The last note in this space was that life is a gift and life is a mystery, both clichés and both true. The other truth, as true as the sun rising every morning, is that we’re not made to live forever.
The children’s Papa, their grandfather on their mother’s side, said this to me right around the time he had open-heart surgery. He survived, and he has been given, ever since, a sort of bonus season of unknown length.
Now it’s my own father’s turn. Faithful reader knows him from this, about how fathers are many things, including an association, or from this, that is my father’s own memories of his grandmother’s bravery in war.
Now, in the dying days of last year, my father suffered what appears to be a stroke, small enough to leave him more intact than some other stroke survivors, but significant enough to alter the speech and voice and strength that he still has left.
This, in a man who has spent much of his life using his faculties to heal others, a life that has known both peace and war in the most literal ways.
It’s because of the war, especially in his early experience, that he has spent much of the rest of his life in a vocation of helping to heal others, and a stronger sense of the bonus time that he has had. In his words, the bonus time actually dates back to his early life when running from the horrors of the Second World War.
We, including the children, have being praying for him. Earlier this week, they each wrote him a letter.
“I didn’t know he was taken prisoner,” said my son just before we prayed for Opa the other evening, while we talked about it all, war, peace, Opa’s career of service of over five decades (five decades!) as a therapeutic massage therapist.
That makes him the longest serving such therapist, in likelihood, in not just Ontario but Canada.
We talked about how it would be nice to, when in Canada again, sit in his living room and use our own hands to play the piano for Opa, so that our hands, as our spirits, know their own sense of service in this, the music of life.
As a family, we welcome your own prayers for my father at this time, if you’re inclined.
Here is something else to get to know him better, my own write-up on him for the Spectator for his 80th, and, from the same occasion, this piece from the St. Catharines Standard, here and below.
St. Catharines Standard – August 21, 2011
Healing Hands turn 80
By Don Fraser, Standard Staff
St. Catharines – Guenther Froese has spent half a century making sure his clients are in the best hands. Froese, a longtime registered massage therapist, is celebrating his 80th birthday on Saturday.
The Thorold resident is likely the oldest person practising the profession in Ontario.
And Froese said he’s had a charmed career that’s seen therapeutic massage emerge from obscurity in Canada to being a standard health-care procedure.
“I am very much aware of the fact that age-wise I am living on a bonus,” he said inside the 1870’s Pine St. N. estate home and office he shares with wife, Ruth Froese.
“Since my World War Two and post-war experience, where I was rather victimized, I’ve actually lived on bonus ever since,” Froese said.
“I have, therefore, always felt obligated to be of service.”
Froese was born and raised in the Danzig area, which at the time was German territory, but is now part of Poland.
Like millions of Europeans, his wartime and post-war years were one of chaos and family disruption.
At age 13, he was a prisoner of the Soviet Red Army and his family was split apart for various reasons.
He made his way to West Germany and immigrated to Canada in 1956 to be with family members who’d already come across.
Froese had practised nursing as well as massage while in Hamburg, Germany, a country where massage is treated reverently and included in a serious rehabilitation regimen.
After a doing various jobs in Canada, including lumberjacking in Ontario, he opened his first St. Catharines practice at 6 Church St. in 1960.
There, he treated hundreds, including notables like the Burgoyne family, The Standard’s founding proprietors.
Eventually, he relocated to his Pine St. home and developed a thriving business now known as Peninsula Massotherapy Clinic.
For about 25 years, he also ran a residence there for non-hospitalized patients, including people with stroke and psychiatric illnesses.
He still works 40 hours a week and in 2006 was honoured by the Ontario Massage Therapist Association for his longevity and professional contributions.
Froese believes massage is about more than it’s physical benefits, which can enhance the function of muscle and connective tissue.
Massage, he said, has a healing power that elevate a person’s mind and spirit.
“My approach is the whole person,” he said. “I also believe you treat the patient as soon as possible in whatever condition.”
His advanced approach to the craft is not lost in his community, where he is deeply respected, said his wife.
“Other massage therapists sometimes call him ‘the guru,’ ” she said with a smile.
Service and helping people is a family philosophy, Froese said, adding his Mennonite and Christian heritage is a source of strength.
Daughter Heidi Woosley is a Niagara Falls social worker who assists new immigrants.
His son, Thom Froese, raised in St. Catharines, is married to Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese, the founding executive director of the charitable Save the Mothers International.
The couple and their children split their time between Uganda and Hamilton.
Thom, a freelance journalist, said his father’s energy and spirit is an inspiration to the family.
“We figured five years ago he would stop,” Thom Froese said with a chuckle.
“But he just keeps continuing to do it.”
2 thoughts on “The hands of the old and the young”
So sorry to hear of Guenther’s stroke. My brother, Bill and I visited him and Ruth in August of last year. He and Bill reminisced about many things, especially the time he lived with us in Germany, after the war. Prayers and Blessings to all the family.
Thanks for the note and well-wishes, Trudy. Glad to hear you and Bill had a memorable visit last summer. Thanks for your prayers, also.