Today, at the time of this writing, is the celebration of life service of dear friend, Don Rousu. He passed away on Sunday, March 19, 2017, at the age of 75 in his home in Sherwood Park, AB, Canada. This post, written in the form of a letter (a format I thought would best express my feelings), is my simple tribute to “Pastor Don.”
Don Rousu’s faith, character, and remarkable family have indelibly marked me – as well as myriad others. The legacy he leaves as he precedes us all into Glory is remarkable, and I decided that writing my thoughts out as if I was writing a letter to a friend would best serve what I’d like to say today.
Last Sunday, Nathan wrote a post on your Facebook profile. It said that you had passed on into the presence of Jesus in the early hours of the morning.
Early this morning my father Don Rousu ‘finished the race’ and has found his rest with Jesus. While Dad had a number of long term health issues, it was his excruciating battle with cancer that took his life of 75 years. He was an exceptional husband, father, grandfather, and friend. ‘Pastor Don’ gave his life to selflessly loving and serving countless others. While we feel the pain of loss, we are grateful for his entrance into peace, free from the bondage of physical suffering.
I was standing in the middle of a Costco aisle when I read those words, with Anita up ahead of me looking for something in the wall coolers. I had pulled out my phone for a quick check on the kids, and there I saw the update.
I stopped in the aisle, and looked up at Anita. “Hon, come here. Don passed away.” She came over, and we stood there in the middle of the aisle as I read the post, our hearts full, memories flooding in, and the sweetness of the presence of Christ surrounding us as we had our first moment of grief in that public place.
As people walked by us, I immediately thought, “Don would want me to hear this news right in the middle of strangers – he loved people, whether he knew them yet or not.”
You suffered for so long – the cancer, the pain, the arthritis – but now on a Sunday morning both you and Jesus said, “It’s time.” And so it is.
I talked with Nathan on the phone; or at least we tried. While your family is one of the most self-aware (as well as vibrant, and joy-marked) clan of people I know, I’m not sure you or they realized – or realize yet – the full impact you’ve had on them or those who knew and loved you.
I’m remembering sitting beside you at your dining room table as we talked about the art of preaching, and what you had learned through almost 50 years of pastoring. “That’s a half-century,” I thought. “How good do you get, 50 years and thousands of sermons later, teaching most Sundays of the year?”
You had a childlike tone in your voice as we talked (and Ruth served us lunch). I’ll never forget how your eyes flashed with a wild blend of faith in God’s promises and a deep love for teaching the Scriptures.
You told me that you wrote out almost all of your messages, and had a few of them on your hard drive (many in WordPerfect, as I recall).
I asked if I could have them.
“There’s too much wisdom there for me to miss this chance, big fella” I said. “Sure,” you replied, “If you really think you want them.”
“Oh, I do; I definitely do.”
Well, Don, they’re sitting here on my hard drive as I write this, and the folder is simply labeled “Don Rousu.”
Who gets a folder named after them on my hard drive? Very few people. In fact, you’re the only one. That means you’re special. How special?
- When we all went out to dinner one visit, and I saw the love shared between you and Ruth, Nathan and Charis (they remain two of my favorite people on planet earth), the grandkids, and your other kids/family members, I thought – “I want this kind of love.”
- When I read through your sermons, and saw the wisdom the Lord has forged in you through half a century of pastoral leadership and immersion in the Word that will outlast us all, I thought – “I want this kind of wisdom.”
- When I saw you had written your last book, knowing the stage of your arthritis and the pain level you were experiencing in your fingers and back as you fought to offer something you felt was that important, I thought, “I want this kind of inner strength.”
- When I thought about the hundreds of people you and Ruth have lovingly counseled into wholeness (I’ve heard their stories, and I’ve seen their faces), and the enduring touch of a caring heart and a gift unleashed to heal in Jesus’ name, I thought, “I want this kind of impact.”
- When I saw you had passed on into Jesus’ arms, and what I knew a countless people (many of them at Harvest Vineyard) were probably thinking and feeling at the moment they heard the news, I thought, “I want this kind of legacy.”
In one of our last email exchanges, you finished with the words:
…I’m feeling like I need to head back to bed for awhile, rather than sit here and shiver in my office.
It’s always a joy to see your name and or face pop up on the internet. You’ve been a great blessing to us, and now you are a great blessing to the whole church. We send our love and benedictions to you, Anita, and your children!
With Love, Don
I wrote back:
…I receive your benedictions, and care about your health. I’ll be praying for eyes to see God in this, and comfort for your hands as well as healing for the cancer. Come, Holy Spirit.
Love to you and Ruth, and I want to be like you when I grow up! Dan
I still want to be like you when I grow up, Don. When I look into Nathan and Charis’ eyes, and I see the treasures you and Ruth have sown so generously into your kids, grandkids, and so many souls in need of guidance, I wonder if it could be possible.
Then, I remember the tone of faith I would hear in your voice – whether in person or in an email – and I think, “Sure. All things are possible with Christ. All things are possible.”
Love, respect, and honestly, awe, Don. From one younger son on earth to one older son in glory, thank you.
I look forward to us seeing one another again one day, and we’ll talk about the precious things – the most precious things – when we do.
To honor Don with us, please consider the following:
From Nathan –
“For all those who have asked, Ruth requests that all memorial donations be made to Harvest Vineyard Christian Fellowship, earmarked for the Nicaragua Mission fund. Donations can be made in person at the Saturday memorial event or online through the church website: https://harvestvineyard.radiantwebtools.com/giving/
And one final note, we would like to thank everyone for the tremendous outpouring of loving messages that have come in various ways. I sat with my mother Ruth and a number of other family members and we have read through them. Mom commented that they were a remarkable source of comfort and love. Thank you.”