Memories — Paul Holland
Paul, a war veteran, told me, "I won World War II." Then he added, "I had a little help from another guy: Eisenhower."
I lived with Paul in the Yukon for about 8 months and during that time I hardly heard a word from him. To me he was always the mystery man.
But in the last year or so, during Sunday liturgy, he would be sitting in the vestibule. On leaving the chapel, I would pass by him. "Good morning, Paul," I’d say, and he’d say "Good morning."
Walking away, I always experienced light from him, and I felt peace.
Mary Beth Mitchell
I lived with Paul at Marian Centre Edmonton for 2 ½ years. In our houses, it is the custom, on birthdays, for everyone to write a personal message on one card.
My first two birthdays in Edmonton, Paul’s message to me was exactly the same: "Dear Pat, Have a great day in the Lord."
I discovered that he wrote this on everyone’s card.
One day, another birthday girl exclaimed that Paul had written two sentences on her card. There was high excitement.
She read them to us. The first one was: "Have a great day in the Lord." The second one: "Say, old dear, can you give me a haircut?"
I was with Paul in Edmonton in 1991. He spiced our mealtimes with his shrewd insights and Readers Digest jokes that were delightfully unpredictable. He was a master of deadpan and knew how to capture an audience.
My first year as a staff worker was at our house in Edmonton where Paul was also assigned. Paul was a man of few words, and I did not develop a close relationship with him. But I did observe him closely.
Almost every day, he answered the doorbell, which rang often. I was edified by his faithfulness but not always by his social skills.
Then the last couple years of his life, I had the privilege of being one of his caregivers, assisting him with his haircuts and showers.
I discovered that he did communicate—in ways that were expressive and delightful—with his eyes, his face, and above all by his habit of gratitude. With characteristic simplicity, his last words were almost always, "Thank you. Good job. Well done!"
These words were spoken in blessing, and I received them as such.
I was with Paul in the Yukon back in the ‘70s. He had a simple straightforwardness with both the men we served and the staff. Every night he asked God’s mercy on any wrong moves on his part—"for you God are the Father of all."
For 4 years, I worked with Paul in the Yukon, in the students’ hostel. Paul was the "sanitary engineer," the janitor.
At Madonna House, we all try to do little things with great love, but it seems like Paul always ended up with the lowest jobs, as the world looks at it.
He used to tease the native girls who stayed with us, and they just loved him. He’d also put on a little act for them in which he wore a bow tie and kept changing his voice and taking different parts.
He was so humble always, and I’ve never known him to be anything but positive.
Everyone treasures their independence, and the day came when Paul had to say to me, I can’t do it anymore—I can’t wash my face; I can’t feed myself. I need help.
I knew this was very hard for Paul, and soon after that, when I was feeding him, I said, "It’s no fun getting old."
Paul sighed, and there was a long silence. Then he said, "I’ve had lots of fun—and some of it was with you."
dept. head of care-givers
Paul’s time in the army was a high point of his life and at the end, he talked about it. One thing he learned there was the motto, "Never complain; never explain." He carried that through for the rest of his life.
We all get to choose the words for our memorial cards and the crosses that mark our graves, and what Paul chose says volumes about him. For his memorial card, he chose: A humbled, contrite heart, O Lord, you will not spurn from Psalm 50. For his cross, he chose, "God, forgive me."
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