(Rocky Mountain House, Alberta.)
There I was walking down the street, when suddenly I heard someone call my name. I looked around. I didn’t see anybody. The voice came again. No, it wasn’t a vision. It was Tooker.
We chatted about this and that – something about Tooker’s plans to take over the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank – I can’t remember which. If this was Tooker’s idea, it must have been both. When Tooker thought globally, he didn’t kid around.
As we stood together, I noticed… Now, maybe I had stood in the sun too long, but his shadow – it was twice as long as mine!
I was surprised, and I wasn’t. If you knew Tooker, isn’t that just what you would expect?
Many of you will recall when and where you first met Tooker, what he was doing, what he said – every detail, right down to the pattern on the tie he wasn’t wearing.
Imagine, for a moment, that there is a Heaven. Ties are not the fashion up there, so it’s a fair bet that Tooker is wearing one.
Me, I can hardly remember. The details of my first meeting with Tooker are lost to history. I have a feeling that it was at the Tools for Peace building. I don’t know how I ended up there. What was Tools for Peace? Where was Nicaragua?
I opened the door and stepped inside. As my eyes got used to the dim light, there materialized pile after pile of junk. Had the landfill run out of room? The remaining space was filled with boxes of bicycle parts: grimy, rusting, useless. I was there, I think, to help sort things out.
My first reaction was one of horror – which explains why my mind has blocked the afternoon out. Normally, I subscribe to the slogan “Bikes, Not Bombs”; but here it would have been reasonable to make an exception. A few sticks of dynamite, and all would be well.
Footsteps. I looked around. There was Tooker bustling about amidst the debris – and he had a smile on his face. It would not be the last time that Tooker raised my eyebrows.
Somehow he knew where everything was; somehow he knew where everything was supposed to go. Of course, he was not going to sort the parts and stop. This was merely step two of procedure one of Operation Send-Bicycles-to-Places-No-one-Else-Has-Ever-Heard-Of, part of project six million and something, in one year in the life of T. Gomberg. He was going to assemble bicycles and ship them off to Nicaragua. Hercules had his Seven Labours, but nothing on this scale.
Tooker spent days, weeks, months – his whole life – making something out of nothing, turning “useless” into “useful”. Here he was helping people he had never met.
If he did all this for people he didn’t know, what would he not do for us, who became his friends? Here was a man who would give you the shirt off his back, and if it didn’t quite fit, so what? For a man who wasn’t supposed to be fashionable, he sure had a lot of shirts.
If you asked Tooker to go a mile, of course he would go the extra mile, and Angela likewise. That makes – let me see, um, three miles – even if you only wanted to go one. So you not only got help, you got your exercise, too.
Struggle is nature’s dynamic; transition is its theme; and pain is the teacher. Ecclesiastes says that all is vanity; on the contrary, these are the necessary conditions of life. It could not be otherwise. Out of chaos came the world; out of brokenness comes meaning; out of pain comes wisdom; out of parts come bicycles.
Tooker did not always prevail in life; but in Tooker, life prevails. From the day I met him, to the end, and beyond, life is what Tooker affirmed.