Child of Sorrow, Man of Comfort

My parents taught me well. I learned how to live an honest and trustworthy life but also how to love life. But all that ended suddenly when my world came crashing down.

 

Last updated 7/15/2017 at 11:08am

Frank Dragon

Frank Dragon has had an incredible life so far but one filled with sorrow and great joy. His father was killed when Frank was just 17. He thought his life was over. Years later, he was able to help his foster son deal with his dad's untimely death. One of the joys Frank has experienced is being able to travel. This photo was taken when he was vacationing in Cuba.

My father taught me strong moral values and personal responsibility. He taught me honesty and trust. He taught me to be compassionate and respect all life. He also taught me the value of education. He loved sports and taught me how to play and enjoy sports. He also taught me to have fun and to laugh. But above all else, my dad taught me the meaning of love.

The kicker was that I was 17 years old when my father was killed in a mining accident in Campbell River in January 1979. I thought my world had ended and it did to some degree. But I realized after years of wandering that these were the values and principles he taught me in the 17 years I had with him. I was honored and blessed to be reconnected to those values and principles because they came from a very principled man. But in some ways, the death of a parent is something you never get over.

Dad was Cree from Lac la Biche, Alberta, and my mom's side is Gwich'in from Inuvik, Northwest Territories.

I got married when I was 29, and by the time I was 34, my wife and I had several children. We also had a foster child who was about 15 or 16 at the time. His father had also been killed and he too suffered the pain of losing a parent when he was quite young.


One day I took him to visit his father's grave and I could tell that he was visibly shaken. I tried to comfort and encourage him by telling him that even though I was 34, when I go to visit my dad's grave, I'm still that 17-year-old boy. It struck me at that point how much I had been missing my father's love.

At that very moment, a song came on in my brain about being a child of forgiveness.

I was in Bible College at Northwest Baptist, in Langley, British Columbia, a school attached to Trinity Western University, and I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. This was the same year that well-known singer Andre Crouch released his last album. A lot of the songs made a real impact on me. A song like "There's Nobody Else Like Him" and "Say So". I think I might have heard Andre Crouch live in concert about three times after that. Every one of them was a most amazing experience for me.


At the time, I was a summer intern at a United Church in Burnaby but it really wasn't what I was interested in. I wanted to be in ministry but not as a pastor. I had a heart to do social work with youth and their families to end addictions. I found myself involved in that with several different organizations over the years.


I also worked with a lot of First Nations organizations and youth and spent a lot of time on Vancouver Island.

About ten years ago, a head chief asked me to be involved in their treaty process, negotiating different aspects of treaty agreements. Over these years, if I knew that I was going to enjoy working with treaty agreements as much as I did, I would have worked with First Nations a lot more. Even though I'm working with First Nations in the province and across Canada, I haven't changed as far as how I do things in ministry.

My nephew was suffering from cancer but he and his fiancée wanted to get married no matter what happened. They got married on the rooftop of the hospital of palliative care.

The staff gave him and his bride a gift certificate to stay in one of the nicest hotels in Victoria and he asked if I would help him take care of that.

After their wedding, I told him, "It's been a long day for you and Katherine. I suggest you stay at the hospital tonight and we'll take you to the hotel tomorrow."

I helped him get ready for bed that night and that was the last time he spoke. He never said another word after that and passed away six days later.

We were pretty close and I'm still struggling with his passing. It's been since February 2017 and I still think about him almost every day. It's not been easy for sure.

You look at the pictures afterwards and see how nice everything was but when I look at his face, I can definitely see that he was struggling. Before the wedding, the doctors had given him two weeks to live. I told him, "If you do exactly what the doctors say, you'll be dead in two weeks. But if you do the opposite from what they say, you'll live much longer than that."


I told him not to live by their timeline. He lasted six weeks from the time they told him he had two weeks.

I just didn't think that his wedding night would be the last time he would say anything to us. At that point I was thinking, I'll say goodbye and let him go and make this easy for all of us, but I was the one who hadn't done it yet. So I held my nephew's hand and put my head on his chest.


"You know, my boy, Uncle Frank is letting you go and you're going to be fine. Journey well. I'm OK." He needed to know that I was going to be alright.

Honest to God, that was the last time I saw him alive. I never clued into that until the next day when I turned to my sister and a stream of tears just flowed down my cheeks. I had my hand on his chest and I was praying. My sister wraps me on the back and says, "It's time to stop!"


I was just emotionally mortified. He passed away about 7:00 o'clock that evening.

We took his casket home going up to our home reserve-three hours by road and then another hour by boat, taking the body in a rented van. This is often what happens in many remote communities to get loved ones back to their home burial grounds.

Over the past few years I've done a hundred or so funerals and have become known as "the funeral guy." Now my friend Jim and I, as we go up and down the B.C. coast, pastoring in some way or other, we hope to take on more mentoring roles. I asked Jim, a friend who I did a lot of stuff with, if he would do my nephew's funeral, and he said he would but he couldn't do the burial. He suggested Steiner, another friend of ours. He agreed to do the burial on our remote land.


It's always hardest when you take on that pastoral role in a funeral situation where someone is part of your family. You end up putting aside your own grief and getting through that and being there for the family. And then you have your own time to grieve afterwards. You spend time grieving but you also have that time receiving comfort from the Person who comforts the best. And just relying on the Father too.

My grandfather was the one who dug the graves and he was always teaching and mentoring me but giving me grief if I was doing something wrong.

As we got off the beach and were talking, I was wrecked and just trying to keep emotionally calm. All of a sudden I realized that my grandpa was with me. His son at that time had taken over digging the graves and I said to him, "Frank (his name is also Frank), your dad is here with us. I can feel him here."

It was in that instant that I knew that I was passing the torch. That now, I am teaching, helping, and mentoring the next generation to take care of the burials. It was so much easier at that point and so hard not to break out in smiles.

We get to the graveside and everyone is crying and we're burying my nephew, my boy, and I just wanted to smile and shout out praise to Creator Jesus but it didn't seem appropriate to be giving praise at a graveside funeral service. But I was passing the torch. It was an amazing feeling and it really said that "yes, I'm still struggling with my nephew's passing but I'm not thinking about it morning, noon, and night."

It's so much easier knowing that my grandpa was there and it was exactly as God wanted it to be.

Steiner's wife, Heidi, is a woman I have known her whole life and I used to go with her grandfather Earl on the western side of the island to work with the Shantyman mission. It was a place where we went to find refuge and rest. But it was also a place where you went when you knew you were in trouble and you needed correction. But here you received correction and rebuke from someone who was so loving and that was Heidi's grandmother Louise. She was a huge influence in my life. Now generations later, Steiner and Heidi have taken on that pastoral role in that tiny remote community.

For the past several years, my health has not been that good but I am certainly trying to not let it "rule the roost" for sure. Years ago, doctors didn't give me much hope but here I am-I'm still here. I still manage to get through my days and I've certainly not lost my zeal and desire for the Lord. I've reached the place where I can turn over to the younger generation some of the stuff I used to do and I don't feel like I need to hang on to that any longer.

God's Word says: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord...to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11-14). In John chapter 16, it says, "In Me you will have peace. Take heart, I have overcome the world."

One thing that's been on my mind is what Jesus said in John, chapter 17. "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world. I pray for those You gave Me. They are Yours. All that is Mine is Yours. All that is Yours is Mine. I have been honored through them...Holy Father, keep those You have given to Me in the power of Your name. Then they will be one, even as We are One" (17:9-11 NLV).

My kids know that I'm sick-that I have a serious illness. But they also know that I'm fiercely independent and I know that they want to be helpful.

I'm so glad that we have a hope. My mom is 80 years old-she still doesn't wear glasses. I'm so happy I still have her around.

When my wife and I were a lot younger, we were in internship training at YWAM (Youth With A Mission) near Williamsport, Pennsylvania. I was younger but I weighed about 300 pounds and I ended up having a heart attack. But I recovered.

It really has been a blessing in some regards being sick because I would have been dead of a heart attack by now if I didn't get sick and lose the weight. My doctor told me that one day but, you know what, he was being truthful. Now I'm half the man I used to be-about 147 pounds!

And now at 56, I know that I'm not going anywhere until God calls me Home. I also know that when that happens, I'm ready. I hope you are too.

Frank Dragon

Just thinking about what we've been through during much of our history, we often wonder how we coped. Most likely we wouldn't have made it without our humor. Frank is one of those people who can cry one minute and is laughing silly the next. Here's an example of the kind of things that make him laugh.

 
 

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