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Tribute to our dad, Frank Warkentin

This is the tribute to my dad that Jodi and I shared at dad's memorial service on August 24 at the Fort Garry MB Church. If I get the opportunity, I will put the recorded service on here - the music was incredible - I want all of you to hear it!

From God's lips to my fingers... here is what we came up with the morning of the memorial...

Dad & Jodi & myself playing golf in Arizona last February.

TAMMY Hi. I am Tammy, Frank’s eldest daughter and this is Jodi, Frank’s youngest.

We would like to share a tribute to our dad.

Dad was a…

JODI Wait, Tam. That’s not how we should start.

TAMMY What do you mean?

JODI Well, dad wouldn’t have started this way. He would have started off with a joke.

TAMMY Oh you are right. But these folks might wonder why we would start a solemn occasion like this with a joke.

JODI If you knew our dad and had been with him while at a meeting or at the dinner table, on the fairway, or on the ice, dad usually had a joke to tell. I personally never thought they were that funny or I didn’t get it. The latter might be true.

Maybe we will skip the joke because we just won’t tell it as good as dad would have – but if he was here, you can be sure that this would have started with a joke.

TAMMY I had the unique opportunity of living with my parents as an adult with grown children. Last Spring, Bernie, my two daughters and myself, moved in with my parents while we were in between houses. It was an interesting experience to say the least. – Right mom?

During this time we all learned a lot about our individual quirks and habits. One of these was the watching TV habit. Dad and mom loved watching sports and Blue Bloods on TV. The interesting quirk was that over half the time the TV was on, the TV was on pause. More often than not, we would walk into the living room and the TV would be sitting on pause and they would be chatting with each other or they would hear us come in and the TV would go on pause. Sometimes even after the talking ended, the TV would remain on pause and we would even spend time watching a paused TV.

As I have reflected on this memory I have realized that this paused TV is exactly how dad lived his life. He might be busy on the field or in the barn or working on some reno project – but then people would walk into his space and everything would pause. People came first. The channels dad focused on were the people channels. Dad enjoyed visiting and listening to people and we want to reflect on a few of those important networks.

JODI The Friends broadcast was wide and broad. Dad’s network of friends ranged from the young to the old. Dad embraced them all with all the bumps and bruises that they carried and they, in return, embraced all of dad’s bumps and bruises and even laughed at those crazy jokes!

Although we were not personally involved in most of dad’s friendships, we were made very aware of them over the course of the past few weeks. Dad’s hospital room and patio were never void of visitors. There were people from all walks of dad’s life – from his curling world to his Bible study world to the fine group of men who sang hymns in the hospital room – dad’s room and dad’s life was full of important people. It got to the point where nurses finally needed to step in and ask for a moment with dad to get him his meds or get him realigned! What a great problem to have!

Dad was never short of energy to help people; from working side by side in a closet, to laying unistone and lending tools to neighbours, to helping with VBS decorating, to building canoe hangers – dad was always eager to help… always hoping that with the work would come a hot cup of coffee or a cold glass of… a beverage and good conversation.

In these last few weeks we had the privilege of hearing about dad’s friends and listening to them talk about him. We would read emails to dad from friends and dad would say, “Why do people say such nice things about me? Why would they feel that way?” And we would say, “I got no idea, dad!” and he would smirk and shake his head.

We knew why people said those things and continue to say those things. Dad was a gentle man and a good listener and always accepting of each and every person he came in contact with.

TAMMY Another channel very important to dad that was paused oh so often was the grandchildren one. Dad adored his grandkids and great grandkids and loved to spend time visiting with them. He showed them off as babies and walked with them as they got older. But I can’t speak for them – so I will share their own words about their grandpa.

From Judson: Grandpa was my role model. I looked at him for everything, from how to be married, to how to be a father, all the way to things like golf and building a wooden box. He taught me patience, love, and showed me that you are allowed to have a sense of humour and that nothing can take that away.

From Ashley: I had only known grampa for 6 years and I can’t even begin to explain the impact he has made in my life and in my heart. He was a man who welcomed me into his family with open arms and I felt comfort in his presence and warm hugs. His amazing smile, faith in Jesus, his kind soul and huge heart, his sense of humour, his adoration for his beautiful wife, unexplainable love for his family, just who he was as a man of God – just scraping the surface on how beautiful he was.

From Dexter: When I was young I never realized how much I loved my grandpa because we saw him every day and never thought twice of it, but once we moved off the farm, I realized how much I missed seeing him all the time. I became excited every time I got to see him. As I’ve gotten older and involved with the agricultural industry, renovations and building projects our common interests grew and I was able to learn so many things from him. He was always so full of humor and his generosity consumes people, even if the money he handed out was from Grammys secret stash. I will miss you grandpa. We all will.

JODI From Jozanna: "As he held my hands three weeks before he left us to be with his glorious Saviour, he looked at me with water in his eyes and said, "I'm so proud of the woman you've become. You're everything I hoped for with grandchildren. When I leave, I am leaving behind everything I ever wanted." I looked at him, with tears streaming down my face and said, "We are who we are because of the mother and aunt you raised and the family you've taken care of. So thank you."

So grandpa, I will say again. Thank you. Thank you for being the role model everyone needs.

And I will see you again on the golden streets.

From Rayzanna: Gramps:

I can hardly find words to thank God for giving me the greatest gift that was my grandpa. The wisdom and grace my grandpa taught me will lead me through the rest of my life. Two of the most important lessons he has taught me, without even knowing it, are those of love and patience. Love for everyone and anyone at all times - money flew freely from his wallet as he donated to charities, bought breakfasts (even if it was just IKEA), supported my mission trips, and funded holidays as a family. The art of patience. Patience for his crazy family, patience while waiting for God's words and perhaps God's call home, and patience that things will get done and in the meantime we must love God with all our strength.

One of the biggest memories instilled in my mind that made me feel close, vulnerable and extremely special to him was the day my twin and parents left for our mission trip to Thailand over the Christmas holidays.

As we woke up at an early hour in my grandparents’ home, they woke up with us. Grandpa gathered us in a circle in the front entrance and sent us off in prayer. We sat in darkness and in that moment I have never loved my grandfather more. A man that gives and gives and gives. I wrote him a letter in his last week’s telling him of all the wonderful gifts he has given me. He chirped back, "I'm not that good".

That letter was not even close to explaining the real, raw, unending love I have for my grandpa. He was THAT good; he was far better than anything I could ever write about him.

I love you grandpa

From Nick: Maybe the first time that I knew I was "in" with Frank was a few years ago, helping with some sort of project, or moving or something. We were gathered in the backyard and gramps came out with a few beers. He smiles and me and jokingly says "well, I guess you've been here long enough" and passes hands me the beer and we sit down.

He was always ready for a break. The work would be finished, all in good time. But the conversation and jokes always came right along with it.

I knew him for only a few years but in that time I came to know him as a hardworking man with faith in God and a deep, deep love for his family. I always was excited when Ray told me that a gathering was at Grammy and Grandpas. He accepted me in as one of the grandkids with a warm smile, and an easy conversation. He will be missed.

TAMMY From Kirby: This happened in early June, dad was at our place cutting wood in bush with his "fantastic" new electric chainsaw. I was helping my dad in the field and had to come back on yard and I noticed Grandpa at the shop entrance. I asked Grandpa if he needed anything, Grandpa replied, “Well, I got my chainsaw stuck in tree and need some help getting it out.” I quickly replied that I needed to get something to dad first then I would come and help him. Grandpa said, "This won’t take long, let’s quickly get it." I did not argue with grandpa, so we jumped in the side by side and off we went to get that fantastic new electric chainsaw out of the tree. Well... something that was supposed to be quick, took over 30 minutes, because Grandpa, for the life of him, could not remember which tree it was stuck in. They scoured the forest looking for the chainsaw and there is over 70 acres of bush out there. Eventually they found the chainsaw and all was back to normal.

From Spencer: I remember when grandpa was home from the hospital and the whole family was over and grandpa came down to where all the grandkids were and I was expecting him to say a joke or something that he would say but he just sat there looking over his grandkids with nothing more than smile.

From Jalacey: Grandpa was my #1 fan on and off the ice. When I spent a few days, while grampa was home from the hospital, at their house with them, Grampa was asking about me about school and hockey and he told me to play my hardest at every game this season and that he would never miss a game because he will have the best seat in the house!

From Jordyn: He was a great uncle. I cared about him a lot. He made me laugh because he called my dog Farty and his name was really Farlee. I loved him very much.

From Victoria – ‘adopted in grand-daughter’: He was grandpa frank, or he was uncle frank on the Hiebert farm. Always smiling and forever famous for running over skunks on the combine. He welcomed me with open arms over the past 11 years that I have known the Rempel family. I am so blessed for that. You will forever be loved and missed grandpa/uncle Frank.

JODI What a legacy he left. And then there was his great-grandchildren and just to show you how the chain of faith is making its way down from him… After dad passed away, Ashley was driving past the Victoria hospital with dad’s great grandchild, Bentley in the car. Bentley looked at the hospital and said, “Mommy, is great grandpa living with Jesus?” Ashley answered, “Yes, great grandpa lives with Jesus now.”

TAMMY The channel that Jodi and I are most in tune with is the Dad channel. He was an amazing dad – there is just no other way to put it. He definitely had his quirks and irritations, and dad would have wanted us to say – he wasn’t perfect! – So there you go dad, we said it!!

Dad put a pool in when we were little and through that simple hole in the ground, we got to spend tons of time with dad – teaching us to swim, dive and getting to know us and our friends. Many burgers were bbq’d for our friends and our friends got to know and love our dad. Many of those burger eaters are here today and we are honoured to have you here joining us in our remembrance of our dad.

We know that our dad was proud of us and loved us. Dad had expectations for us but we never felt pressured or that we owed him something. We never felt like he was disappointed in us or felt we hadn’t pleased him.

He trusted us with so much. I remember driving to Winnipeg when I had my learners and it was storming and dad sat beside me and mom in the back and we were cruising down Waverly and I was passing people over top of snow hills between the lanes. Mom was in the back kind of freaking out! And dad just sat beside me and said, “she is doing fine Lynda, just relax.” Looking back, maybe dad was a little too trusting? But we made it safely to Pizza Place!

Dad trusted us with almost everything. He put both Jodi and I on the tractor to cultivate the fields – knowing that sometimes those lines wouldn’t be very straight – but he patiently taught us to drive and till – he just forgot to tell Jodi to focus on a standing object not on a truck driving in the distance!

Dad did so much work for us and with us. Jodi and he sided her whole house together. He built us decks, helped with sorting electrical cords – especially the ones he cut!, building wooden walkways, moving rock, landscaping and so much more. ALL of these things, however, had to include many coffee breaks where we could sit and talk about life, about God, about family.

Dad loved his son-in-laws – they were his sons and they were his friends. Gary and Bernie spent much time with dad – sometimes patience was in order as he measured and re-measured and as his hearing diminished. But they learned so much from him – about life, being a good husband, dad, grandpa, friend, worker and more. They learned how to enjoy good Frank beverages and they brought the balance of women to men in the house to a more level playing field. Finally, after Gary entered the family, dad could finally stop watching the hockey game in his bedroom with Bernie by his side – he won the vote and puffed up his shoulders and pointed to the bedroom one fine Sunday afternoon and declared, “Girls – off to the bedroom for your movie, Bernie, Gary and I will enjoy the hockey game here in the family room!”

Dad taught us faith… from the moment we were able to understand to the last moments in his hospital bed. He demonstrated his faith daily. He apologized when he screwed up and he talked to us when we needed to do the same. These last few weeks were such a blessing as we got to talk deeply and personally with him. We talked about heaven and what that might look like – it was fantastic and we will cherish that forever. We laughed – lots of laughter in that sad little white walled hospital room. When asked if he was hot = he said, “Ya, I’m hot stuff!”

May we even come close to leaving half of the legacy he has left behind.

JODI The wife channel was a privately viewed channel and we can’t speak on exactly how that relationship was – but as onlookers, we saw their relationship in this way. Mom and dad had a very special connection. Dad was someone mom could go to with her fears, her doubts, concerns and joys. Dad was always the calming factor and often would tell mom ‘just believe, sometimes you won’t know the answer and can’t control the outcome, but just believe. Change the things you can change and those things that you can’t, give it to God.’

Mom and dad were quite the pair – on one hand you had fast and furious and on the other you had Sid the sloth from Ice Age – a little slower, a little quirky but always in for whatever mom had in mind! If dad had an assignment to do it would get done but there would be a lot coffee breaks and chatting – without mom around, things may just not happen. And mom might get a lot accomplished very quickly, but dad was the rock that would step in to help keep her rested and calm.

Mom would often say, “Look how good looking that Fritz of mine is.” She was so in love with him – she would always say “He is the bestest!” and dad would give her that little smirk and usually a little wink.

Dad understood his wife so well and loved her for everything she was. Up to the last day he would say he loved her or squeeze her hand three times to indicate his love. Dad and she laughed a lot and lots of times it had to do with their diverse natures.

Even on the morning of his passing, dad was still chuckling at mom and his daughters. Tammy had come to the hospital with her dress for Rayzanna’s wedding so that mom could pin it to alter it – she put it on behind the curtain and then stepped out in dad’s sight line to show him and let mom pin it. Tammy asked dad if he liked it and in his way at that point he indicated that he did – he couldn’t speak, but his face spoke volumes.

So mom and I started pulling at Tammy’s dress and asking her very personal questions about what bra she was going to where and how are we supposed to know where those babies are going to sit if she wasn’t wearing the right equipment. And we were pulling up on things and tightening things and mom was mumbling about the stupid safety pins tammy brought to pin up the dress instead of bringing straight pins. And Tammy was sighing and saying – oh, mom, these will be just fine! And all of a sudden we noticed dad’s shoulders going up and down. Tammy said, “Dad, are you laughing at us?” and every so slightly he nodded that he was.

What an amazing moment that we were able to share together. Dad knew each of our personalities – he knew what each of us was thinking and he knew that he was leaving us in good hands with each other and all those supporting us.

TAMMY From the day dad was diagnosed with cancer, such a short time ago, he walked this journey with patience and dignity. It was holy ground – ground full of potholes and bumps, but holy ground. Whenever one or all of us would lose it and cry there were a few things he would say, “Crying is good and it is ok for you to do that – never feel you cannot cry in front of me.” And “Let’s enjoy the journey, we will cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Dad knew that he was going home to be with his God – he believed that Jesus died for his sins so that he could live forever in heaven. He knew that when he reached that bridge that Jesus would be waiting for him to help him walk over the river of life.

Dad was not perfect – we knew that, he knew that, you know that – but dad was perfect in Christ – he was made whole the day he passed away. AND dad’s greatest desire throughout his whole life and especially in the last months was this:

He wants each one of you – every last one of you and each of those who are here in spirit today to get to know Jesus Christ. He talked to many of you in his last days and in many of those conversations he would say, “I’m ok. I know where I am going. Do you know where you are at?” Dad’s greatest wish is for each one of you to get to know his God. He wants to know that as he celebrates on the other side of the bridge that he will see each of you crossing over it with Jesus someday. What a glorious sight that will be. Dad waiting with his little smirk, his little eyebrow raise – standing there with a cup of coffee in one hand, perhaps a golf club in the other hand waiting for you and Jesus to meet him once again… someday.

The TV will stay on pause. We will watch pause and reflect on dad’s life and try and live the way he would want us to live.

Dad says it is ok to cry. Dad said, “God is good. All the time, God is good.”

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