Tribute to Stephen Holbrook from his mother Esther
Stephen… Stephen… Where do I begin?
You surprised us by your early arrival. We were stationed in Sudbury, Ontario and your Dad was at away at Elliot Lake as the speaker for an area Officer’s councils. Because I was so far along in my pregnancy I was staying home. Late Monday evening, everything started happening and Stephen was going to arrive. Being home alone, with Ken away, I could only think of calling the Social Services Officer.
So… dear old Brigadier Yorgenson transported me and my little suitcase to the St Joseph hospital in his suitably identified station wagon with 12-inch red letters on the side “Salvation Army Emergency Services”. Forty-five minutes later, dark-haired, green-eyed, Stephen arrived. Two hours later father arrived and was excited to welcome his new son.
While growing up, family was important. Throughout the years the Holbrook side of the family were usually in fairly close proximity in southern Ontario, so holidays meant getting together with Uncle Jim, Aunt Mavis, Uncle Bruce and Auntie Fran and all the cousins. Christmases with Grandparents in Woodstock Ontario, and summer holidays camping with the cousins. These were always highlight events.
On one occasion, as a young boy in London Ontario, Stephen was entrusted to go by himself to the store to get a jug of milk. It was a lovely winter day and while making his way home he thought that the view was much better form the top of the snowbanks. He was blissfully trotting along the top of the snow when unfortunately, he slipped and slide into the path of an oncoming Volkswagen. Stephen avoided contact with the car but not so the milk jug. He arrived home head down and shame faced hoping to avoid having to explain the large dent in the milk jug.
As a teen, returning to Toronto from Newfoundland, Stephen faced the transition to a large suburban school. It wasn’t the comfortable and familiar atmosphere of the school in the smaller town where you went to school with your church friends, and the vice principal was the Corps Sargeant Major. Stephen had to adapt. One rainy day his Dad gave him an infrequent ride to school. Stephen was welcomed by Mo, the large good-looking hunk of a quarterback from the football team. Mo and Stephen went off to class, but Dad was wondering what was up because Stephen wasn’t a football player. The story came out at supper that night when Stephen explained that he had been tutoring Mo in Math, they had become friends, and Mo was Stephen’s protector in the hallway wars.
Throughout his life Stephen’s pleasantness made him a favourite with the “little old ladies” at every corps he attended. He paid this forward at Scarborough Citadel on many a Sunday afternoon when he grabbed his trombone and filled in with the band at Nursing home events.
While Stephen was still living at home we were appointed to Bermuda had to leave Canada for a few years. Stephen remained in Toronto and was living on his own in Brampton and was attending the Brampton corps. Some time later Ken had to return to Toronto for a Headquarters conference and Stephen took the opportunity to pick up his Dad at the airport and take him downtown to his hotel. In the process of finalizing these arrangements by telephone Stephen glowingly announced that when he met Dad he would be bringing along a “special some one” with him. At the conclusion of the phone conversation we looked at each other and said “I think he has found The One”….. and he had. Stephen and Sharon were eventually married and when we had to come to Toronto for a conference they spent their honeymoon in our home in Bermuda. It was pretty fortuitous timing.
Stephen loved colour. With his background in chemistry, he took up a career as a printing ink specialist. He was eventually transferred west and Stephen and Sharon moved to Calgary. Among other interesting projects, Stephen did the ink formulations for the printing of the 1989 Olympic photos of Calgary.
When it came time for Ken and I to retire, Stephen was in Calgary and Greg was in Winnipeg. Calgary won and we moved here to spend our retirement years close to Stephen and his young family. As time moved on Stephen’s health became a concern. We were glad to have the privilege of being there for him and his family. We will always cherish the memories of family time spent together, particularly at Stephen’s favourite spot, Watson’s Lodge in Kananaskis.
For his family he did all that he could for as long as he could. His Aunt Ruth gave him a stone engraved with the word “Courage” which he always kept with him. He embraced courage every morning. I saw him soldier on as his capacity to work, support, and care for his family diminished. Finally he had to enter institutional care.
Failure of his health proved the strength of Stephen’s faith. His faith sustained him. He only asked for strength for the day and God gave it to him.
I’ll close with words from a card recently sent to me from a friend. It says it all for me:
“What a privilege it must have been to be Stephen’s mother. Stephen is now more alive than those of us who remain.”
Posted by Esther Holbrook
Sunday February 4, 2018 at 11:12 am