After his daughter found my book and letters he was keeping, I was notified today that a special friend, Frank Jordan, died last Sunday. He was 90 years old. He lived a full life! I will miss him. He has had such a powerful influence on me. It was so nice of his daughter to phone. She asked if she could keep his book and the letters I had authored. I said “yes” surprised that she asked but happy to reassure her that yes she should keep them.
Some people I connect with deeply, regardless of age or gender. Frank Jordan was one of those people. He loved life even with its tears but mostly he found its joy, love and wonder. Others might miss it – not him. I know he was at peace with his life because he told me so the last time we spoke on telephone in the early summer. I know he will meet his tomorrow with enthusiasm.
Here is a passage from my book Leading Raspberry Jam Visions: Women’s Way about the man of whom I speak….
[Frank Jordan] is a personal mentor I have been honoured to have in my life since childhood. For me his life represents a high measure of success. You will not find his poetry and wisdom in university libraries but you may find it published on the placemats in small restaurants in the region in which he lives. You will not find his wealth ranked amongst the top 25 families in Canada, nor will you even find him given recognition for his wealth within his own small community. His paid career work ranged from jobs such as driving a school bus to janitorial work. His volunteer work ranged from voluntary ambulance attendant to knitting blankets for the hospital auxiliary and the local transition house for women leaving abusive relationships. He does not own his own home or many other material goods.
Are you beginning to question why I feel this individual is successful?
Frank Jordan is successful because he knows how to love. He knows how to love unconditionally and expressively in every day and in every moment. He goes by many endearing nicknames that are used by his whole community, not just his immediate family. To be in conversation with this man is to know your own humble humanity and to walk away hugging yourself – and the whole world at the same time. He has a gift that is rare and valuable. His gift is complete appreciation for life and living. Most recently, we were engaged in conversation as I walked out with him to his car, and he told me how he used his ‘little helper’ (as he shook the cane used to steady his 83-year-old stride) on days like today – days where he was required to be on his feet for several hours. He told me how blessed he was, because he could still drive during daylight hours. As I stood with him, shivering beside his car, he continued to count his blessings and tell me important stories that he knew I needed to hear. I listened intently, appreciating his calm, confidence as he said “you know god loves me so much that I just can’t help myself! I have to spread it around!” His face is lit with the excitement of his conviction, and even from my rather non-committal stance, I would be hard-pressed to deny the existence of his god or his love.
Then with equal importance he continues to tell me how his wife, who is several years older, has not being doing so well. His face is transformed by the sadness of his thoughts. Then he gives his head a little shake and looks up at me before continuing: “most recently she had been having a particularly bad day, and was in tears trying to get dressed, because she was unable at that time to dress or undress herself.” At this point in his story, his eyes start to squint with pleasure: “well, I went over and gently helped her, as I laid out my own complaint – I said, ‘well woman, you know I love you dearly, and I do not mind helping you take your clothes off at night, but it seems rather cruel to ask me to help you put them back on in the morning!’” He described how her tears gave way to laughter as she called him “an old fool,” and blushed from his continued life-long pleasure in her.
His living is an immediate gift, and his stories of living are a continuing gift that offers up a picture of infinite success, in their telling and retelling. Yet, to acknowledge his success (since it fails to fit the acknowledged and typical definition we as a culture have allowed ourselves to accept), it must be carefully and explicitly stated and justified. He has touched and influenced countless lives in his daily practice of joy, recognition and love. I have unquestioning confidence in the huge worth of the rippling effect of his life’s work, in giving and receiving. The consequence of his influence in my life alone has allowed me to have hope in the darkest moments, to believe in my abilities, to forgive myself when I fall short of my expectations, and to have total fascination and delight in people and in living. He chose to accept and embrace the paid work available to him, and to excel in using these positions to fulfill his true mission in life, which was to minister to those he met in his everyday interactions.
My challenge for us is to question all measures attributed to success – not just those that are beyond the quick and easy definition provided by wealth and position. I ask that we embrace the multiplicity of success, and carefully explore and articulate what we believe is success in a particular situation, and also what consequences result from that success. For me, success is not about getting it right and sailing to the finish line of life. Success is about allowing your persistence to sail your vision through every day… while the breeze of your passion and potential charts your course. (pages 75-77)
I have no pictures of him… isn’t that strange? To have been friends since I was fourteen years old and no photographs? I have never felt I needed any – today is no exception. I can see Uncle Frank anytime I want, by sitting with my heart open, smiling at what the day has to offer.
Sprout question: How might you describe your creative success?
© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.
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Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.
From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada