Impacted by a Horton other than Tim

It was early morning August 9th a couple of years ago. We had been asked to do a roadside memorial for our friend Art Horton.

As I awoke that day I found myself a bit overwhelmed. I had never led a memorial outdoors on an open street and it was to be held at the location where Art had been fatally wounded in the middle of the night by a hit and run driver.

Only weeks earlier, Art had been boarded out of his trailer by the police. He had lived there for over 20 years and the lady recently living with him had been selling crack out of the trailer. He had been experiencing some early signs of Alzheimer’s and possibly was wandering disoriented the night he was killed.

When Art was found all he had with him, besides the clothes on this back, were his war medals in his pockets. A number of us gotten to know Art and we were always comforted by his gentle and kind demeanor. It was such a tragic and unjust end.

“How do you handle this moment?”, I thought.

Others worked very hard at collecting a number of the people from the Trailer Park community so they could be there that morning and bring closure to Art’s life. They also had a memorial wreath made and contacted the Legion as Art was a veteran.

As we arrived in this obscure road and place on it  I participated in what I would call a holy moment.

There were about 25 people standing in a semi-circle on the side of the road huddled over a memorial at 8:45 AM.

A traffic stopper for sure.

 There were 9 or 10 people from the Trailer Park, 5 veterans (in full attire) and the rest were from our Vineyard community. After I shared a few words we had time for different ones to share.

To my surprise almost all 10 people from the Trailer Park had something to say… they wanted their voice heard. Some wept as they shared.

Then the veterans took a few moments to perform the Last Post.

The ritual was well choreographed and you could tell they were masters of it. During the minute of silence, as they stood at complete attention, one of the veterans broke rank (left the line) and hobbled over to a fence where he leaned against it to finish the moment. A friend of ours wandered over to see if the man was alright.

We finished the service and placed a cross in the ground where Art’s body was found in the ditch. We later took the whole group back to Tim Horton’s (Art’s favorite place) and treated them all to coffee and donuts.

To observe all the dispersed people from the Trailer Park sitting together and catching up on life and the veterans sitting with us and enjoying the conversation it all become a moment I wanted to freeze frame.

It was after that moment that I became undone.

I found myself weeping in my car all the way home. A friend present had explained to us why the veteran broke rank that day. It was the first time in his life that this soldier had broken rank and he was embarrassed about it.

He too was dying, dying of cancer.

Even though he was very weak from chemotherapy he got up that morning and put on his full attire wanting to participate in honoring the life of a stranger, yet comrade. Though he had been through so much himself he wanted to honor a fallen comrade.

It was in that moment that I felt the heart of God. Jesus was there at Art’s memorial in full attire, aware of the unjust ending to his life…

He just came in the body of a man dying of cancer.

Todd Rutkowski


~ by blueporch on August 28, 2012.

One Response to “Impacted by a Horton other than Tim”

  1. You know Todd, I usually hold up pretty well in “official” gatherings, but it is often afterwards that my heart gets released to express itself. Just last night I visited someone to whom we had ministered to over ten years ago. As I visited them, it was a great time and was glad to see that they were doing well, yet struggling with all the pain from the past. After returning home, as I sat updating their contact information, I sat and just wept for a long time. God is awesome. The pain of life is so much, but if we look closely we can see the had of God. If we listen intently we can hear his heartbeat as he holds us close to his chest. Really, he is “God with us,” Emmanuel.
    Thanks Todd

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