle in his eye will live on in yours. I just know it!

    Nadine your 365 Book sounds so interesting, I look forward seeing you in it and reading about the other authors too.

    Chris is certainly the best man for Project Wellness, I am so glad it will continue on.

    Well long story short, you shared some wonderful information, I only wish you were sharing more! ❤️

    1. Awe, I love what you have to say. Thank you so much all of your feedback. I appreciate you being here and for all the love, support, and encouragement! xo

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