I was trying to remember the first time I met Allan. It had to be at least 4 years ago, at the Keele Correctional Centre as part of my ministry work. He was serving the last part of his sentence while living at the Keele Centre, and we likely met in Chaplin Harry’s office.
Allan was a tall guy who loved to talk. Shortly after our first meeting I found out, and I think Allan had only recently discovered, that he was Jewish. This was the start of a real friendship that included him making me on several occasions his home made matzoh ball soup. We would talk- OK I would listen- and he would tell me of his favorite places to eat in Toronto and his many misadventures driving trucks and other vehicles. He would often speak about his family but only in general terms and in a fond way.
We never talked about why he was at the Keele Centre serving time and to this day I really have no idea about that part of his past.
Then he got sick. He battled with his body for the last few years of his life, and now he is at peace. It was a long and at times desperate struggle. I would often visit with him in his room at Keele, and we prayed together but I often left our visits with a sense of sadness that he was so alone in this battle with “the cancer”.
One of the last times he came to the Dismas Fellowship was on Good Friday this past year. Allan agreed to share on one of the questions as part of the Way of the Cross. His voice was weak and I remember helping him with the reading.
His reflection that evening was made with tears in his eyes as he talked about the past hurts in his life, the ones he had caused and those inflicted upon him. He shared about a betrayal from his past when someone he thought was a friend abandoned him. (Station 2: Jesus is Betrayed by Judas) It was a touching and moving moment I will never forget.
I came to realize that he wasn’t alone. He had friends and many of the folks who would come to Dismas or the Tuesday dinners went out of their way to make Allan feel he was part of a family, our community. Some made it a point to visit him in the hospital and many will mourn his death.
Allan impacted the lives of those he came into contact with over these past years in many positive ways, just as he was touched by those that extended him the hand of friendship.
Shalom my friend- peace be unto you- I will miss the soup and our talks, but you are free from the pain and happy trails to you.
Say hello to our friend Dismas and remember us as you enjoy the kingdom.
A few Jewish Proverbs for Allan:
“God is closest to those with broken hearts.”
“The man who gives little with a smile gives more than the man who gives much with a frown.”
“In choosing a friend, go up a step.”
And a piece of advice he would give to all: “In a restaurant choose a table near a waiter”