Three events having nothing to do with politics, and a fourth that transcends it altogether. The weekend was busy with my campaign team choosing to put politics aside for a morning and clean up a park that had collected lots of debris over the winter. Then it was off picking up food for the London Food Bank’s annual Spring Food Drive. Finally, to the Chinese Cultural Centre for an evening with friends and a sizeable cash donation to the Food Bank as well. All these could be worked into a tight political schedule.
The fourth was something else altogether. London lost a vital citizen during this past week and her loss has kept me from getting into the swing of the political season. Leaurie Noordermeer was our neighbour directly to the east and along with her husband Wilf had become a good friend. She held a community get-together for our kids when they first came from Sudan and we never forgot her kindness. She was the head of Rotholme Women’s and Family Shelter – a home away from home for women caught in difficult circumstances. She was a quiet champion, a friend of the friendless, a woman of deep faith and even deeper wells of compassion.
And she was a world traveller – an explorer of the spirit who felt life was short, which indeed for her it was. Leaurie was diagnosed with cancer years ago but somehow beat the odds – for a time anyway. With her husband she journeyed to exotic places in Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, and the Americas, and while we observed her body slowly rejecting itself, her spirit soared as if on eagle’s wings. It was as though her soul was practicing, elevating itself for its final departure – the collapsing shell was giving way to wings.
It’s hard to judge just how much this woman accomplished in our community. In the life of every struggling woman who passed through Rotholme there is embedded the imprint of Leaurie Noordermeer. Her belief in the homeless and those requiring safe and affordable shelter lit the faltering spirits of those around her. She will prove irreplaceable in our community, her family, friends and her devoted husband Wilf. There is now a hole where a dynamic and spirited life once lived. But there is memory, and there is an inspiration that continues with us. I suppose for that we can be grateful.
The picture in the post is of Leaurie and I at the grand opening of My Sister’s Place – a place of shelter for vulnerable women. It was from last summer but we were both ill that day. I was struggling through malaria and barely made it through my speech. She was in the early throes of her heart falling away. We were kidding ourselves about what a pair of invalids we were. We doted slightly on one another – easier for her than me because of her expansive spirit. When it was over my staff helped me to my car. I looked back at Leaurie and thought how much stronger a person she was than I. That evening she came across the fence to where I was sitting in our back yard to see how I was doing. We talked about life, death, God – all of it. Only a short while later her heart started giving out. Following numerous medical tests it was determined she was a candidate for a heart transplant. The week arrived for her second chance at life when suddenly a massive stroke took her away. All who knew her were left barren and suddenly my political campaign didn’t matter a whit. Today we remembered her at a service for the final time officially. But those unofficial remembrances will go on for years yet. Suddenly politics was brought into sharp focus again for me and I have committed myself again to fight for those who have trouble fighting for themselves. Should I accomplish that through all my weaknesses, I might conclude that politics was well worth the alienation and the struggle. See – her memory still has power.