A goodbye for a good guy

So here we go. I am usually pretty private about what’s going on in my life emotionally, I often keep things locked up pretty tight. However, I have been working on building trust and being open more and so, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share something with you.

My step dad, Hank Appeldoorn, passed away recently…about a month ago after a short and swift tug of war with cancer. He was surrounded by family when he went, especially my amazing sister, Paula who was with him til the end. I had the privilege and honour to speak at his funeral service. The following is the speech, I gave. It’s called “Grief is the Cost of Love” which was inspired by a Sports Illustrated article, I read, of all things. I’ll try and find the link to it and include it at the bottom of this post.

Thanks for reading. Hopefully you get some idea as to the wonderful man that Hank is/was.


First off I want to extend my deepest sympathies to all you today. Everyone is hurting in their own way so be tender with yourselves and each other as much as possible. Stay hydrated.

My heart goes out to the Appeldoorn side of the family. Hank’s sisters Aif and Gert and Gert’s husband Bob as well as Hank’s brother, Gerry and Hank’s sisters in law Karin, Shirley and Pasita.

I also want to acknowledge Hank’s children and their families: Linda and Jim, Mike and Michelle, Ron and Brenda, and Starsky and Hutch who unfortunately couldn’t be here today as they are out solving crimes.

And of course my Mom who loved Hank so dearly and my sisters Paula and Pam and my brother Bill who are aching today with the rest of us including their spouses Russ and Elizabeth.

And I can’t name them all but I also want to recognize all the grandchildren and great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren and great-great-great-grandchildren and the great-great-great-great grandchildren in Hank’s life because that’s how he thought of you, as great. Hank adored you and was proud to see who you are becoming as people.

Hank even loved his somewhat mediocre grandchildren and his moderately ok grandchildren. Hank even found love for his mostly despicable incredibly twisted terribly rotten grandchildren who are out shoplifting right now. They’re Starsky and Hutch’s kids.

Recently I came across a quote that’s resonated with me which read “grief is the cost of love.” And what I took from that is if we are to do what the world asks of us, if we are to fulfill our purpose as humans then we must “deal with the imperfect world as a partner in creation.” This is not a new idea. Most of the great traditions speak of it. Walmart, Costco, Winners.

The need to put on our hip waders and walk waist deep into the great manure pit of life and get dirty in it. We must love our enemies and transgressors, the weak and the flawed, we must love ourselves and those around us—our families and friends—we must make room in our hearts for everything, as much as possible, so we can engage with it from a place of love and empathy so we can hopefully leave the world better off than when we entered it.

I mention this because when thinking about Hank the first word that keeps coming to mind is love. Over and over again. And I think Hank’s capacity for love and kindness is evidenced by everyone in the room who is here today. The families he nurtured and built, the friendships he participated in.

And if you loved him back, if you called him friend, even if for only a moment you thought fondly of him, your heart is no doubt aching at his absence. “Grief is the cost of love.”

One of the things, I admire about Hank and my Mom is that they both found the strength to love again after Louise and Charlie had died. They were willing to step into the world once more, knowing full well the pain that would come at the end of things. I have difficulty moving on when an automatic door won’t open for me at the mall so I am impressed to no end by their resiliency.

I am constantly amazed by the rhythms and overlapping patterns of our lives. We continually slip in and out of each other’s circles and spheres leaving echoes of ourselves wherever we go never knowing what sort of impact it will have on another human being. The Appeldoorns and Jacobs have been doing this for years to each other.

I went to high school with Linda and Jim at Abby Senior. My brother Bill worked with Mike at Save On Foods. Paula worked with Linda’s husband, Jim at Canadian Tire, which at the time was also known as the South Fraser Way Red Wine Party Palace. Pam worked with Michelle at McDonalds which was also known as the South Fraser Way Red Wine Party Palace because Pam has to copy everything that Paula does. And Hank…When Hank was part of the volunteer fire department he along with a few others helped save my Dad’s life when my Dad was caught in a manure spreader auger and bleeding to death in a field on our farm.

Later on Hank came in to our lives when our home was a dark and gloomy place to be. Sorrow was constantly walking around in its underwear screaming out loud “look at me.” But Hank arrived and opened the windows wide open to let the fresh air in. But we were all “why are you opening the windows it’s raining outside everything’s getting wet and we’re cold.”

Never one to remain discouraged Hank came back a couple weeks later and opened the windows to our musty house once again. Thankfully it wasn’t raining outside but there was a crow cawing wildly on a clothes line and it wouldn’t shut up. So my brother Bill threw a golf ball at it and made it fly away. Hank was like “who are these people” and left.

Thankfully these stories work in threes and so Hank soon returned and didn’t open any more windows. But he did bring along an air conditioner, a used humidifier, two power washers, a couple of long ladders, a hammer and a table saw and said, “Here you go, I hope this will do.”

It’s often said we project the things we like least about ourselves onto other people. But I also think we project the best qualities we would like to see in ourselves onto people we admire. And so, what I love most about Hank is his kindness. He was gentle and loving around my mother. He was willing to play and be silly with his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He listened to them and treated them with respect. He provided me with an example of manhood, I had not experienced and it has helped make me a better person. I will be forever grateful for that.

I enjoyed being in his company. Whether it was watching a hockey game or talking about what was going on in Abbotsford or listening to him and my Mom tease each other over the silliest things and then hearing him say “see what, I have to put up with Randy?” with that wry smile sneaking across his mouth after he said it.

And, I understand that no one is perfect, we all have our flaws and love doesn’t always work out and that is fine but today, I am here to celebrate the man and not concern myself with peccadilloes. On the other hand if you want to gossip about armadillos then see me after the service—I have some juicy news about a roll near Austin that’ll make you blush.

In closing, I want to say thank you, Hank for being a part of my life and enriching it beyond measure. Thank you for loving my mother for nearly 24 years and sharing a bond between one another that you both earned and deserved. I don’t know where the soul goes. I don’t know what we become when our spirit leaves this shell. But I do know that the dead keep on living if we share their stories and say their names. So share the stories every chance you get. Say Hank’s name aloud from time to time. Think of him often. He will be alive in our hearts for as long as we do.

You will be missed Hank Appeldoorn and it will hurt for some time to come but that’s ok, “grief is the cost of love.”