We arrived in Saskatchewan in time to go to Edmonton with Mike’s family. MIke’s dad, Jack, had an appointment with a surgeon to see if he had a treatment plan for Jack’s combination of aneurism, liver failure, and stomach cancer.
He did not.
We returned home and had several really good days with the family. Jack was alert and apparently more energetic than he had been in quite a while.
On Saturday night, we cooked and ate a good family meal with Mike’s parents.
On Sunday morning, Jack woke up muddled, and by the time we got to hospital he slipped into unconsciousness as he went into organ failure.
On Monday evening, he breathed his last.
We are so thankful that we had this time with Jack and with family. We recognize in this instance the faithfulness of God as he directs our travels – the faithfulness of God to us, and to our family. (Because our being in Rwanda is a sacrifice for them, too, though they did not choose it.)
I have no better tribute to make to Jack than the eulogy that Mike wrote and delivered at his funeral:
Jack, as he has been known for most of his life, was born the youngest son of Stan and Theresa Tallon in Lafleche, Saskatchewan. He was the younger brother of Pat Tallon who still remembers the day in July of 1949 when Stan phoned home announcing Pat would now have a baby brother.
When Dad was two years old, the family moved from in town, 7 miles south to the homequarter where the farm is today. Jack went to school at Harwood for his first five years of schooling and finished his education in the Lafleche high school in 1969.
After school, Dad worked in different jobs over the course of ’69 and ’70, in Shaunavon at a lumberyard, and in the oil fields, as well as working for a grain company out of Rush Lake. In the spring of 1970 Dad decided to head down to the States with a local custom combining outfit and, as I hear it told, had enough adventures to fill a book. One story tells that as they were hauling the combines to their next job Dad somehow got turned into a small town that the highway passed through. After a much longer time then it should have taken to make it back to the highway, finally Dad appears with the combine covered in a full accompaniment of telephone wires…but apparently no worse for the wear himself!
After returning from his time down south Jack took up farming beside his own dad and brother. They would continue farming together until Stan Tallon passed away in 1988 and then right up until this last year when his own health was known to be failing (he was truly his father’s son because even then he would get out into the field every chance he got).
And Dad really loved farming, he appreciated that he was able to be his own boss and do things as he saw best. He appreciated being outdoors and the satisfaction that came from setting your hand to change an entire landscape from bare soil to abundant grain fields in a short growing season. He loved the people he lived and worked around, often lending a hand when neighbours were in a pinch or being present for the celebrations as well as the losses. And he really did believe that to be a farmer was an honest and dignified occupation… you work not only to feed your family but to feed the world beyond as well. And he was proud that he was a part of that.
Not long after establishing his own farm in the spring of 1971, Dad began to pursue a young woman named Beth Curry. I’m told they first started ‘going steady’ after a summer street dance during a Lafleche Days celebration. It must have been serious because darned if Dad didn’t show up in Glentworth the next night where Beth just happened to be! Grandpa Tallon said that he suspected a pretty serious relationship was developing when he would observe Jack striking out the fields down on the flat. The rows would slowly creep further into the center of the field, curiously nearer and nearer the Curry household. He continued to court this young lady until they married in the year of 1974. My mom said he was her best friend.
By 1977, they had moved a house onto what is now considered their homequarter.
By 1984 Jack was the proud papa of three lively kids, myself, Holly, and Chris respectively. And I don’t think anyone ever doubted the pride he took in his family. All through our childhood, Dad carted us to every tournament, practise, and community event that we were involved in. He cheered at every chance and never begrudged his time spent waiting and watching our efforts.
I seldom saw Dad angry and am pretty sure I never saw him really mad. His patience coupled with his sharp wit and quick humour will be one of the things he is most remembered for. And his patience was tried to be sure when one of his children (who will remain unnamed) got him out of bed early one weekend to trek all the way to Weyburn for a martial arts tournament, only to find a noticeable absence of crowds or cars anywhere we might expect this tournament to be. So he pulls into a 7-11 and what do you now there a poster inside declaring this tournament to be the following weekend! Needless to say, it was a long drive home and Dad had the grace to get up again the following weekend and make another go of it.
Not only did he have time for his own kids, he adored his nieces and nephews. I’ve heard tell that when my cousin Terri was about 2 years old she got her first nursing kit, and Dad sat through uncounted bandagings of his toes all to the joy of this nurse in training.
As young boys growing up on the farm, Jack and Pat would spend much of their free time hunting. Uncle Pat remembers walking together for miles, in the snow, hunting rabbits for hours on end. And that love of hunting didn’t wane, there were many meals of goose, duck, and deer and at least twice as many stories about his adventures chasing game.
(Mike ad libs, telling stories about
-Gull Lake hunting antelope
-Dad’s curious relationship with law enforcement)
The Bible speaks of how God wrote His laws on the hearts of men. And though Dad didn’t often talk about God with us… he was surely one of those men the Bible tells of. Jack Tallon spoke the good news of the gospel with his hands and feet while working in the field or lending a hand or making you laugh with a joke. He had a strong sense of justice. I have heard of many instances where he stood up for others when no one else would. You have to look no further then the legacy of his family and this community gathered here today to know that that’s true.
As I have sought to know God and make Him known in my travels, few have shown me the character of God more than my Dad. The Bible relates our welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven as an adoption into a mighty family, a grafting into a community where there was none before. And as I was physically adopted into the Tallon family, I can tell you there was never a moment when I felt less then Jack Tallon’s son…the love and pride he expressed never less than complete.
Dad celebrated well, and i think the best tribute we can give, is to share our stories and memories of him, all the times he made us laugh, in celebration of a life well lived.