“I have some sad news for you,” the minister said and paused. “Ken Ryan asked me to give you a call. He’s got lung cancer. Stage 4. He’d like to see you.”
If you’ve read my book, you may recall Ken, the hero in “Something Extra.” Ken and his wife, Lou, have been the heroes of many people’s stories, especially the man Ken found sleeping outside a local library. They offered him their spare room, and Lou never washed another dish in the three years this fellow lived with them.
“You changed his life,” I said to Ken and Lou a few days after I received the minister’s call.
Ken laughed. “He changed ours.” Except for some shortness of breath, this was the same Ken I have known for twenty years. As we sat around their kitchen table, Ken told me he sold his business and made end of life plans and arrangements for Lou. Ken has always been a person who sees what needs to be done and does it.
On my second visit, Lou anxiously awaited the delivery of the Burnaby Now. “There’s going to be an article about Ken in it,” she said. The full-page story about the “King of Kensington” spoke of what he’s done for Burnaby North and how the community is gathering to honour him.
Ken smiled when Lou talked about it, but I could see he was tired. He had just come from the hospital. “Now they want to do chemo,” he said. “I don’t know how I feel about that. It might give me a little more time. It might not.”
I felt sad but at peace. I know when Ken leaves this shore God will be welcoming him on the other side.
The morning after the community event for Ken and Lou, I read Luke 20:27-38. As I sat with Jesus’s words about death and imagined my own, I was not so at peace. I know I will be united with God. But, I wondered–with some trepidation–will I be recognizable as me?
I read the scripture again and heard Jesus, who has been on the other side, tell me what it’s like. “Our ecstasies and intimacies will be in God,” he said (The Message). And integral in those ecstasies and intimacies is the reality that God will know me. “As surely as I see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” Jesus reminded me that morning. “I will see you. I will never lose sight of you.”
Tears came to my eyes. I felt I could trust Jesus in this.
Jesus extends the same hospitality to us that Ken and Lou extended to their friend. Our God finds us wherever we are and offers us a room in the house of the King. There we can be ourselves–here, now, and ever after. And by “us” I mean me too. That’s just starting to sink in.
Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me. My Father’s home is designed to accommodate all of you. If there were not room for everyone, I would have told you that. I am going to make arrangements for your arrival. I will be there to greet you personally and welcome you home, where we will be together. –John 14:1-3 (The Voice)
“An ‘extraordinary man’: Ken Ryan and his wife, Lou, have been heavily involved in their community over the years. From running the coffee pots at the food bank to coordinating a kid’s summer camp, there’s almost nothing the pair hasn’t done,” says Tereza Verenca in the Burnaby Now. Their love mischief was celebrated by hundreds who gathered at Lochdale Community School on November 5.
Credits and References:
Photographs of Ken and Lou Ryan used with permission.
“Stairway to Heaven?” by Richard Walker. Used with permission.
Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. http://www.estherhizsa.com