This is a tribute from Les Horne, one of those who befriended Charlie, given at Charlie’s memorial service.
Its such a long time since we first met.
I was a traveling man.
My job was to journey the province inventing plans for impossible children,
the kind who cannot be helped.
The original word was “Incorrigible.”
Charlie was incorrigible but, he was an adult and none of my business;
yet the obstinate persistence of a psychologist forced the system to pay attention.
Institutionalized at the age of three Charlie lived in a big warehouse wearing the label Retarded..
He was rejected but not retarded.
I’ve heard horror stories of abuse told by other children from Orillia.
Charlie relayed them with pain and embarrassment to explain the volcano of his anger.
They also explained his confusion about the meaning of the word Love: the meaning of Love and Sex.
Sex was getting somebody to meet your needs.
He didn’t know then that love is caring for someone else’s needs.
Charlie grew up in institutions.
His education was institutional and very inadequate.
He learned that he wasn’t worth much but he never learned to read.
He learned to survive deprivation but he never learned trust.
Charlie could trust nobody not me, not Harry, not John or Ed, his visiting “friends”.
He sat with his back to the wall because that way no-one could stab him.
The first time out of jail he squeezed into the lives of busy people who wanted to help him,
but he needed more of our precious time than we were willing to give.
Danger flags waved at us,warning that he could re-offend; and eventually he did.
Seven years back in prison, desolate, ashamed, despairing, left him no future to look for.
In the book labeled “high risk offender”: wherever he went children would be in jeopardy.
In those seven years the Circles of Support developed;
Charlie was our inspiration and our first customer.
With some trepidation, he made a deal with us and now we can begin to eulogize because eulogy is praise.
Praise always embarrassed him But we can say it now. He was the man who came to Hamilton in 1994, pilloried, hated, rejected
and not welcome, except at Welcome Inn,the little church that loved outcasts.
In those frightening times, fear and hate baying behind him, he toughed it out and some days things were good for Charlie.
He was fond of Sylvia, there was happiness there.
He and Craig were good for each other.
He was searching for love and family, things he had lost on the way and even in failure, was learning an ability to care passionately and to put other people’s interests first.
I look back at his immense courage, courage to bear disabilities and reach out to help
Beaten down by diabetes he kept trying: lost his leg in the Henderson, lost his fight against cigarettes and wasted his lungs smoking.
As his physical condition worsened, his courage shone brighter.
He struggled with the pain and discomfort of his prosthesis, his right leg, black and discharging, tormented and scared him.
Despite all that, when I left at the end of each visit, he would call my wife to tell her thatI was on the way home and say-“I love that man you know.”
And he did because he had learned To understand the meaning of love.
He never used the word Dying but he knew he was dying: he did not understand it.
He went to some place in those last few weeks where death didn’t trouble him any more.
Pain troubled him,loneliness troubled him, weakness frustrated him but with death he was easy.
French toast and bacon to go,(no syrup) from the Egg and I -the last order I brought for him,
and an extra large coffee,four creams three sweeteners.
We prayed together, but already a part of his mind was wondering and wandering to the other world.
He left us on Christmas morning: flat on his back alone with the television in the empty room saying orisons.
He was a friend of mine. Lord, I’m glad He was a friend of mine.