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October 11, 2009
I found myself reminiscing this afternoon about old Mr. Tweedle—a man I hadn’t thought about in ages. Years ago, when we were members at a Reformed church in Hamilton, Mr. Tweedle had shown up at the church. He was an elderly man already, probably well into his seventies. He was a refugee from Canada’s United Church, a denomination that had slid from liberal to liberaler to liberalerst. When he found out from a neighbor that most people in our church believed in the validity of capital punishment (not that it matters in Canada, really, since we have no capital punishment) he decided to come to the church. I don’t think he was a believer—at least, I don’t think he had ever placed his faith in Christ. Yes, he believed in the existence of God and yes he felt it was important to attend church. But I don’t know that I ever understood him to truly believe.
When Mr. Tweedle was a young man, he had loved riding motorcycles. He was even a motorcycle courier for the Canadian army during the Second World War, first spending time in England and then, after the invasion, zipping around the continent. When the war was over, he returned to Hamilton and married. But his wife told him she did not want him to ride motorcycles anymore—they were too dangerous. So he put the bike away and lived life without.
When we knew him he was recently widowed. Just about the first thing he did after his wife died was go out and buy a new motorbike along with a $700 leather jacket. The church had pretty much adopted him by then and behind the scenes the deacons ensured that every week he was invited into someone’s home. Being a traditionalist when it comes to the etiquette of hospitality, he knew he would have to bring something with him as a little “thank you” gift. He was able to cook a mean pecan pie, so went ahead and built a specially-designed little box for the back of his motorbike, just the right size to hold a single pie. Every Sunday, at least when the weather was good, he would drive his motorcycle to church with a pecan pie tucked safely into that box. After the service he would head to the home of someone in the church. He would eat lunch with the family and then find a quiet place to lie down. He would sleep until mid-afternoon when the second service was set to begin. Then he would wake up, head for church, and sleep through the afternoon service. When I picture him in my mind, I mostly picture him with his head nodding almost to his chest during those long, afternoon services.
One day Mr. Tweedle decided that he would like to go and visit some of the sights he had seen in Europe decades before. He wanted to take his motorcycle with him, so drove it all the way from Hamilton, Ontario to Savannah, Georgia from where he caught a ship that carried him across the Atlantic. For weeks he traveled around Europe, by himself, on his bike all the while. Then he came home the way he returned. The only detail I remember from his description of his trip was that at one point he had come across a bike gang—a chapter of Hell’s Angels, I believe. They got a kick out of this old guy, alone in the world with his bike, so rode with him for some time. It’s a picture that still makes me laugh—old Mr. Tweedle, frail and tiny, riding his little old motorcycle while around him cruise huge biker dudes on their massive Harleys. I bet Mr. Tweedle loved every minute of it.
I don’t know what became of Mr. Tweedle. I don’t know if he ever truly loved the Lord or if he was just attached to the idea of God. I sure hope he turned to the Lord, even in his old age. Today he makes me think how people come and go in life, how God brings people in who for a year or two are there, week after week, and who are then gone, never to be seen again. With so many others like him, Mr. Tweedle has become just a distant memory to me.