Cogitation 20/198 Saturday 18 May 2019 One of my best friends, Ray Schlegel, died suddenly on Monday.
Ray was on his way to the final lecture in a six-part series of the Laurier Association of Life Long Learning at our Alma mater, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario. He collapsed of an apparent heart attack while walking to the lecture hall.
Today we attended the memorial service for Ray at Steinmann Mennonite Church, Baden, Ontario. it was a deeply moving worship service of scripture, music, recollections, message and prayers, followed by lunch and fellowship. The recollections shared by children James and Lisa brought tears to my eyes, their recollections so real, revealing, heartwarming.
Ray and I attended different primary and high schools, different churches, completed different service opportunities, and pursued different careers. Over time and and distance we stayed in touch. In recent years, Marty and I, several times a year, visited with Ray and Marianne, as with other friends and family in Ontario.
Alexander Pope helpfully described the depth of friendship: “In every friend we lose a part of ourselves, and the best part.” I think Pope means that in friendship people build each other up as they share their lives, something unrealized for a recluse.
An unknown source said: “Why does it take a minute to say hello and forever to say goodbye?” As we measure our life journeys among friends, so in death we see them as ones who have gone before. We grieve, remember, honor friends and loved ones who have gone before. Such is our comfort and hope in the time of shock, sorrow and grief.
From the flood of memories
One Saturday night, ages ago, four lads, Ray, Ralph, Cleo and I, were out on the town and decided to try the new thing, pizza. I think the place was Pepi’s Pizza in Kitchener, Ontario. We knew nothing about pizza.
I still wonder what the pizza maker must have thought when each of us ordered a cheese pizza. A bit sheepishly we carried our boxes and drink back to the car and dug in. I think we each took half a pizza home. What a hoot. Our laughter, In hindsight, is so sweet.
One Sunday afternoon, a few friends decided to surprise Ray in Toronto where he was living and working at a bank. We indeed surprised him and went out for dinner.
Ray was a mentor. Initially he and I got acquainted through the youth organization from the three congregations of the Amish-Mennonite Conference of Ontario in Oxford County–later the Western Ontario Mennonite Conference.
Ray encouraged me to take up university studies after I had had a few other forays into life and living. We discussed history–especially history–as in family, local, global, politics, church, theology, work, genealogy, really whatever.
With another mutual friend, Al Jantzi, we spent many energetic, fun, late-night hours solving the world’s problems. One of our memorable experiences was when Al arranged to hire horses and buggies from an Amish family for a triple-date country ride and picnic.
Another time a few of us did a midwinter camp-out in an unheated stone cottage at Hidden Acres Camp near Shakespeare, Ontario. We solved one problem, namely, one night in sleeping bags in a stone cold house is enough.
When Ray and Marianne married, I had the privilege of being Best Man. In recent years Ray and Marianne, Al and Doris and Marty and I have met annually in November in Kitchener for precious shared hours over lunch. Today we shared the sacred hour of honoring Ray’s life and committing him to life everlasting. Rest in peace, dear friend.
Last days in the UK