On Saturday, October 27 between the hours of 7:00 and 9:30 pm I, Curtis James Tuininga, was given the best gift of my life. With almost 200 people in attendance we celebrated my retirement from work at Cedars Christian School in Prince George BC. Over the course of two plus hours I was roasted and toasted by some of the funniest people I know, and I loved it. Every aspect of my character, personality and physical features were mocked. I was compared to Captain Kangaroo, called scary and gruff, referred to as a walrus and even my best physical feature, my eyebrows, were mocked. Many of my past sins were shared – doing donuts in the school bus with preschoolers aboard, body checking children off the ice rink and into the snow, hitting speed bumps at the speed of sound in order to launch children off bus seats, playing King of the Hill with children where the only rule, that I made, was if you cry you can’t play. All in all I was eviscerated in front of many family and friends and it was one of the funniest things I have ever been involved in.
Not only was the evening a laugh out loud riot, but it was also a celebration of life, a “living eulogy” if you will, due to the fact that I have stage four cancer and my “retirement” comes about as a result of a diagnosis of impending death. My love language is words of praise and compliments and I received many of those too and was touched beyond belief – I may have wept a little (or a lot). I know most of my faults very well and I even enumerated several of them in my comments, but the amazing thing is that none of them matter. The people that came that night know me very well and they still love me – I am known and still loved. The people who spoke know me to the core of my being and they don’t care that I am judgemental, sarcastic, selfish, lazy and a glutton, they still love me and that is the greatest blessing of being part of a grace filled Christian community. My sins, and they are many and some egregious, have been forgiven and I have been, for fifty four wonderful years, surrounded by people who offer grace, kindness, and love to me who is so undeserving. They model what they have been shown by our Saviour and Lord.
In my closing comments at the end of Saturday’s event I referenced five people with whom I worked very closely over the twenty eight years of my teaching and administrative career. Frank Voogd, Edgar Veldman, Winston Price, Sage Goudsward and Shane Nelson; these are some of the best people I have ever met. Every one of them is smarter, kinder, more hardworking and gracious than me. They counseled me, consoled me, gave me great advice and put up with me as we worked together to further the Kingdom of God in the arena of Christian Education. They know me and still love me and I love them.
My final comments were for the greatest loves of my life – my wife and daughters. Miranda, Janelle and Tess are talented, capable, kind and caring people and the best daughters any dad could have. They all have wonderful senses of humour and they have put up with many years of teasing from me so they have learned how to give payback. One of them, after a particular gruelling mocking by me, responded with “Dad, nobody loves you!” and we all died laughing and still do every time we recount the saying. They have great friends and they are contributing to the communities in which they live and all three continue to seek the Lord’s will and to serve him – a Christian parent’s greatest hope. These three beautiful young ladies know me best and still love me – what a gift of grace. I love them to the moon and back and they know it.
And then there is my wife Julia. She is one of the most capable people I know, an accomplished athlete – MVP of her university soccer team, starting setter on the university team for three years, an outstanding coach who understands strategy at a very high level. She is an outdoorswoman extraordinaire, trained to lead Search and Rescue expeditions, ride ATV’s and snowmobiles, use Digital maps and GPS, do swift water and rope rescue and hang two hundred feet below a helicopter for long line rescue. Not only that but she is an excellent chef and an indefatigable worker who always does more than her share. And her greatest trait is her selflessness and grace, for over twenty eight years she has never nagged me once about anything, not once – and there are quite a few things I should have been nagged about. Actually, her best trait is that she laughs at my jokes – that’s important. Yet for all this, Julia sometimes wonders why I love her. When she does question herself I am dumbfounded as it is I who should be questioning her love for me – I am far more undeserving than her and yet she loves me and has blessed me with twenty eight years of marital bliss. I truly feel that the Lord gave me the best partner I could have ever found and I love her even more today than I did when I married her. She knows me best and loves me still!
Being known well and still being loved – what an incredible gift that comes from the grace of our great God who knows all of us and still sent his son to die for us because he loved us. His grace is his great gift to us and it can only be found in Christian community. I implore you all to continue to share His love and grace with all those you know and love. There is far too much ungrace in the world – be ambassadors of his love and grace now and forevermore and you too will be known and still loved!
A quick health update: I am doing reasonably well. My energy level is probably at about sixty percent of normal and recently my throat stared closing up again. I met with the Oncologist and the Gastroenterologist on Tuesday and they were both optimistic saying that what is happening in my throat could be a number of things not necessarily the cancer growing. I am scheduled for a scope next Wednesday and soon after should know more. At this point I continue with chemo and will until it isn’t working or my body can no longer handle the side effects. I still love life and Julia and I are enjoying our time together and celebrating this retirement with all our daughters, some of our family and many friends was a once in a life time opportunity. Thanks for your continued prayers. God is good. All the time.