The Story of Us
In the spring of 1990, Eileen and I brought Robert with us to Scotland where he and I climbed Ben Nevis and the Buchaille Etive Mor. It was there at around 3,000 feet above sea level we heard a roar then saw beneath us a US fighter plane doing low level flying through Glen Coe. We heard a huge boom as the plane broke the sound barrier beneath us.
Returning to Canada I never felt quite right and when I went running, was winded already at the start of the run. In August 1990 I was preparing for the Canadian Championships in Montreal but the night before leaving had what I thought was an attack of indigestion. I exercised all night to get rid of this and in the morning en route to Montreal called in at Emergency Department at Memorial Hospital to see if they could give me something to clear the indigestion. That was when I discovered I was having a heart attack. Coincidentally this was two weeks after I had a growth removed from the back of my neck which turned out to be cancer. Fortunately it was a Squamish cell carcinoma, not a fatal kind. For some strange reason the physician who removed it was a retired coroner.
It was a major heart attack, level three, and I spent nine days in the Memorial Hospital followed by a period of a few months recovering. My doctor, also an athlete, said I had to quit racing, but could keep up jogging and could compete in high jump and discus. I had never been very good in the high jump, but throwing the discus was one of my better events so I set a goal of competing in the discus competition at the 1991 World Championships in Turku, Finland. I had to quit heavy weightlifting but still managed a respectable finish in Turku.
Nine years later, in the year 2000, I started feeling weak and ended up in hospital needing two litres of blood. This started a long series of tests which failed to find a cause until I was referred to a Dr Marcomb at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. He was doing some leading edge testing for cancer. Dr Marcomb conducted a test where I swallowed a capsule which was really a camera and took pictures for seven hours all the way through my digestive system. Eventually he and a surgeon decided they had better go in and have a look. What they found was level three cancer which had grown through the wall of my small bowel, in a location well beyond the reach of colonoscopies.
This was surgically removed and I was referred to an oncologist in Sudbury who broke the news to me in October 2003 that I could expect to live thirty-six and a half months from the date of my surgery. My clock was ticking.
As I was recovering, Eileen was having very serious health problems as her cancer was returning and she was discovered to be allergic to every medicine which she needed. Because of the allergy her last two years were very difficult and she finally passed away in November 2004.
Now I understood that I had two years left to live, but I felt not too bad. I was mentally prepared to go but for company bought a little dog, a Shih Tzu, which I named Misty. She was very loving, made friends with all of my neighbours and kept me quite occupied. This included getting up before dawn to take her outside to pee. Misty was good company but I really missed having someone to talk with, especially to share the things I saw on my walks in the woods - chickadee, woodpeckers, tracks in the snow.
THE STORY OF USOUR FIRST MEETING.
Eventually I started dating again. I realised that at my age I had to make allowances for the ladies I would meet. However, it became a case of “looney tunes” and I backed out of two relationships which started but I certainly did not want to become long term. I dodged a bullet! Maybe two.
One August day I was driving into town and passed a Garage Sale sign. I seldom visited garage sales but would occasionally drop in on one to see if the resident had a similar taste as me in books. Anyway, after passing this sign I thought “I should drop in there.” Returning home later I passed the same sign and thought “I meant to drop in there.” However I had passed it and kept on going home. A little later I had to go into town again and found I had passed that sign once more. Returning home from town I drove past it again but this time, I did something I would seldom do. I stopped, turned around and went back to find that garage sale.
A man was in the garage who had been examining a gadget which he broke. Then he started complaining “I was going to buy it, but now it’s broken.” The lady who lived there said, “just take it or leave it. I don’t want any money for it.” This man did not know when to shut up and went on about “I would have bought it.” I told him to take it and go, just go, and he went.
There were no books of interest to me in the garage and few customers, but one of them was the daughter of a neighbour of mine. She was chatting with the lady having the garage sale and I overheard that this lady had recently lost her husband. I mentioned that my wife had passed away the previous year. Her loss had been more recent than mine and she was anxious to find out more about bereavement support groups. A garage sale was not a good place to discuss that so as I was leaving, she said, “Maybe we could have a coffee sometime.” Anyway, I bought four bone china coffee mugs which I did not need, just in order to support her garage sale and left.
I had forgotten her name and couldn’t remember where she lived but two weeks later I took my car into the garage for servicing and had little Misty along with me. I was walking the dog when suddenly, turning a corner I recognised the house where the garage sale had been.
It was about nine in the morning and, plucking up my courage, I picked up Misty and knocked on the front door. There was a long pause and I started to leave when I heard a voice behind me and went back. Eveline was still in her housecoat. “Remember saying we could have a coffee together sometime,” I asked, and left her my card.
Eveline called me around 1:00 P.M. and later I collected her and we went to Parker House, a nice little coffee shop and there we sat getting to know each other, for three hours. I wanted Eveline to know about me, all cards on the table, no secrets, and I equally wanted to know about her. I honestly told her my age, 70, and she told me hers, 59. The age difference was a jolt for her, and she has many times reminded me that I failed to tell her I would be 71 within three days. So much for honesty. Anyway the time flew by and by the end of that visit we were really sure we wanted to see each other again.
A BRIEF COURTSHIP.
I had two tickets to hear a choir of African children from Kenya, orphaned by the Aids epidemic there and Eveline agreed to go to that with me. But two days was too long to wait and I remembered her saying that she loved to walk in the rain. The very next day was suitable for that so I invited her for a walk on my favourite trail and she came along. We both agreed to take our time in the relationship but were getting to know each other very quickly.
In those early days we enjoyed each others company a lot and spent a great deal of time together. Eveline came to firesides with me and I went to church with her and we were each very supportive of the others spiritual journey. I was not much help in telling her about the Baha’i Faith but she hit it off with JP and Helen Mayer, did lots of reading and asking many questions. I soon saw she did not need answers from me but could find her own way, which she did very nicely.
We got to know each others family and had lots of love and support from them. Before very long we could see that this was going to be more than just a friendship.
Eveline and her daughter Carole spent a few days at Deerhurst Inn in Huntsville and I joined them there for a visit. It was nice to meet Carole and Eveline and I enjoyed laying back on the dock watching the stars.
Shortly after this I was hosting a Ruhi Study Book weekend in my home in Sudbury, finishing a course which Eileen had started, when I became ill. It became a “do it yourself” course and I had the symptoms of a very bad flu. Despite my protest Eveline insisted I get into the emergency and although it took three days for me to do it, she was right. After a whole series of tests they discovered I had a rare case of Giant Cell Arteritis, an inflammation of the arteries, which affects the immune system and which, if untreated, could lead to blindness. I was prescribed high doses of prednisone which caused me to grow much larger, resembling a balloon.
One night Eveline and I were watching a video of short films starring the comedian Mr Bean. In one situation it was almost Christmas and he and his lady friend were passing a store window in which was a picture of a couple getting engaged. The lady friend was very excited about it and pointed it out to Mr Bean, who took careful note. On their next date, on Christmas Day, Mr Bean had a present for her and again she was very excited, expecting an engagement ring. Instead he handed her a package which she unwraps to find the picture from the jewellers shop of the couple getting engaged. She is shattered. He demonstrated to her the nice frame on the picture, but still she was disappointed. Just a minute though! Mr Bean produced a ring box and she was smiling again. However, when she opened the box, inside is a cup hook which Mr Bean used to demonstrate how she can hang the picture. We both thought this was very funny and Eveline told her friends and family about it
Eveline and I were together at her home on Christmas Eve and I gave her a nicely wrapped small package. Eveline opened it and here was a lovely picture frame. Now I gave her a ring box with the jeweller’s name on it. When she opened that, there was a cup hook to hang her picture frame. It was after that I presented her with an engagement ring and asked her to marry me.
Both Eveline and I had been married to other partners for many years but now we started the slow process of building our very own memories which is ongoing. We went to Daytona Beach, Florida for a month and that really helped us get to know each other. There was a lot of adjustment for both of us, but we handled it very well.
Eveline’s mother Irene quickly became my good friend. She told Eveline “If you don’t want him, I’ll take him. He is nearer my age than yours anyway!
Just like she does everything, Eveline soon became a wholehearted participant in Baha’i activities, especially in helping with food preparation and provisions and long before she was a declared Baha’i she was a mainstay of our little community in Sudbury.
Eveline decided April was the best time for the marriage ceremony, so she went charging ahead to arrange the perfect wedding. I don’t think there was anything that could have been any better than that wedding and reception. The priest at the French Catholic church was not at all keen on participating in a joint Catholic Baha’i wedding ceremony, but Father Jim Hutton was more than agreeable at St Patrick’s Church on Walford Road and on April 22nd, 2006 he performed the Catholic rites while my dear friend J.P. Mayer, on behalf of the LSA of the Baha’is of Sudbury, officiated the Baha’i ceremony.
We had decided that I should sell my home and move into Eveline’s spacious home on Gateway Drive. Eveline was tremendous help in selling my home which I did without engaging a real estate company. She was also more than helpful as I disposed of my furniture. Much of it was given away and I was very pleased with how it was all “placed.” Right after the wedding I moved into Eveline’s home for a few days as we waited to get away for our honeymoon.
We then had a lovely one week honeymoon in a Sandal’s resort in Nassau, The Bahamas. Nassau was to become one of our favourite places. As soon as we arrived at Sandals, Eveline got busy and arranged an upgrade of our quarters at no extra charge and we got a unit facing the ocean which came with a row of 40 ounce bottles of wines and spirits. Not being a Baha’i, Eveline was able to appreciate some of the wine. We enjoyed the resort and also strolling around Nassau and visiting the flea market where I bought Eveline a beautiful looking “Rolex” self-winding watch which she sets to the right time and wears on special occasions.
Returning to Sudbury, we each had to start making adjustments to our normal lifestyles. Eveline had a major change to get used to, as all of her life French was the language used at home, and the extent of my French vocabulary was about twenty words.
My oncologist had told me that the type of cancer I had was very unusual (in the small bowel) and that I could expect to live for 36 and a half months! She downloaded the few statistics available online and nobody with that had lived for five years. On October 22nd, 2006 we reached that dreaded date and I was feeling fine, so Eveline took me out for dinner to celebrate.
OUR MAJOR CAR CRASH.
We had been married for just over a year when we joined Eveline’s brother Claude and his wife Doris for a week vacation in a campground near Niagara on the Lake. Claude and I were kindred spirits and we had a grand time overeating and playing cards. On the return journey I was driving and we were almost home when something very strange happened and I woke up in the hospital. Apparently I must have dozed off at the wheel, drifted off my lane onto the lane of oncoming traffic while doing 100 kilometres per hour and a large tractor trailer travelling at the same speed in the opposite direction ripped the driver’s side off my car. The car was totalled and I almost was too. Fortunately the other driver was unhurt. Eveline had been reading when she heard a huge bang and our car went spinning and spinning down the road. Eveline felt the impact and was crushed by the air bag. Everything went black for her and she thought it might be the end of the world. When she opened her eyes she was in shock and saw blood everywhere. I was unconscious and had a large chunk of glass from the windshield sticking out of my forehead. When she got out of our car, she could not see the other vehicle which had gone much further down the road before the driver managed to stop. People living nearby and other drivers rushed to help and fortunately the Ontario Provincial Policeman who came to the scene was one of Eveline’s many cousins and he was most helpful and solicitous of Eveline and saw everything was taken care of.
I knew nothing of all this and only learned of it later from Eveline. I regained consciousness in a hospital bed, but the nurses had given me oxycontyn and percocet as pain killers and it turned out that they were the wrong medication for me. I began to hallucinate. Eveline had been released from the hospital within a few hours and when she came to visit me, I would not believe I was in a hospital. I was sure it was a garage!
I told Eveline she had to get out of town as “they are after us.” As to my injuries, I had a fractured ankle, a fractured sternum, fractured two vertebrae in my neck, and a huge fracture in my skull from above one eye to the back to my head.
My daughter Jackie flew in from Vancouver and stayed with Eveline which allowed them to really get to know each other. Robert drove up from Toronto and comforted me with the thought “you are just like a cockroach. They cannot kill you!”
In the hospital I found a familiar pattern with the nurses. Some were wonderful, most were just fine, but a few should have chosen a different career.
One time I was walking through the hospital when a nurse told me “You have to go back to bed.” I asked her why and she said “You are sick.” A few weeks later, back home again I asked Eveline which part of the hospital I had been in when that happened. She said “You never got out of bed. You had tubes coming out of you all over and had a cast on your leg.”
After about eleven days I was released from the hospital and under Eveline’s tender care. My car was gone and my insurance company let me chose a similar replacement. Since I could remember nothing about the accident, I had no fear of driving again, but Eveline made me promise not to drive for two weeks. Meanwhile Eveline herself was suffering some after effects, both physical and psychological. The seat belts and air bags had done their job but also caused injuries. Eveline required physiotherapy for crushing injuries and pulled ligaments and tendons. There was major road construction work going on near our home and it involved a lot of rock blasting. A warning siren would blow, then a large explosion. This brought the accident back to Eveline’s mind and her body would react. She would usually scream, drop whatever she was holding and sometimes fall down. Eventually she was given some successful post traumatic treatment but it took a long time for it to become more manageable.
Eveline had tracked down what sounded like a wonderful place in Providence Bay on Manitoulin Island to spend a week vacation. The owner assured us he was on Lake Huron and it seemed like just the thing to get away from the blasting. It cost a thousand dollars for the week which we had to pay before going. When we got there, it was a disaster. We drove about three kilometres down a tiny bush trail to find the place. It had a tiny spiral staircase which I could not negotiate with a cast on my leg, nor could I negotiate the 400 metres over a rocky shoreline to the lake. The furniture was extremely shabby, even for a camp, and when we looked under the seat cushions on the living room couch there was all sorts of food debris including cheerios cereal. The toilet did not operate with water but had to be operated by a scoop of sand and wood shavings. It was getting dark, but we quickly decided that we did not want to spend any time there, much less stay for a week, so we headed for town and managed to get the last hotel room available for the night. Next day we managed to track down a lovely bed and breakfast place for the rest of our one week stay.
We visited the owner of the cottage telling him that with a cast on my leg we just could not stay there. I thought he would give us at least part of our money back, maybe go half and half, but no! He was a skilled business man and said that the small print on our on-line contract said the money was non refundable. He did suggest however that I try claiming it from my car insurance company, which we did, and that worked. We got a thousand dollars back which paid for our stay in the hotel and bed and breakfast place.
I still had to wear a walking cast when my 72nd birthday rolled around and eveline and I went to dinner at a favourite restaurant, The Keg. As we went in we were shown to a room at the back of the restaurant and to me astonishment, here were all of our friends and family. Eveline had arranged a surprise party for me and about thirty people were there including both of our families and many friends. There were balloons, and even a huge a cake with my a picture of me throwing the discus imposed on it.
CONNECTING WITH FLORIDA BAHA’IS.
On our annual trips to Florida we had been unable to contact any local Baha’is, then one day Eveline was in a health food store talking with the owner, who was wearing an open necked shirt. He wore a gold chain around his neck and some kind of medallion was partly showing, so Eveline asked him about it. That was when we found out he was a Baha’i, Mitchell Booth, and we were then able to contact about half a dozen other Baha’is who lived in surrounding communities. We soon made friends with these wonderful people and each year we visit Daytona, we really enjoy their company at every opportunity. We love to join them in their Baha’i activities and also enjoy some fun games of dominoes. There is an extremely strong heart connection with these dear friends. We love to see them and really miss them when we go home.
EVELINE INVESTIGATES THE FAITH.
Now Eveline was busy at Baha’i events in Sudbury and attending firesides, asking many questions and quietly doing a lot of investigating. One reason Eveline could not always get satisfactory answers to her questions is that often Baha’is do not know enough about their own faith. To my surprise I was one of those, big time! Eveline asked me what the Writings had to say about the Holy Spirit. To her disappointment, I told her we did not pay much attention to that and there could not be much about it. If the Holy Spirit was not an important part of the Baha’i Faith, Eveline was not interested in it. However, she did her own digging and found hundreds of references to it, some of them in my favourite prayers, even some prayers with which I was so familiar that I had memorised them. I just never even noticed a mention of the Holy Spirit.
When J.P. and Helen Mayer were about to leave for their pioneering post in Dalian, China we invited them for dinner at our home. Eveline thought she wanted to become a Baha’i but became a bit nervous about it. To her great relief, J.P. and Helen assured her that she was probably not ready and should wait until she was.
In December 2008 Eveline and I attended the Baha’i Social and Economic Development Conference in Orlando for one week. While there, Eveline bought what she called “the Big Book,”a collection of Abdul Baha’s sayings, lectures, books, and speeches. Often when she couldn’t sleep she would open her “big book” of the wisdom of Abdul Baha and here she found her own answers to many of her questions. Unknown to anyone, Eveline had started filling out an application for membership in the Baha’i Faith, a little bit at a time. One night she would fill in her first name, another night her second name and over a number of months she had filled out almost all of the card. Except for the date.
The following year J.P. and Helen we were home from China again and we joined them for lunch at the Caswell Hotel. Eveline told them she wanted to become a Baha’i. This time she was sure, but there were certain things she was uneasy about in her life. J.P. reassured her “If you are waiting to be perfect, its never going to happen.” so Eveline decided to go ahead. J.P. said “I think I have an application card in my van,” and went outside to get it. Unfortunately it wasn’t there. That is when Eveline said, “I have a card at home.” We went to our home and Eveline produced the card she had been working on for months, and finally completed it. I keep a picture in my prayer book of her completing her card that day, July 29, 2009, while standing beside J.P. and Helen.
During our trips to Daytona Beach we found it a town which conducted annual special events, such as Race Week, Students Spring Break, Black History Week and biggest of all, Bike Week. Of all of these Bike Week was busiest and noisiest. Half a million people came to town and the town population is normally a hundred thousand. All hotels are filled and many camp in every spare field in the region. The noise of Harley Davidson motorbikes go on day and night and usually ten to fifteen people die in traffic accidents. To avoid all this we usually leave for a one week cruise, sailing out of Port Canaveral, about an hour’s drive South of Daytona. We sailed on the Carnival Line of ships and enjoyed visiting eastern and western Caribbean yet always managed to visit our favourite port of call, Nassau, bringing back memories of our honeymoon there.
OUR FIFTIETH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY.
Eveline realised that she would never experience a fiftieth wedding anniversary. Her first marriage had lasted ten years, the second twenty three years and since I was 71 when we got married it was impossible for us to see those fifty years together. I would be more than 120 years old by then. However, Eveline had an idea just how it could be done. We chose to celebrate 50 months as our fiftieth anniversary. Getting into the right spirit we went to our favourite restaurant for dinner with friends who gave us 50th anniversary cards and small gift to commemorate the occasion and had a wonderful celebration.
THE CRUISE FROM HELL.
Eveline often had her eye out for a bargain and she told me that many others seemed to be able to get trips at great bargain prices. Anyway she found this great sounding bargain for a four day, and three nights cruise, sailing from Fort Lauderdale and going to Nassau.
It turned out that there were some serious catches to this bargain. First we had a four-hour drive through nasty traffic and as soon as we reached our “free” hotel, we were told we had to go back to Palm Springs. “We drove through there and an hour ago’ Eveline said, but the tour operators insisted we had to go back where there would be a “free” lunch. It turned out it was a timeshare trap, and the sales people were most persistent even though we told them we absolutely were not interested in a timeshare. Finally the manager told us very rudely, “just go then!” waving his hands at us. This half hour interview ended being five hours long. We later found out that the tour organisers were paid $500 a head for each person they managed to send to the timeshare company, so it was no wonder they were so persistent.
The next day we joined our ship which turned out to be on its last voyage before being sent to India to be cut up as scrap metal. Nothing worked and the shower provided just a trickle of water. Leaving port we sat down to dinner and that was when Eveline became terribly seasick and this sickness continued until we reached Nassau. We enjoyed Nassau as usual but for a brief few hours and returning, once again sat down to dinner and again Eveline became extremely sea sick. We were told that on return to port in Fort Lauderdale we had to vacate our cabins by 6 A.M.. While we were glad to leave that ship from hell, that entire journey had lasted 35 hours.
Some of the side benefits of that cruise were “free” hotel accommodations we could use for four days in Orlando, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. We found out that at each place we would have to endure another sales pitch for time shares, so we decided to forget about those benefits.
THE PILGRIMAGE. BAHA’I HOLY PLACES.
As Eveline was investigating the Faith, being very active in the Sudbury Baha’i community and asking lots of questions I offered to apply for pilgrimage to the Baha’i holy places in Haifa for both of us. Pilgrimages used to be only for Baha’is but that had changed and non Baha’i spouses could accompany a Baha’i spouse on pilgrimage. Eveline was very interested so I applied. The waiting list used to be about five years, but much had changed with the economic crisis and we received approval to go in about a year.
Eveline got into the project wholeheartedly, as she does most things, and suggested that while we were going to be over there anyway, why not add a Mediterranean cruise to our trip. She tracked down one Italian company who had a twelve-day cruise out of Barcelona, starting at the right time, so we added that to our plans. Eveline used her air miles to help defray the cost of the cruise and discovered through a Baha’i friend that if we used “multiple destinations” we could avoid having to fly from Barcelona to Tel Aviv as part of the return journey to Toronto. It also made our travel much less expensive than it would have been otherwise. During the time we waited to go on pilgrimage Eveline decided to become a Baha’i, so the trip was going to be even more meaningful for her, just like coming home.
There was terrorist activity in Israel and we had a letter from the World Centre, listing towns that we should avoid visiting while on pilgrimage. The week before we left a suicide bomber detonated a bomb by a bus stop in Jerusalem killing innocent people and injuring many more.
Two other local Baha’i families were on the pilgrimage immediately before ours and when we got a postcard from Andy Blanchette saying that the gold dome of the Shrine of the Bab was covered in tarpaulins while it was being renovated, I was sure Andy was playing a practical joke on us, but no. it turned out to be true.
On March 21st, 2011, we had a direct eleven-hour flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv then a two-hour trip by shuttle took us to Haifa. The hotel we were staying at was located on Mount Carmel, above the Shrine of the Bab. It proved to be quite comfortable and everywhere we went both found the Jewish people to be extremely friendly and kind and to our surprise almost everyone spoke English. Mount Carmel itself is a huge mountain mostly consisting of rubble and small gravelly rocks. It is several miles long, not extremely high and the top is relatively flat. We were destined to have a much closer look at it before going home...
So much had changed since my first pilgrimage in 1971, when I saw a surveyor’s stake in a flower bed and asked what it was. I was told it was the location of the corner of the seat of the Universal House of Justice. Now a magnificent building stood there and another two more magnificent buildings had been erected, the Centre for the Study of the Sacred Text, and the International Teaching Centre.
Where a dirt track had been, now the beautiful terraces and stairs went from Ben Gourion Avenue at the bottom of Mount Carmel, all the way to the Shrine of the Bab, then beyond that to the top of Mount Carmel, with gardens and fountains all the way.
It was amazing to see such beautiful gardens in such a hot dry climate, and to learn that they were cared for by a core of volunteers from around the world. From the top of Mount Carmel we could see these terraces going all the way down to the busy Haifa city then Ben Gourion Avenue reaching in a straight line all the way to the sea and the busy harbour, where cargo ships from around the world anchored.
The whole effect was spectacular, but we had not come just for the scenery but it complemented the spiritual experience of our pilgrimage. Entering the shrines was like stepping into another world, leaving all concerns and troubles behind. We visited the shrine where the remains of the Bab had finally been laid to rest by the hands of Abdul Baha in 1908, after being hidden for 58 years from enemies who longed to eradicate all traces of the Bab. Buried with him are the remains of the young man, Anis, who chose to die with him and whose body was so shattered by the bullets from 750 guns that the two bodies could not be separated. In the next room is buried Abdul Baha, knighted by the British government for his services to humanity, known in the media on his journey through Europe, America and Canada, as the Prophet of Peace.
Eveline must have taken hundreds of photographs on the pilgrimage, and she has them as a screen saver on her computer. Any time we pass her little computer room these images roll by reminding us of that experience.
Beyond Haifa, our pilgrimage took us to the ancient prison city of Akka, where Baha’u’llah and Abdul Baha had been imprisoned for many years. We were able to spend time in the actual room in which Baha’u’llah had been confined, also the two homes where he had been a house prisoner when the Turkish government decided they needed the fortress as a barracks for their army. The fortress had been besieged by Napoleon Bonaparte in earlier times and his cannon balls are still embedded, rusting in the walls.
We visited the mansion where Baha’u’llah had stayed during his last years, just outside the gates of the walled city of Akka and the Mansion of Bahji where He finally passed away in 1892 and is buried. The gardens everywhere were just magnificent and again maintained by volunteers. From those gardens we could see across the Plains of Sharon to the hills of Galilee.
THE CAVE OF ELIJAH.
We had one day of the pilgrimage when we were free to go wherever we wished and had been planning to visit Bethlehem which was not very far from Haifa. Eveline decided that since this was the Holy Land, everywhere was holy and that Jesus had probably walked everywhere, so she chose for us to visit the Cave of Elijah.
We travelled by bus to a place by the ocean at the foot of Carmel and their was a Baha’i cemetery there. We visited the grave of Baha’i scholar and historian, Mr Taherzadeh. I had just finished reading a series of four wonderful books he wrote outlining the life of Baha’u’llah and the many tablets He wrote, setting each one in the time and events which surrounded it. I thanked him for the service he had provided for all of us ordinary Baha’is coming after him in time. I also saw the grave of and old friend, Betty Martin, a Canadian and wife of Douglas Martin, member of the Universal House of Justice. Betty had worked at the world centre and since she passed away here, was also buried here.
We asked where a taxi driver where the Cave of Elijah was and he took us a long way to the top of Carmel where there was a monastery. That particular taxi driver was the only time we were overcharged in all the time we were there. The monastery was closed so we decided to hang about until it opened two hours later. Then had a visit inside where a monk told us there was a tiny Cave of Elijah in the monastery, but the main one was at the foot of Carmel from where we had just come. Apparently Elijah had slept in a number of places, but I was sure the place described in the Bible was by the ocean as the story involved large vats of water, and it would be difficult to transport those to the top of Carmel.
We were told there was a path going down the mountain so we started down this steep rocky gravelly path in the heat of the day. Finally, almost back where we started here was a very large cave. There were steps leading to it and it had been made into a Jewish synagogue. There were several people inside and someone was chanting. There was a wooden partition dividing the large room, then a curtain dividing part of the room, behind which was an alcove. In the alcove was bare rock wall with many tiny crevasses with messages tucked into them. Eveline had no paper so she tore a page out of her prayer book and wrote a message for the intentions of all those she loved, then tucked this tiny piece of paper into a crack in the wall.
We saw a young man bent in prayer on a bench and later, talking with him, he told us that Elijah had gone up to heaven on a fiery chariot and that he was going to return. Eveline and I were of the opinion that he already had, but we did not say that to him.
We later learned that Abdul Baha and Baha’u’llah had each spent time living in the cave of Elijah in solitude, temporarily escaping the many stresses in their lives.
Finally it was time to leave. We missed part of the last day planned for our pilgrimage but a ship was about to leave Barcelona and if we stayed we would miss our cruise. We travelled by train to Tel Aviv and thought we were booked into a hotel, but found out we were a day early. The hotel was able to accommodate us, but the Manager, who was very helpful told us to contact our booking agent and get credit for the next day when we would not be there. Eveline got a big run around, as that company insisted they would be charged by the hotel for that day. Eveline stuck with it and finally put the hotel manager on the phone to insist that the hotel would not be charging us for time we did not want or need. Since the hotel cost more than $200 that proved to be very helpful.
THE MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE.
We arrived in the beautiful city of Barcelona and stayed at a grand hotel where we were treated very nicely. We left port next day on an upscale MSC liner heading for fabulous Casablanca. That was a wonderful experience but we learned that the famous movie, “Casablanca” with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman had not been made there but in a back lot in Hollywood.
The cruise was wonderful and the huge elegant ship had many spiral staircases and mirrored walls. It gave us the opportunity to rest and recover from our pilgrimage and time to reflect on that whole experience before going home again. We had a stateroom with a balcony which allowed us wonderful views and the opportunity to take photographs as we arrived and left each port. After Casablanca we visited Funchal, Madeira, Tenerife, Genoa, Rome, and Marseille, before returning to Barcelona. While the ship was elegant, we did not particularly care for the food in the dining room but preferred the buffet, although the cuisine generally was quite different from what we were used to. One time Eveline saw something in her seafood soup which she hoped was a vegetable but turned out to be a tiny squid. Coffee was not served with each meal although it was available for an hour each afternoon.
We loved each town and country which we visited but Genoa was a particular favourite. It was there as I waited for Eveline, who was shopping in a small store I thought I was listening to a famous opera singer, but we later found it was a little middle aged lady street singer. There we met a lovely couple who made and sold jewellery and we bought quite a few pieces to bring home. We arrived in Marseilles on a Sunday and the much of the town was closed off for the running of the annual marathon. Disembarking in Barcelona we again enjoyed our fine hotel overnight before flying next day to Toronto.
All in all, this whole time period gave us memories to last a lifetime.
MOVING TO FINLANDIA.
We really loved our large home on Gateway Drive but like any large home it required a lot of upkeep. Through her friends Rose and Hector Roy she found out about a retirement community in Sudbury named Finlandia. It is a place where the external maintenance is done by their staff and that idea sounded attractive as our home would in the foreseeable future be needing a new furnace, garage doors a new deck and a lot of work to level the driveway. We had viewed a two-bedroom home in Finlandia but neither of us cared for that particular unit as a large bedrock hill blocked most of the back lawn. However we were interested in moving to Finlandia and started downsizing our belongings. The next year a unit became available which we really loved and Eveline put her house on the market and put in a bid quite a bit higher than the asking price.
Eveline was the successful bidder and for a few months we carried both places until Eveline managed to get a very good price for her home. The new house had two bedrooms but Eveline converted a sauna room into a computer room to make the most of the 1300 square feet we had.
We spent a good deal of money furnishing and getting our new home the way we liked it, adding air conditioning and a central vac system, making it our own. It is situated at the edge of the woods and we loved having the wildlife visit. Each season brought a different species of birds and for the first summer we could not use our own backyard as a pair of robins nested there and laid their beautiful eggs, hatching three noisy little birds out of two eggs. Only when they could fly were we able to regain use of our backyard.
Once we had settled we began hosting Baha’i events again and found that we could comfortably accommodate twenty-four people. I discovered that I had restless leg syndrome and between that and my loud snoring we decided on sleeping in separate beds. This meant that we could no longer offer overnight accommodation to visiting friends and family and we missed being able to do that, but the smaller house with maintenance provided, was much better suited to our lifestyle and age.
I first took up discus throwing in Scotland when I was 19 and because of engineering studies did not have time to train for the half mile and the mile. I continued with discus when we moved to Canada and from 1960 to 1965 when I organized and conducted the Six Nations Track and Field Club and competed in all events with the Iroquois high school teenagers. In 1965 we moved to Yellowknife and the climate was not conducive to running or throwing and I ballooned up to around 210 pounds.
I resumed running again in the Sudbury area in 1970 and ran in various 5 and 10 kilometre road races and the half marathon. In 1983 I discovered Masters Track and Field for men over 40 and I soon got involved in pentathlons and eventually decathlons. In all of these discus was one of my better events and brought the most points. A career highlight was a bronze medal in pentathlon at the World Championships in Toronto in 1985.
The major heart attack in 1990 put an end to racing and heavy weight lifting and cancer in 2003 did not help. Through it all I was allowed to continue with discus throwing which I did faithfully and Eveline travelled with me to events and became my main cheerleader. Nine times I had been Canadian champion and while at age 70 I was still doing very well, my performances dropped off drastically each year after that. Age was catching up with me and the various illnesses and accidents did not help, so in 2012, I finally decided my results did not justify the pain. While I enjoyed good health generally, arthritis in my fingers finally caused me to retire from discus throwing. I had enjoyed all those years, made many friends, and it gave me motivation to keep fit.
OUR LIFE TOGETHER.
From our beginnings we have nurtured the love which we share. Early on Eveline introduced a method of resolving differences. Baha’u’llah has advised us never to give offence, but also never to take offence. He also taught the need for consultation in resolving difficulties.
In life, as in dancing, you always hurt the one you are closest to. Those are the toes you step on. Eveline’s method was that when a hurt was felt the one hurting says “ouch!” At that point we stop whatever we are doing and pay attention to resolving the cause of the “ouch!” In this way we have continued to ensure problems are cleared up in their early stages and there has never been a need for those “looong” talks or the hidden agendas that can emerge from long held grievances.
When my 79th birthday arrived, Eveline was taking me out to The Keg for dinner once again and once again I was surprised by the many friends and family who were packed into that same room. Balloons, cake, the whole works once again. Since my family happened to be in town at this time Eveline decided to celebrate it as she would have for that milestone 80th birthday yet to come..
Several times each day we tell each other “I love you.” We have also stolen a line from my grandson “Wee” Robbie who, when told that replied, “I love you more.” With variations of this and “but I really love you,” we have a lot of fun and do not take each other for granted. We also use the first part of the Van Morrison/Kenny Rodgers song “Have I told you lately that I love you?”
There have been a number of things which we enjoy together:
Each morning we spend about an hour having tea and coffee together, exploring the meaning of readings and praying. Praying for loved ones, for those who are ill, for those especially in need, for those who have passed on, and for our own spiritual uplift, facing each day. Other things we enjoy:
Going to movies.
Baha’i fellowship and activities.
Quiet time watching television for a couple of hours each evening.
Supporting our Baha’i community both here and in Florida.
Eveline particularly likes to bring me dinner in my room while I watch golf.
We have similar values and when we see someone in need, we try to help. We would rather take a chance on someone in need of financial help, or a homeless person, than dismiss them and pass them by. Both of us love making a fuss of babies and young children.
Eveline has added a great deal of love to our small Baha’i community both here and in Florida and my role changed from being a mainstay to being an encourager and supporter of her activities and those of others who were striving to promote our beloved Cause.
We are most grateful that God has chosen to bring us together in these, my latter years. There is currently no ending to the Story of Us, but eventually there will be. I am writing this as a gift for my little French Macushla, so Eveline will have this memoir to look back and remember when I finally leave this world to journey on.