‘Saint Ford’ funeral uplifting and sad
Herein is an account of my recent three-day visit to Toronto to pay my respects to Rob Ford and family that I’d like to share with northern readers.
First thing last Tuesday upon my arrival in Toronto, I drove straight to the Ford residence in Etobicoke, where tons of flowers were piled on the lawn from other well wishers and mourners.
There was a cop car parked in front. I asked one of the cops if I could put my gift of a sympathy card and beeswax candles just between the doors. He said he did not want me to freak out the residents inside, so I gave him my package and as I drove off I saw him knock on the front door and hand over the gift.
I continued driving the few blocks to my good friend Barbara’s residence, where I stayed the next three nights.
Towards evening I took the bus and subway downtown to city hall. Since I hadn’t ridden the TTC for 16 years, things had changed. It was like the movie “Back To The Future.” The bus had a digital sign reading out street names for the deaf and also a tape recorded message announcing upcoming stops for the visually impaired, something I was not familiar with. The subway cars now are of a wider width and have wider entrance doors.
Also no one asked me for ID when I threw the toonie in for the fare. I was kind of hoping they would, because I am in denial of being a senior. If you think old you get old. It did tick me off that the driver did not ask for ID, though.
I arrived at city hall early in the evening while it was still light, and joined the long lineup winding towards the back of the building. Slowly we made our way and by the time it was dark we were at the entrance.
Rob’s nephew Michael Ford was there and I got to shake his hand and express my condolences.
Inside city hall a fellow from the funeral home was giving out funeral cards with Rob’s smiling face on the front and this beautiful verse on the back:
When I come to the end of the road.
And the sun has set for me.
Shed not a tear in a gloom filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free.
Miss me a little, but not too long,
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that once was shared.
Miss me…but let me go.
For this is a journey that we all must take,
And each must go alone.
It’s all part of the Master’s plan,
A step on the long road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know.
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss me…But let me go.
I signed one of the four guest books. Four police honour guards were standing at attention around Rob’s coffin.
We walked up in groups of fours or fives, prayed and then we continued on passing the beautiful flower arrangements from family members. Especially georgeous were the long stem roses from wife Renata, because they had orchids in the centre and some tropical greenery throughout.
Doug Ford had invited the public to “Come Walk With Us.” So Wednesday morning, the day of the funeral march, I entered city hall. I had fond memories of working there in the ’70s when we office staff still used typewriters.
I was standing behind the camera crew and the procession started with a piper and Renata and the rest of the family following. She blew a kiss towards the camera. Then we followed the procession out of the building.
Just before leaving the city hall square I saw a Polish flag in the crowd. I make a bee line for it and join up with Teresa who’s holding the flag. She said she came to show Renata support from the Polish community. So I did, too, because my background is half Polish and half Ukrainian. Volunteers were giving out Ford Nation flags, so I got two, one for me and one for Barbara my Polish friend who could not come because of her bad knees.
So we all walked the route across Queen Street and down Yonge Street waving flags, listening to people sing and some of us chanted “Ford Nation!”
It was both uplifting and sad to be there. To see and hear so much outpouring of support was phenomenal. You felt the love of the people for Rob and his family simply by osmosis. We were all paying our respects and it felt like a political rally as well as a funeral march.
We made it to the church and saw the funeral service on the big screen inside the tent outside. My eyes filled with tears as I listened to Stephanie, Rob’s young daughter speak about how happy they were as a family and now “Dad is the Mayor of Heaven.”
It is terrible to think of his children losing their father so early in their lives. Life is not fair. “The good die young,” best describes Rob Ford’s passing.
A young man also spoke in church. Rob had been his football coach. He said if it wasn’t for Rob he’d probably be in jail right now.
There were not hundreds of people at city hall at the Monday and Tuesday visitations, and in the procession as the media downplayed it, but thousands as well as at the Toronto Congress Centre later that evening where people enjoyed food, beer and great music as Rob would have liked it. One woman was dancing with a glass of beer on her head as we all looked on and clapped. I cannot understand why it did not spill. A miracle for sure performed by Angel Rob.
While the band played two screens on each side of the band showed a slide show of Rob with touching family pictures and pictures of him and his constituents, always smiling. The picture of only Rob’s face with his kind blue eyes was so inspiring, as was brother Doug’s eulogy at the funeral, where he said to Rob: “Don’t worry Rob, Ford Nation will continue.”
Doug also related a story of how a man in Edmonton had called up Mayor Rob with a problem and Rob made sure he called up the Edmonton mayor to get the problem solved. So Doug said Rob considered himself to be the “Mayor of Canada.”
This was shown by the giant Canadian flag with provincial flags sewn all around it that the public and Ford Nation volunteers carried at the funeral march to St. James’s Anglican Cathedral.
Another cute story Doug told was about the time Rob went to buy himself a sub and the owner was frantic. His driver had not shown up and he would lose the $32 for 4 subs. Rob delivered the subs. Doug told him he should not be doing this because he was the mayor. Rob jovially said “I got the money for the subs plus a $3 tip — plus I got 4 more voters!” He was so happy.
This was another great example of how Rob went way above and beyond as a public servant. We need people to be kinder to one another and care for each other and Rob Ford was a shining example of goodness in this regard.
Before I left Toronto, I stopped off at Douglas B. Ford Park on Royal York Road, named after Rob’s dad. As I was writing down words that people had written down and left there with their flowers, another woman came and left yet more flowers and crossed herself and went on her way.
Below are the poetic words I’d like to share with northern readers written in this park:
R.I.P. Rob Ford
Because of you…..
– We went from playing basketball with milk crates as nets to playing on a real court
– We picked up a book instead of picking up guns
– I voted for the very first time because you were the only one ever worth voting for
– Rexdale is on the map
– There are millions of people out there who once felt unheard and small, now feel heard and feel like giants
You are gone now, tears flooding the streets. Some think it is just rain but I know these are our tears and God’s tears making puddles everywhere because we dearly miss our beloved mayor, our friend, our mentor and our reason for choosing the right path in life.
And on behalf of all the people in the city, I’d just like to say, thank you Saint Rob!
I wondered if these words were written by the same young man who was coached by Rob Ford and spoke at St. James Cathedral.
Rob, I feel sad you left us and your wife and young family far too early.
My memorial here in Muskoka to you will remain for 40 days as is our belief in the Ukrainian Orthodox faith that the soul of the departed remains here for 40 days to tie up loose ends and look after their family before ultimately going upstairs.
God bless you Rob Ford. God bless your family.
There will never be anyone quite like you and we will all miss you terribly.
P.S. Hope to see you in heaven one day.
Sincerely, Carol Pershyn, Baysville
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