On Saturday, 20th November, 2021 my dear friend Brock Clayards passed away peacefully at home in Victoria surrounded by his children, Megan, Sarah, and Ian. I would like to pay tribute to him and honor his life and memory.
In October 1985 I arrived in Port Alberni from Cape Town to take up my new post as pastor of St. Alban’s Church. It was the first night in my new Cape Cod style home on South Crescent. I was alone, not much furniture in the empty house, and it was dark outside. Until a bright beam of light came blazing through the small window in the front door. I wondered what was happening. I peered out to see a car parked on the road from which came a blinding light. A few minutes later I responded to a knock at the door and there stood a large RCMP officer in uniform, his thumbs stuck in his belt and a smile on his face.
“Hello, I thought I’d welcome you to Port Alberni, I’m Brock Clayards. Just wanted to check that you were okay.”
I introduced myself as we proceeded to chat on the doorstep. “Where I come from in South Africa, when police knock on your door it means trouble,” I said. Brock laughed, “You’re in Canada now, no need to be alarmed.” And so began a friendship that would last nearly forty years.
Brock was a big man, strong in stature, with a commanding presence. As many friends have noted in the tributes pouring in, he was also kind with a great sense of humor. He went out of his way to help others. I’m thinking particularly of his care and concern for those suffering from addiction and mental health issues. One mutual friend in particular often found Brock coming to his rescue when times were tough and he had got himself into an awkward situation. Brock had great compassion and never used his authority to bully or intimidate. Although he could if the situation warranted it.
Brock and Margaret and their family were active members of our church for many years. Not merely going through motions but questioning, learning, and desiring to grow in their faith. There were times when Brock’s faith wavered and we would chat openly and honestly together. We met for coffee when he was dealing with his scleroderma and he would flex his fingers and talk about the latest treatment he was having. It was becoming difficult for him to carve the intricate details of his birds that almost magically appeared from the shapeless wood in his hands. He was stoic and never made a big deal of the battle he was experiencing. Things deteriorated quite badly at one stage and it didn’t look as if Brock was going to survive. Margaret and I met at Tim Horton’s and even talked about funeral arrangements. But, thank God, Brock rallied and prayers were answered for his life that would extend for another fifteen years.
Those were years when Brock retired and he and Margaret moved to the family home in Victoria. We had a work party to help prepare the house for them as a whole new season unfolded. Over another coffee Brock had mused about writing mystery novels. He even was kind enough to say that I had inspired him. “I don’t know how you come up with the plot,” I said. He chuckled in Brock’s unique manner with a wry smile. “Oh, I have lots of ideas.” He went to work, and completed and published two mystery novels that are now proudly available on Amazon. Of course his military background forms part of the fabric of his work. When I studied at Royal Roads Brock recounted how he lived there with his dad and the peacocks in his early years when it was a military base (I think my memory serves me correctly).
Brock loved his family and was very proud of his three children and would tell me about their travels and careers unfolding with joy and excitement about a pending visit. In the last few years he witnessed the painful and sad deterioration of Margaret suffering from dementia. There are no words to describe the pain of husband and children as a much loved wife and mother disappears in the mystery of such a condition. Margaret is now in a care home and will have no awareness of her husband’s passing.
I thank God for Brock’s life and friendship. His faithfulness, his transparent honesty in our private conversations, his thoughtfulness, his humor, his kindness, his quiet courage, his creativity, and so much more. He called me a few months ago to talk about Covid and chat over some questions he had. When we said goodbye I had no idea that would be the last time we spoke. I am comforted to know that Brock has moved to a better place where there are new hearts and no sickness. And I pray for Ian, Megan, and Sarah and their families. It was good that Brock could hold his grandchildren. May the extended family know God’s love and comfort as they grieve the loss of their dad and continue to care for their mother.
Brock, I/we salute you.