What do you say about a man named Ralph Morris? When I began to think about it all a few days ago; thinking about him, thinking about what I was going to say today, it all of a sudden dawned on me that we are now living in a world without him. Hard to fathom this world without Ralph Morris.
One morning, many years ago now, I flew into Edmonton Airport. It was the day before I was to marry Ralph's daughter, Elizabeth, and I was meeting him for the first time. We introduced ourselves, shook hands, smiled, maybe even clapped each other on the back a couple of times. Then on our way out to the car I said excitedly, "Wow, what a beautiful flight it was coming into Edmonton. Wonderful sunrises. Wonderful clouds. Really beautiful. And I could see the mountains and everything."
He just turned to me shook his head and laughed. You know the way only he could laugh, and he said, "Hey! You can't see the mountains from here."
"Sure you can," I said. "I saw them."
"No! No! No you can't."
But you know even though he was laughing, even though he was poking fun at me a little, I didn't feel embarrassed. Even then, just having met the guy I knew I could trust him. And I think that that trust was a big part of the relationship many of us had with him. Not only did he trust us, but we trusted him in a way that made him remarkable. Once befriended you knew you had a real friend. And that was the beginning. And even though I didn't know it then, it was an important moment in my life.
But it was shortly after our marriage that I really got to know Ralph. One evening back in Toronto Elizabeth got a phone call. It was Ralph. His brother Vic, who had been living in Toronto had just died, and he was coming to town to look after the final arrangements and could he stay with us? Sure. Of course. But Elizabeth explained that she was going to be out of town touring with the ballet. "It's just going to be you and Tot," she said... Okay...
Well, not knowing the guy all that well I was a little apprehensive. I mean I knew I liked the guy and all, but I didn't know if I'd like living with him for two weeks. But to Toronto he came, rented a car and arrived at the house one evening a few days later. I didn't immediately know what to do but I said, "You haven't eaten? I'll cook dinner." And it progressed from there… at some point I said, "You know, I've got a bottle of wine over there somewhere. Would you like wine with your dinner?"
"Hey!!! Wine!!! Yah!!! That's a great idea. Let's have some wine."
And then a few minutes later...
"I've also got a movie here that I didn't get a chance to watch last night. Would you like to watch a movie with dinner?"
"Hey!!! A movie!!! That's a great idea. Yah, let's watch a movie."
... and from then on that's pretty much how it went every night; dinner, movie and a bottle of wine.
But here's the thing. We only have one TV in our house. It's in our bedroom upstairs. So every night we'd lug our dinner trays loaded with food, wine glasses and movies up the stairs to the second floor. And then we'd sit on our king size bed, eat dinner, drink wine and watch a movie.
But in the following days the routine did change, and this is when I really got to know Ralph. He'd come home in the evenings, and he was always so excited. He'd told me what he'd discovered about his brother Vic. As it turned out they hadn't seen each other for many years. Lost touch completely. So he was getting reacquainted with his brother and that made him very happy. And I got to ask him all sorts of questions. And he'd tell me about growing up in Winnipeg in the 1930s and 40s. And it was great because I grew up in Winnipeg, too, and he was such a good story teller.
So every evening we'd sit around and talk. And then it would be off to dinner, a bottle of wine and a movie. I mean, it doesn't get much better than that. And when Elizabeth got home a few weeks later, Ralph was still there. And when she looked at all the empty wine bottles in the bin she turned to us and said, "What have you guys been doing?"
A couple of months ago when Ralph was in the hospital over Christmas I wrote to him. And because I don't think he would mind… and because I truly believe this to be so, this is part of what I wrote. "Nobody can tell a story like Ralph Morris, and nobody has a laugh like Ralph. Nobody loves his family like Ralph Morris and they all love him."
And now it's about saying goodbye. Or rather I guess, it's about beginning the process of saying goodbye. Because, over the next weeks, months and even years Ralph will still be with us in so many ways; in our thoughts and conversations, in our prayers and in the letters and emails we write. He will be there. But goodbye is not easy. Not for any of us.
So what do you say about a man named Ralph Morris. It may be best expressed using a few of his own words. There was an expression that I often heard him use. Many of you have heard it. Many have seen it in the emails and letters he wrote. And that expression was simply, "Good on ya." When ever somebody accomplished something he would say, "Good on ya." And today I know, from the bottom of my heart all of us can truthfully say, "Good on ya, Ralph, good on ya for a life well lived."