Once again, I’m reminded how short life really is. On Tuesday March 14th, at 12:37 am, a dear friend of mine, Pastor Ian Ruddell, passed away. Although I hadn’t seen him in several years, I had kept in touch from time to time, speaking to him on the phone a couple of times and through emails. He had been battling (and winning up until a couple of weeks ago) brain tumours for several years now and always stayed positive that he would beat the cancer growing in his brain.
Sadly, the battle was lost and I wanted to share what a wonderful man he was, through some of my own memories of him, as my tribute to him. I met him and his family in 1994. When I met him, I was struggling with a low self image and didn’t feel accepted or loved by too many people. I felt like an outcast. Possibly part of the reason was due to the fact that I was 18 years old and my father whom I’m very close to was living in Alberta and I in Ontario. I also didn’t have many friends and the ones that I did at the time weren’t healthy ones.
I was living with my aunt and uncle at the time and one of their rules for me living there was that I attend church with them every Sunday. As much as I hated that idea, I thought to myself, "oh well, it’s just church, it could be a lot worse". Ian was the Associate/Youth Pastor at that time and he and several other people welcomed me with open arms. He and his wife had made me feel accepted and loved.
As time passed on, I grew closer to both of them and there were a few times that Ian had sat down and talked with me about my life, my low self-esteem, and my overall view of myself, among other things. He and his wife helped me to see the inner beauty that I possessed and I learned how to accept myself with all my failures and faults. He taught me that everyone has things that they have failed at but it’s made us who we are and it’s ok, as long as we had learned something along the way.
I eventually became a youth leader and a backup singer in the youth band (since he knew that one of my dreams was to sing). I recall one time during band practice (when we were first starting out), he told me that he couldn’t hear me in the monitors and flat out told me that if I wasn’t willing to sing louder, then there was no point in me being in the band. Although it may sound a tad harsh to put it in those terms, it’s exactly what I needed to hear to sing a little louder and begin developing my voice. He knew my fear of not being able to sing in the band would force me to grow some courage and SING. That is one gift that he gave to me, the courage to follow one of my dreams. Although it’s not as far as I wanted to go, I am still content with where I am with my singing. Since that time, I have been asked to, and have sang at a funeral and at a wedding. And of course there’s the youth band and the fun that I had with that and the millions of times that I’ve gone out with friends to do the kareoke thing and had a blast.
Ian loved to joke around and I can still hear his contageous cackle. He didn’t just laugh, it came straight from his belly and it was definitely a cackle, it was almost frightening if you weren’t expecting it. He laughed at some of the silliest things that would make some of us just shrug our shoulders or roll our eyes but we’d still laugh with and at him. There were several of us that used to love playing practial jokes on him although he wasn’t always happy about it, he was still a good sport and usually found a way to get us back. I will share one story with you.
He was planning on going away to a conference for a weekend so a couple of friends and I went over to his place while he was out doing some running around. He had his suitcase packed already so we talked his wife into letting us get into that suitcase and mess with his clothes. She said she wanted no part of it but we could do whatever we wanted. So we took needles and thread, and sewed the leg seams of his underwear together, sewed all of his socks together, sewed the inner seams of his pant legs together, then left a pair of scissors and a note (I can’t recall what it said now) at the bottom of his suitcase. It was great fun and everyone got a good laugh over it, including him.
But all joking aside now. Ian was a man of compassion and love and he cared a great deal for people. Back in 1996, I believe, he and his family moved to Oshawa so he could be closer to his family, start his own church and share that love and compassion he had with others. I know he did and he left a mark on so many others in Oshawa like he did here in Sarnia.
There’s an emptiness in my heart now knowing he is gone but my heart is still filled with the love and acceptance that he shared with me before he left this world. I sent his family a quick little email in the last weeks of his life in hopes that he had enough energy and strength to hear it so that he knew how much he meant to me in the short time that I had known him.
He gave me empowerment and strength in myself as a person that I still carry to this day due to the love and acceptance that he had shown me. He accepted me for me, and loved me for me and due to that acceptance, I, in turn, was able to accept and love myself. I have become a much wiser and stronger person because of that acceptance and love. I have learned, also, that if people can’t accept me for who I am, then they aren’t worthy of my friendship or my time and I will be nothing more than just myself because I am a wonderful person and I am loved for just being me.
Although he is no longer in this world, I know he is looking down on all the people he loved and love him back and I want to thank him for being a part of my life. I can only hope now that he knew how much he did for me and how much he touched my heart. Ian Ruddell, you left a footprint in my heart, where an open wound used to be. I love you and will never forget you. Your life will be remembered always.