My father is dying.
There. I said it. And it can’t be unsaid.
Dad took a nasty fall a couple of weeks ago and it took five stitches to close the wound in the back of his head. While at the hospital, a CT scan revealed an aggressive tumour deep inside his brain—too deep to get at surgically. For various other health reasons we were told his body is too compromised for chemo, and radiation was neither recommended or offered. So, my father is now in palliative care with a life expectancy of less than six months.
Mom and dad both took the news rather well. Dad, matter-of-factly. Mom, with the bowed acquiescence of one who has lived long and lost much. Mercifully, the care-home that Mom has already been in for some time quickly made room for Dad to spend his last days, and so the transition was quick and uncomplicated. We’re so grateful—Dad already knows the place, the staff, and many of the residents. Happily, he’s gone to live and die where he is already known and loved.
A Different Kind of Grief
I don’t know what else to say right now. Recently, I told a friend that it feels like someone has opened up my midsection and is manually removing a vital organ… in slow motion. I thought I was familiar with grief. But this is different from previous experience.
Our Christian tradition recognizes several kinds of love. I think there must be several kinds of grief as well. To know one is not necessarily to know the others. One suspects that, like love, only God can bear to know the fullness of it, and yet it belongs to the mystery of our humanness to know something of it. If it wasn’t so particular and personal and awful, it would be objectively curious.
No doubt, in the coming months I’ll write more about my dad. If you’ve seen me in concert or listened to my music much, you’ll know how large he has loomed in my life. He is a very good man.
Perfect? Of course not. But that has never been his goal anyway.
Good? Yes indeed.
Wise? My friends have affectionately called him Yoda.
Selfless Living and Prayerful Study
Recently I wrote about Dad in comparison to the elderly priest Simeon of the New Testament who waited his whole life to see the promised Messiah and recognized him in the child Jesus (Luke 2:25-35). Of Dad I wrote:
“I wish you could meet my father. If anyone looks like I imagine Simeon to look, it would be him. Dad’s body is worn out from years and illness. His eyes are failing, his hearing is shot, and he can only move about slowly and carefully. But he, like Simeon, has been a righteous and devout man, who has served God and neighbour his whole life with
It is rare that I go to visit him and don’t find him in the company of others who have stopped by for wise and loving counsel. But if you do get him alone, Dad’s eyes will start to shine as he is likely to want to tell you what new glory he has beheld as a result of his prayerful meditations.”
An Adorable Tenderness
Just so you know, as of today Dad is
I miss him already. And so will many of you. Dad has spent himself on others and I suspect a few of you might want to get a message to him. I’ve set up an email so you can do so. I’ll print off any messages and make sure to read them to him. Or, if you’d like, feel free to use the comment feature below. I’ll make sure Dad sees those as well.
You can email Dad at email@example.com. Please don’t expect a response. But he will get it.
Recently my younger sister Dodi and I went to Dad’s apartment to start the work of clearing out his stuff. She had been there the day before and found his passport from when he was a kid. I had never seen it before. You might notice where he was born. That’s a whole other story I’ll tell you sometime.
More to come I’m sure.
May this time on earth be truly a blessing to others to see what you have done for all of us before us. May you cherish the time with family and grandchildren. With all our Love Peter & Nancy Budding
I’ve of course never met your dear dad Yoda, but I feel like I know him.. and one day I will. Peace to you Steve as you prepare your heart for what will come – the great and joyous reunion between you, your dad and your happy mom in heaven. That day will come, and it will be be magnificent. For now we hold to hope. Love to you and yours and prayers will continue for you all.
I have been a fan of yours since the mid 90’s and always loved to hear about your Mom and Dad. Your Dad is rightly proud of you. Tell him for me that I’m grateful that he raised such an inspiring ambassador for Christ. Because of you, my faith was re-kindled and I thank you and your patents or that.
In Christian love,
(Previously Jenette Goodman)
Dear Mr Bell,
You have no idea who I am, we have never met, I just wanted to thank you for giving us your Godly son, who has lit up our lives, calmed our minds and fed our souls with his music. I can only imagine the man behind the man who writes such inspiring words and music. I salute you Sir, and pray that our Heavenly Father will rest His peace and comfort on you.
In Him, and with thankful hugs…….
Steve, Tamera & I will grieve with and pray for you and the family!
Dave & Tamera Duke
Well Steve, I first met your dad and family when you were guest family singers at our church in downtown Wpg. Portage avenue Baptist Church. Steve, you must have been about 10 years old.
Many years later Alf played a big part in my life and the life of our church at Grant Memorial Church.
I always have seen Alf as a man of wisdom and a quiet always approachable personality. A true Man of God. A truly Faithful Man of God.
Almost exactly a year ago, I asked the angels to come take my dad , 91, to heaven… he had been in hospital off and on with “aging issues “! He was a good dad , not perfect! He was wise and respected by many, as he faithfully followed and served God for most of his adult life! Blessings and prayers for strength in this journey…
Dear Mr. Bell,
I can only reiterate the previous comment, about giving us Steve. He truly is a prophet in his day, yes lighting up our lives, calming our minds, feeding our souls and reminding us gently that we need to “check” certain areas in our lives at times. I also want to salute you Sir, and pray that our Heavenly Father will comfort you as only He can. May you be filled with ease of pain and peaceful days, as you wait to meet your Maker. Many blessings on you and also on Steve and family, as they have the pain of the loss of your great life on earth.
Steve I am so sorry on the loss of your father. May your heavenly father be with you at this this time. May he continue to be with your family as well. I have here a bible verse that I would like to dedicate to you.
I met you through Gerald Folkerts funeral when you sang there and again at my Aunt HIlda Dycks funeral back in the spring/ Summer.
IN Prayers and Many Blessings
So sad for you, praying for all family.
Praying for him.
I guess I didn’t read correctly. It is nice to know that Alf is at peace, comfortable and content spending these precious moments with his loving wife. The conversation doens’t matter it is the time they are spending together.
I cried as I read this…..so moving and tender …..a beautiful sharing of your Dad and Mom in this part of their earthly journey. I lost my Mum this past year, slowly – such a tearing of my heart. My prayers are with you and your family as you tenderly care for them and love them. They are indeed blessed.
A year ago, when I was visiting my daughter in Vancouver we attended your intimate concert there. You spoke of your father’s health and how he had been blessed with a miraculous cure. God in his wisdom knew it was just not his time. He knows our needs and our pain. I am sure that extra time together was cherished just as the memory of him will be. Parting leaves an empty space. I pray you find strength in God and solace in the word. Your father shared his faith as pastor and leaves a legacy of service.
Steve, we were so saddened at hearing this news. How we love your dad and mom. The memories are precious: visits in Stony Mountain and out east. Perhaps the best times were the blizzards-we would hear it was coming we would get together either at our place or yours and ‘ride out the storm’ together.
And now to face this final earthy step is hard. Our hearts were not created for death! We pray for him daily.
In the midst of this grief may we all catch glimpses of Gods grace.
We met at a funeral at a church on Westwood Blvd in the 1990s. We shared a hymnbook. Your family is loved by the Lord. We are all love. Please tell your Dad that for me. I continue to praise God as a tenor at First Presbyterian church. Love isn’t easy. But the good Lord loves us just the same.
Jo Ann Sutherland
Oh Steve the tears are streaming down my face.I love your father so much.He has been a blessing to me over the years.He helped me so much with the challenges I had after the death of my precious mother.Your dad was like a father to me,as I never really had a relationship with my dad.Your dad always told me no matter what happens in life ,always keep your eyes on Jesus.So that’s what I’m telling you know.Focus on Jesus . I love you uncle Alf .See you in heaven.Your niece Lana
Holding you and your family in my heart Steve. Will give you a hug in person Sunday evening.
Impacted by your tender-hearted thoughts of Dad that are communicated from a place of love and trust for God’s sovereignty. I pray for peace and freedom from pain or angst for your Dad as he waits upon the Lord. For you and all who are grieving, I pray peace and comfort.
With deep affection
Kathy and Dave Downey
Well, it’s been so many years since that little church in Stonewall were Dodi and I first met you, your lovely wife and kids (including your Dodi) and many years and many events bring us to the news received today. We have been blessed by you and Marie in those times although not all was easy for you thinking of the Brandon Church Plant situation. May God give you an extra measure of peace and joy. We would love to be able to give hugs. Bless you in Jesus Name. Ken and Dodi Brauen
I will never forget the evening, at the concert in Winnipeg when your dad came out and blessed us all. That was a powerful Blessing! love and prayers to you and your parents!
Space or words wouldn’t do Alf justice but in my early days in chaplaincy he was my boss actually the regional chaplain that I felt that way about. I remember sitting on a bench one Saturday morning with him Monty Lewis had a prison day happening very early in my journey he began telling me the importance of offenders like me in ministry yet went on to tell me regardless we would always need old fuddy duddies like him around basically to speak into our life from time to time. Very encouraging that day for a young man in prison ministry fairly new to the game. I never forgot them & they came to me throughout my journey as often as they were needed. He may cross over but certainly will not be forgotten he influenced 1000’s for sure. Sad but glad he’s at peace,heaven will have gained a warrior that’s for sure. Dave H
We have listened to your dad speak and the latest when he came out at your Winnipeg concert and spoke a blessing . May God give you this precious time between now and your dads graduation to heaven – and may you speak into his life and bless him just as he is blessing yours . Saying a slow good bye means there is time to say those things you still want or need to say . Although I have a feeling you’ve already done that . May God be your peace and strength during his time and knowing that when God takes him home – you will see him again ❤️
Or should I say “grandpa”?
You’ve been my pastor, you’ve been my friend, you’ve been the giver of good advice and even better hugs.
You and Marie have made me smile, and laugh, and have been a source of inspiration and encouragement.
I also need to thank you both for raising Steve into the man he has become. His friendship and sage advice have been a huge part of my faith walk. Bless you and your family. You are so loved.
I will be praying for you Steve and family. On Feb 1 my 94 year old mother was taken home. She longed to go! Now she rests in Paradise.
So incredibly hard to let them go! And when it does happen no words describe the void.
May the grace and mercy of God the Father be with you through this.
I am so sorry to hear about your dad, I know from experience what it is like to watch a loved one as they slip away.
I have lost a brother suddenly, and I have lost a parent knowing it was going to happen, neither way is easy…My thoughts are with you Stephen, and your family at this time.
From an old school mate
I love how you phrased it “Our Christian tradition recognises several different kinds of love. I think there must be different kinds of grief as well.” As usual you so beautifully captured a deep truth! I have walked “through the valley” but God has shown Himself in deep, real, precious ways in that valley! Grief does not always play fair and you can’t go around it, you have to go through it, but Jesus who wept for his friend Lasarus, even when he knew he was about to do something amazing, KNOWS grief and walks through it with us.
And in a honest heartfelt sincerity…I do not mean to be glib at all…get the kleenex with the lotion…it is a comfort when the tears come!
May God flood you with His love and peace!
I remember your family serving at Bethesda Church many years ago. He preached with the love of God pouring through him. You sang with your family, I believe. I knew then that God had touched your lives. Thank you for service! Well done, faithful servant!
I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with your dad but the time we did have together was quite special and impactful for me. He married my husband and I and I had some long talks with him after the fact and in the years to come. Its been a long time since I’ve spoken to him. I struggle with the strict dogmatism of religion and your dad is one human that makes me think that I can still be a Christian. He represents love, compassion and the true path of how someone should live their life. So many prayers being sent your way.
Steve, that passport picture could be you when you were younger!
My son and daughter both love the Lord and are raising their families to do the same, partially due to your mom and dad as they led them to the Lord and mentored them. My parents also paid a sacrificial price to raise us “in the way we should go”. Quite the legacy we all share. Please be sure to convey our gratitude to them both. Hard to say where we would be without their influence in our lives.
We met during our doctoral studies at Acadia University 30 years ago. I’ve never forgotten you and the kindness you extended to me. I have counted it a privilege to know you and to have met Steve on several occasions. Many blessings upon you, my brother.
Rev. Dr. Garry E. Milley
I am honored and blessed to have known your father. He was truly a blessing in my life and I will soon miss him. I remember the good time we had when he dressed up like Jacob and preaching many a time in our church. Gradually we become very close. Dr. Alf Bell has strong tie with Chinese people he did pick the good taste of Hot Sauce.
Few years back Dr. Bell insisted my wife and I hook up with my high school classmate went to see Steve’s concert in Toronto, from time to time I still look up those pictures; what an experience. Gradually we become very close. Dr. Alf Bell has strong tie with Chinese people he did pick the good taste of Hot Sauce.
We call him Alf the shepherd and going out for Chinese food to the n times, he told me there is Chinese blood in his body…
Please keep us inform Steve.
We saw your Dad at your recent concert at Church of Christ on St Mary’s Rd in December. We spoke with you briefly after the concert and I told you about the comfort your music provided for me and my Mom when she was dying and how it helps me through life in general. We have been a fan of your stories and music for a long time. You let people catch a glimpse of your life through your stories and we feel like we know your Dad at least a little and can palpably feel the love you have for him. May you find peace in this heart wrenching time. Remember always that love never dies. Prayers for a peaceful transition for all of you ❤
Gale and Tim Burridge
Steve, Thinking of you and yours and praying for peace in the days ahead. Thinking of how God used you at my father’s funeral. “The Lord of life, is my shepherd. Though I walk through the valley, I walk with his hand in mine…”. Take good care.
I can understand your grief as it has happened to me, the losing of a father and a mother. My mother died slowly, but I was so grateful for the time I spent at her bedside while she was in palliative care. I know you will feel the same, my friend. Cherish these last moments – you will appreciate them later. My heart and prayers are with you.
I was so saddened to hear about your Dad’s recent, serious medical issues.
I will never forget his powerful blessing at last year’s symphony concert.
It was nothing other than a miracle that he had been near death with bone cancer and was then on stage addressing such a large crowd.
At that time, I dissolved in tears and prayed for God to grant me the same miracle.
I am so pleased that your parents are together, regardless of the situation and I hope and pray that they are kept comfortable and that God will be merciful.
Take care and give your dad a big hug from me. With love and hope, Jocelyne
I have never met your dad but feel I know him from you concert stories. One story that has stayed with me over the years is drumheller circle and his taking you to learn from the people having a short term or long term stay at the prison. It told me everything about a man who would take his beloved son and introduce him to people with a past.. He saw their humanity past their experience and trusted them as they taught his son.. That is Jesus in thought,word and deed. When I was in prison you visited me.. says the word of God. I also loved the story of when Steve was singing in clubs there you were.. devoted,loving father. What a gift to have a father like you.. you don’t have to be perfect but your actions shine through Steve’s life and his ministry and we the audience get a window seat to hear the fruit of your labour. For this we are truly truly thankful
I pray the Lord be very close to you in this season. Close to you all. Know you are in our prayers
Although I do not know your family personally, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, that Christmas at the concert hall when your dad walked onto the stage and in his loud and powerful voice, gave us his blessing. That moment and the “pick up the phone” story are two moments that moved me and will stay with me. Praying for peace and courage for you and your family
Your Dad used to be my pastor way back in Winnipeg. The good news means we will all meet again. Sorrow comes before joy and pain hurts. Focus on Jesus for now and keep your eyes on Him. Prayer is all I can offer-so sorry you all hurt so much right now.
I remember your Dad from Lakeside Baptist Church when I went to church with my Grandparents as a youngin. He was one of my late Grandpa (Murray McRoberts) favourites and he talked of his sermons very fondly. Praying for peace for your family and sending many prayers to hold you all up!
I remember when your family would drive from Drumheller to Winnipeg a few times a year to visit and sing in our Sunday services at Margaret Park Baptist. It was always a big deal and a joy to have great music from out of town. Although I knew you, your sisters and mom better I remember your dad as well on these visits. He always looked so pleased watching you and the family sing like he was hearing for the first time. It’s never easy to have a loved one…hero in our lives leave us. May the time your father has left be cherished. Thinking of you and your family at this time. You are in our prayers.
Someone told me just before my father passed that it changes your world forever. It’s true. One of life’s few “constants” disappears and upends everything. Heaven gets closer, though, growing more concrete having just lost my mom two weeks ago. We really don’t grieve as those who have no hope….but…we still grieve. I’ll be thinking of you in the days to come.
Steve, my prayers are with you all. This is a hard moment, but always remember that God is present in this very moment, and that, with death, life is changed, not ended. This is a precious time. Embrace it and know that all your friends are with you in it.
I never had the pleasure of meeting you, Alfred Bell, but you are a consistent messenger of grace from Steve’s tales, and in your contribution to the Pilgrimage book. Thank you for blessing Steve into his ministry, indeed!
Dear Alfred Bell,
Steve wrote a beautiful message about you and it reminded me of the many stories Steve has told us about you and the kind of father you were. In particular, I fondly recall two stories about you: 1) being a Prison Chaplin in Drumheller and being able to connect with the inmates; and 2) my favorite – when Steve started playing in clubs and kept avoiding your calls, thinking you would be disappointed in him, so you went out to visit him and reminded him that he is YOUR son and that he is deeply loved. What a precious and memorable moment for all of us who were blessed to hear that story. It’s a reminder that we are ALL sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven, and He will always love us. May God continue to bless you as you embark on the final stretch of your journey Home.
Hello Steve Bell, I am sad to hear this news of your father. He sounds like an amazing man of God and although the news is difficult to stomach, you can be at least content knowing he has had a wonderful life thus far and that he is greatly loved for you so many.
Take care Steve,
Dear Steve… I’m feeling so very sad for you and your family. It’s so hard to lose our loved ones. I so enjoy the time I spend with my parents… I grab every opportunity to give them a hug and tell them I love them. Every day is a gift from God. Saying a prayer for all of you and sending big hugs. Liz Anderson (was “Hurtubise”) -Orillia
Dear Steve,our hearts go out to you& your family as you see your Dad dying.
It is so wonderful that he & your Mother are together for his last days.
We remember seeing him at your concerts as he sat there so proud of his son
Blessings & prayers to you Ron Craig & Carol Ingimundson
I am so sorry for you, and at the same time strangely grateful that you get to be with your folks at this time, which I did not have the opportunity to do. You and yours are in my prayers.
I had a few interactions with your dad over the years, and found him to be consistently calm, curious and kind, which strikes me as the foundation of an enduring legacy. He is a good man indeed, and in deed. The separation wouldn’t hurt so much if the relationship didn’t matter so much.
I never met your father but I feel I know him personally because of your gift as a story teller. I pray that God will raise up 10, no 1000 godly men in his stead. This world so needs them! Love and Prayers.
Vindicator – by Arthur Lee
worth a listen… radio ga ga …and all free people Everywhere. Thanks to Alf from all the brothers and sisters who learned …and the compromised for whom we can only hope
Hi Mr Bell,
I want you to know how important the times you and Mrs Bell shared with the church’s single adults group in the 70’s was.
My Mom became a single parent of 3 very young children, definitely not of her own choice. In those years single parent homes were not widely accepted or embraced even within the church communities. Your Dad and Mom were absolutely a beacon of hope and of love!! They both showered the group with warm acceptance and so lovingly demonstrated to us kids that we were still a family with or without our Dad. The idea that we were seen as a family was amazing!
This was an incredible gift that perhaps only those that have walked through this stigma during that era can understand.
Your Dad welcomed us over to the Bell home in Stoney Mountain on occasion. Other times they hosted BBQs in the city for the group. There was always music and laughter at the get togethers. Of course your family would share music at many of these gatherings.
Thank you Mr Bell for your dedication and gift of your time to families, your investment of time was very well placed!
Much love and prayers for you,
I am Margaret Truesdale’s daughter.
Did He finish his book? He rocked my world.
Taught me about what false guilt was. Alf changed my life. I saw him and was afraid to talk to him. Once I was in the room with him, there was no going back. He brought my whole life to light. I will cherish our moments together forever. He changed my life.
Alf Bell was our pastor for a short time..far too short! He blessed us in so many ways.I will always be grateful for the beautiful wedding ceremony he performed for our Daniel & Karla.Alf…you are Finishing WELL!!!!
Dear Mr. Bell….we can’t find the words or even begin to tell you the impact that you have made on our lives through your son Steve. We believe that your deep faith in the gospel has been forged into every song Steve has ever written and we thank you for the tender love for Christ that you lived and planted in his soul. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
My late husband, Tom Newell first met Alf at Toronto Baptist Seminar, later co-pastored with him at Lakeside Baptist Church in Kenora and accompanied him on a mission trip to China. They worked very well together. May our Lord & Saviour continually Bless your parents and your whole family.
Just want to say how very much I enjoyed and appeciated you and Marie while you lived at Summerland. You were so supportive and helpful to me. I’ve been missing you. Every once in a while we wish you were here for advice. Rest well, my friend. God has everything under control.
Love ya lots!
I’ll never forget the time your dad spent as our pastor in Kenora. I was a young man intent on turning the church on its head as a worship leader and Alf had a quiet, calm way of steering me back to the importance of loving people first and reminding me that none of it was about me. All the glory was God’s, and while he acknowledged that it wasn’t wrong to want to try new things, none of it was worth strained relationships and hurt in the body. I watched him preach with patience, passion, truth and conviction and every time he spoke I knew it was from a heart that was genuine, wise and completely in love with Jesus. Thanks for sharing so beautifully and openly about your dad.
Steve. Praying for you & your family. Your parents have sure taught & raised you well & what a great legacy that they will be leaving for you & all of your other family members. I met you on the bus stop bench on Henderson Hwy last year.
Long time admirer of your music and stories, some of which included your wonderful dad. It seems from the day we are born it is inevitable that we will one day lose our parents, but for Christians there is a greater hope beyond this world. I pray that in this time of grieving the Giver of Grace will place in you an incredible heart song within that you cannot do without.
Steve you are blessed….and your Dad and Mom are a Blessing……..thank you for sharing your parents in this way….my hope is that you continue to write and sing from the depths of both your grateful and grieving heart….peace my brother
To Alfred Bell,
Thank you for believing in your son, Steve, especially when his life did not match that belief, but love and the true gospel did. It still does these past 30 years that his ministry and music have blessed my family. Thousands have you and the Spirit to thank for that… looking forward to getting to know you on the other side.
What a blessing it is to have the gift of our parents so far into our lives! It’s so wonderful to experience grand children and great grandchildren and all of the blessing God has given to us.
My heart aches for you all as you face a farewell from this place to our eternal home. You are in our prayers!
Hi Steve and Mr. Bell. We have not met personally but I have been personally blessed by Steve’s praises to our Lord. The first time I saw him perform was many years ago in a small hall in Calgary. My girlfriend surprised me with a night of live worship. Steve that night you told many stories about your dad. How he came to the bar to listen to you. How he was a chaplain at Drumheller pen. How you learned to play the guitar with inmates. I did not know a fathers love and it was healing balm to hear you speak so fondly of your dad. I think of your story with amazement many times as several years later the Lord opened the door for me to work in federal prisons. Almost 20 years later I’ve held a few positions and always make sure to get to know the chaplains and elders. I’m Aboriginal and I’m so grateful for your supportive involvement Steve. We never know just how our stories impact someone else. In regard to grief and losing a parent you’re so right Steve. There are so many types of grief. Walking the dying home is a beautiful and agonizing journey. Many many blessings to your whole family in the farewell dance. Thank you so much Mr. Bell for a life of love and service to the poor and the broken hearted and for your faithfulness to our beloved Saviour and Lord who is waiting to gather you in his arms. Susan from Edmonton. I look forward to swapping stories in heaven.
Dear Mr Bell,
Bless you for having lived and spent your life so well. You have also left behind a beautiful living legacy, a ripple effect like water, that will continue to flow through the lives of all those whom you have crossed paths in your life journey. Thank you. May you look forward with great peace, joy and anticipation, to the open arms of your Beloved, who had gone ahead and prepared a beautiful room for you.
Wishing you much peace and comfort.
Dear Pastor Bell, I can’t add anything to the tributes that have already been written, and we have never met – but I know you. Through what your dear son has spoken and sung about you and your dear wife, it is clear that you are well-loved. And I know, through what has been written, that you have never sought the praise of men (and women). This reminds me of a modern worship song, Only Jesus, written by Herms, Hall and West. The chorus is this:
And I I don’t want to leave a legacy
I don’t care if they remember me
And I I’ve only got one life to live
I’ll let every second point to Him
This appears to be your life’s goal and our Lord is pleased. You will hear those words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Steve, my sincere sympathies are with you at this time. We are physically losing a great man but the spiritual effects he had on those who were fortunate enough to know him will live on. He helped me at several critical points in my life and was without question one of the most honest, caring individuals I have ever met. In my experience with him, he was selfless and sincere with an earnest desire to help everyone. We are all richer for his presence.
Thank you for sharing your journey Steve. I have never met your father but always felt a kinship because of his friendship with Father Bob MacDougal whom I loved deeply. It is not hard to understand that the many years of your relationship with your father has shaped your ministry. We are blessed to be a blessing. There are many unknown benefactors to the wisdom, compassion and love of your father. On their behalf may I say we are deeply grateful. My desire would to be able to end life well as you are witnessing with your dad.
Hi Steve and Mr Bell. Tears are flowing as I read your message this morning. And I know the pain of losing a parent slowly. And yet this time that remains is meant for cherishing. Cherishing your memories, cherishing and sharing your thoughts of life lived and life to come so no words are left unsaid. I did not meet you in person, Mr Bell, feel like I know you a little from stories Steve has told. And just knowing Steve a little I know you to be a mighty man of God cause that is who your son is. And I know you had great influence on Steve throughout his life. I pray for God’s presence with you and your family and that you know the richness of His blessing.
Greetings to Alf, Steve and all the Bell family:
With deep gratitude I remember the visits in our home, by you, Alf, during the years that you and Paul both served as chaplains in federal institutions. I still have the recording of you entire family in song. Many times over the years, I’ve been privileged to attend concerts given by Steve, and I have most of his CDs which are truly inspiring.
You are in my thoughts and prayers. May the God of all comfort be with you today and in the days ahead.
I feel like we have a lot on common at this time in our lives. My wonderful Mother, Patricia just passed away January 23, 2019 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. She was a medical missionary in India, graduate of Divinity School at a time when only 2 women were in her class, president of the B.W.M.S. of Ontario and Quebec for many years, lay preacher, wife, mother and much more. She was born April 26, 1935, so of the same era as your Dad. She didn’t quite make it to 84. As we grieved over 7 years, seeing Mom deteriorate in her capacity to communicate, and forgetting who people were, it was a surprise to me to feel relief and joy at her passing. I did not grieve “as those who have no hope” but find I am only thinking of how happy and joyful my mother is being with her Lord Jesus and walking the streets of gold with Him (yes, she can walk now and talk and remember everything she ever did!). I hope our parents can meet and enjoy fellowship in a place of unending beauty where there is no sorrow. God bless you and your family. Thank you for sharing.
Steve I’m crying as I write to you. I’m so sorry. I will send an email letter to your Dad as well. I know I will not receive a response but I’m so glad he will get to read it. Your Dad and Mom became a part of my life and my children’s life in 1999. We lived in the same townhouse complex out in Fort Richmond Winnipeg. I’ll never forget the day my then 6 year old daughter Sarah ran in from the playground excitedly asking could she play with her new friend over at her Gramma’s house. Off we went to meet Gramma and lo and behold it was your Mom. The stories I could share of the treasured time myself and my children got to spend with your Mom and Dad …well it could be a book. The impact of love, true faith, wisdom and joy has never left me or my now grown kids, Matthew is 31 Sarah is 25. I was Linda Klassen back then, a single Mom oh so in need of the love and help they so freely gave. I am so saddened to hear of Alf and I’m so truly sorry. Know you and your family are in my prayers. He is and was a man I will never forget. I’ll never forget the time he prayed a Father’s Blessing over me. For a woman who had lost her Dad many years before and never really had a Blessing it was a gift beyond measure. The gifts of love they both gave us remain forever in our hearts. And oh the laughter …I still use your Dad’s prayer over a meal sometimes …remember this one? “Good God, good food, let’s eat!!! Bless you Steve. I don’t really know you but I know the ones who gave you life. Oh and by the way I was given the honour of reading the book that was written of your Dad’s life and missionary life in China. What a story!
Thank you for sharing this about your Dad. It saddens me, for you. I am familiar with this story, as it happened with my own Dad. The day that the cancer diagnosis came in, my mom who had a little calendar with sayings for everyday, turned it and it said ‘I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future’.
I have your CD – Story and Song, and love the story, about how your Dad showed up at the bar and reminded you that he loves you and wasn’t there to condemn you & also Love how you said that paralleled the gospel & I couldn’t agree with you more. I could feel the love that your mom and dad had/have for you, through your words on that CD. It’s very beautiful, it was encouraging, and I have shared it with a friend, who has a wayward son. Your Dad was reaching out to more sons than just his own!!
Keep encouraging your Dad with scripture and song, pray together for him and with him, and remind him and your Mom how much our heavenly Abba loves us. I liked to be ‘defiant’ and sing songs about the goodness and faithfulness of our God through these tough times.
Alf, you where such a blessing to my husband and I here in Kenora.
Not only as the Pastor of Lakeside for a while but later as you counselled my
husband and I from Winnipeg, and even took a couple trips with my husband
to the camp in Geraldton, for fishing and more counselling.
You were my husband’s best friend and confident.
I will always remember your encouraging words to me when things were at the
bleakest. Thank you for your love and wisdom.
I have lost both of my parents. Upon the death of my mom, a wise and kind friend wrote me, saying that “these realities are too large for us to hold. In these times, all we can do is remember that we are held.” That’s what held me . . . knowing that I didn’t have to try to hold it.
God be with you . . . .
I have lost both of my parents.
When my mom died, a wise and kind friend wrote me this: “these things are too large for us to contain. And so, it is good to know that we are contained . . . that we are held.”
Knowing that I didn’t have to ‘contain’ this epic non-human-scaled reality is what sustained me . . . and knowing that I was held.
God be with you . . .
I never really knew your dad, but as I look at his picture and hear about him, it reminds me of your grandfather who I got to know so well when I first came to Canada. I was born in the same year as your dad and got to know your dad’s siblings as we often gathered at the family home in Toronto on Sundays after church. I knew your grandparents as Mommy and Daddy Bell. Dear Daddy Bell would almost always close his pray at the table with these words. ” Use the experiences of our lives to draw our hearts closer to you.” I pray that what you are now experiencing will do just that for you and for your whole family.
Thank you so much for sharing this. It truly touched my heart. I don’t know if you’re parents remember when I met them many many years ago. I was 16 when you’re Aunt Agnes and Uncle John took me in and welcomed me into there family as “Jack’s girlfriend “ then becoming his Wife. The Bell’s are an exceptionally loving family and although they can live miles apart they couldn’t be closer. They were certainly one family that endured so much growing up through the war. Having “Nanny’s Story” is one book my kids treasure. Agnes also wrote out her memoirs so we have that too though not published. I remember sitting in the living room talking to your Dad and being so transfixed listening to him explaining his job and all the stories he had. I felt so honoured to be part of that family. They are all so interesting. I never tired of hearing Mom talk about her and her siblings. Your dad especially reminded me of your Grandfather. I’m was sorry to hear of Edith’s passing. They all lived such full lives and don’t think they took anything for granted. Love and laughter always in abundance
Our hearts go out to you today in this very difficult time. Your article “Losing My Dad” was so special and emotional especially because of knowing your dad and you. The picture was lovely. We are so sorry to hear the diagnosis, he is still on my prayer list from when he had Multiple Myloma. We are so privileged to know your parents, to have them as friends and to have had them in our home in Edmonton. We visited them in Winnipeg when we were at our son’s. Our son Brian and Dodi were in school and in the youth group at our church together, they graduated from grade 12 together.
We will not forget your mother’s music talent. Your dad was a very outstanding person, a very spiritual humble man who touched the lives of those he came in contact with. So glad they are able to be together now.
This is a difficult time for both of you as your travel this journey. We certainly will be remembering your dad, mom, you and Dodi and your families in our prayers.
We are also praying for you and the challenges you are facing with your wrist. Praying for God’s continued healing touch, that it will get no worse and you will be able to continue with your music. We have so appreciated the spirit of your concerts. May God continue to have His hand upon you.
Ps. 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God…”
With our continued prayers.
Dear Steve, Alf and Marie, and family,
We were blessed to know your Dad and Mom as they came alongside our church, Whyte Ridge Baptist Church a number of years ago during a particularly difficult time for our church family. Pastor Alf quickly became a voice of reason and encouraging forgiveness helped us move forward in a loving and purposeful direction. We owe a lot to him and his quiet and loving care. His presence with us now, along with his generous hugs, is greatly missed.
Lorilee, Daniel, Hailey, Olivia and Jaden Penner
Richard and I were married on July 3, 1964 and on Sunday, July 5 we attended the church in Drumheller and you, Alf were the pastor. It was many years later that we connected and your love and prayers and insight allowed us a most gratifying ministry in Winkler after we had officially retired. Our hearts are heavy as we know you are soon leaving us, but oh what joy awaits you as you meet your Lord and Savior whom you have served so faithfully for so many years. We will miss your wisdom, hugs and expressions of appreciation for any act of kindness shown to you. We love you! Steve, our prayers are with you as you walk along side during this difficult journey in your ministry and your personal life now.
I’ve always enjoyed hearing the stories of life with your folks…so much wisdom and good humour. I found myself scanning the audience at your concerts to see if they were along that evening & was glad to see your Dad there in December.
I know you’ll make the most of the days left with both your parents…listening to your stories over the years, about your relationship with them, helped me learn to just get things said…my own Dad left suddenly with little warning and I’m so glad we were all well-practiced in saying our goodbyes with plenty of ‘love you’s added every time we parted. So I’m grateful to you and your family…
Peace and strength for the days ahead,
I want to thank you Alf for the ministry that you had at WRBC, straight forward messages and your love for the people. We were privileged to hear and see the OT men come alive when you came in costume.
His answer to my serious decision that I had to make was “follow the Spirit” and I realize that is what this great man of God did many times in his life.
God’s richest blessings, love, strength and peace be with you, Nanci & family during this very difficult time. I lost my brother (at the tender age of 56) about a year an a half ago. I can only imagine the pain and sadness is even more, when it is a parent.
I hope you find comfort in the times and memories spent together. I hope you find satisfaction in knowing all that Alf has done for your family & for all the people he has touched over the course of his life. Alf’s life was well lived. Alf will surely have God say – “well done, good & faithful servant”, when they meet. Your life & ministry has touched so many many lives; and Alf & Marie are such a big part of why that is! Relish the last few days and weeks.
Love to you & Nanci.
Dear Steve, I’m so very sorry to hear about your Dad. Although I’ve never met him, hearing about him and knowing the son he raised says so much about him. Please know you and your parents and your whole family are in my prayers. I’m told there are a few things in life we can’t understand until we experience them….becoming a parent, becoming a grandparent and losing our parents. I’ve only experienced one of those but know from others just how profound they are. Prayers and love. Susie
What a wonderful reflection.
We have met in passing, but I first got to know your dad as a youth in Moncton, NB at First Baptist. He was wonderful and ministering to those in the prisons and newly released and back on the street ( I believe it was called the Light House)
Your mom and dad we such a powerful influence to the lives of people around them. I remember when he shared he was moving back to Winnipeg and why. (I’ll share that with you sometime). We reconnected with your Dad and Mom years later at Whyte Ridge in Winnipeg when he came to be our intentional interim pastor. What a joy to reunite and what insight he brought to a healing process.
I think of him often and still quote one of his sermons to this day with respect to living in the eye of the hurricane. (Shalom)
May God watch over you all, strengthen you and forge new memories in the days to come.
Shalom and God Bless you all.
Jamie and Sara Patterson
I have been honoured to have Alf a part of ny life in a group we both attended. Please tell your dad that I am praying for him and your mom. He is so full of love and that part of him was shared with everyone in our group. God bless you Alf in your final days. Steve if you could let me know where Alf is living, I would gratefully appreciate this. With love Alf from Brenda T.
You probably don’t remember me, but my mom was a resident at the Convalescent Home when your dear Marie moved in. My husband John led the weekly worship services quite often, and Marie used to play piano accompaniment to the hymns. I always marvelled at how she could play a different harmonization for each verse – without any music in front of her! I appreciated meeting you when you came to visit, and I saw how important your discussions of scripture were to those who gathered in the visitors’ lounge. I remember especially the blessing you gave me after John’s death. It was such a comfort. Now the time has come for others to comfort you. I’m so glad you and Marie can be together as you near the end of your earthly pilgrimage. My heartfelt prayers go out for your whole family as you prepare for this temporary separation. May you all find peace and comfort in this time of letting go.
I will be in prayer for you and your family. May each of you be filled with the peace that only God can provide.
Dear Pastor Bell, I am so grateful you were called to do a Church plant in Calgary AB, namely Fairview Baptist Church because it was under your ministry I became a Christian. We were meeting in your basement while we helped with the building across the street. In your wisdom, shortly after becoming a Christian, you suggested I should teach Sunday School. I didn’t feel I could or should but I’m glad you encouraged me since I was forced to study the Bible each week, just to keep one step ahead of my little pupils. Otherwise I might have become just a ‘pew-warmer’. But now I have been serving my Lord in a variety of ways in that same Church for 58 years. And thank you Pastor Bell for being our speaker at the 40th anniversary – in costume with an OT message. When my Christmas letter returned ‘address unknown’ one year I thought I had lost contact with you and Marie. I took it to a concert and managed to catch Steve back stage after. I reminded him I had babysat him when he was little and was surprised he at least remembered my name. I felt honoured when he took a selfie of the two of us to show you and delivered my letter for me. I agree with Dean Lott your passport picture could ‘pass’ for Steve. (hi Dean and Danay). I can say “ditto” to the many lovely tributes you have already received and am thankful for this opportunity to contact you again. I hate to think where I might be if it was not for your Christian influence in my life. I don’t want to say goodbye, so I will just say I’m looking forward to seeing you again in Heaven. God bless. Sandi Landymore
Steve, I meant to ask you to give both your Mom and Dad a hug from me.
Praying for you and your family. Love, Sandi Landymore
As hard as this is for you, God’s hand is present. Losing your parent is so hard. It is part of you that is being ripped away from you and you can’t do anything about it. But the bright light in all of this, is how lucky your parents are to be in the same care facility. When my mom and her partner got sick they were able to be together at the Health Science Centre until they were placed in a nursing home. The nurses there, said they were very lucky to have that time together. Never did that happen before. They were later placed in different nursing homes. I pray that God sends his angels to come and help you with this transition. God bless you and your family at this time.
Mary Lou Bourgeois
So sorry to hear about your Dad Steve. In the last seven months I have lost my younger brother and my mother and I feel like I can’t breathe and my heart has been ripped out twice. I am struggling very much with it. I watched my mom struggle with a bad heart for over a year and last saw her two days before she died but miraculously saw her two days before she died and was with her when she died as I had the day off work. I saw my brother two weeks before he died. He was mentally ill. I will pray for you and your family at this difficult time.
You do not know me but I have been introduced to your music for about 6 years or so. I try to get to your concerts when I can in Ottawa. Through your stories about your parents I have gotten to understand how wonderful your parents are. My faith has become stronger when listening to your music. I have gathered much of it including Pilgrim Year and the psalms, playing it at my husband’s long term home. It comforts me alot. I introduced your music to my husband as I was enjoying it so I believe it is comfort to him as well. I believe it is a gift to have this special time with our loved ones knowing that their time on this earth is coming to an end. To know that Jesus is with them and us every step of the way.
God Bless you and your family .
Peace and Love
So sorry to hear about your Dad. I am sure your Dad will always be with you, in everything he has taught you. His voice will always be in your ear.
I lost my Dad about 7 years ago now and there was comfort in a relief from suffering, a peaceful passing and knowing he had had a good life. Hoping your experience will also be that way. I felt compelled to write, when I saw your Dad’s passport. My father too, was born in China (Shanghai) in 1926. My Grandparents were Missionaries there and had to flee the Communists, when he was 4 years old. His 3 siblings went to the Chefoo school. I read a book recently my Mom still has, about life in that school/camp during the war. Spoke a bit about the positive influence Eric Liddell’s faith had, on all the prisoners that had come from that school. A good read. Was your father a POW, during that time? I know another man who was in the camp at about nine years of age. Affected him negatively for the rest of his life. Sounds like God has been good to your Dad.
I had a wonder full visit with my dad because my mom and dad were both alive while I was without place to live and MOM asked me to stay as I was getting ready to go to work. God was there that day REALLY and dad and I spent 3-4 hours reliving our relationship ! When we decided to part, he asked mom to let him go to bed and he did not awake after that meeting, I shall never forget that time with him! Thanks for your notes and GOD Bless you!
It is a strange thing this life, exuberant and wholly capable of deepest sorrows. While we want to shake our fist at the sky sometimes, we know we cannot have one without the other.
My heart grieves for your sense of loss, but thank Heaven, you have time to grieve, cherish and come alongside him with the time that is left.
Still, he is your father..one of the pillars of your foundation, as is a mother. I do understand, my father, now 87, in poor health lives in Brazil, myself in Canada. It had been 15 years, but God opened a door for myself and my son to visit, hear stories I had never heard, know him in a different way, and embrace him who raised me, the prodigal daughter, as a single father.
There is a hope for us Christians to know we will rejoice together again one day, so we don’t lose anyone. My father has suffered loss, and has not embraced Christ, however if anyone can change a hardened heart, Jesus can. I should know. My lips and heart will continue to cry out to Heaven for this dear man.
Our heart and prayers are with you and yours always.
With the love of Him who walks with you,
Just seeing how many people have filled this page since you wrote about your dad, Steve, is mind-blowing! My dad is reaching the end of his life, I mean, he is not in palliative care, but he had copd and I think it is just slowly getting`him, you know. Im seeing that same sweetness between my folks, -and ha-the same gong show conversations! It is one of God`s great gifts to his children to be allowed ro grieve this way…before our parents leave for Heaven! A great and merciful gift Steve. God love be with you. Betsy Feller, Fernie, B.C.
Dear Steve and family.
I too, as Malcolm Guite wrote, remember when your dad came on stage and blessed the audience.That was huge for him, and you. The proud son.The Look, my dad is well, smile. We as fans and audience member s have come to know your family in words and song. An elder grows old,things bag, sag,personality gets agitated easily..but there are three things parents display until the day they surrender to God. The message that comes through their eyes. Another message that comes through a smile. And the message of a parent-child bond that accumulated into a whole bunch of messages, called life experience. From the day you went off to play in a bar and your dad knew..he allowed you the freedom to enjoy that life experience. Albeit with tongue in cheek perhaps. It is your turn to become the elder, and that childlike behavior you witness between your parents is yet a reminder that life experience is a full circle. You have traded places.Because perhaps God wants each and every one of us to know the child in our parents, and this is the way we happen to sit in the playground and watch. God Bless.
So heart-heavy to hear about your Dad. Too many shared jokes, too many coffees staring out at the frozen Northumberland Strait, too many really wisdom-filled conversations to not be deeply saddened by this news!
The kind of guy that was a joy just to hang out with and pray with. Stories and laughter. “You really have to meet my son…you’d like him.” I did and I do, but I would say that apples don’t fall far from trees. A truly delightful man and a wonderful reflection of Jesus. So sorry Steve!!
Please give him a hug for me…(and Marie too!)
Dear Steve, I am a relatively recent fan of you and your music, stories and poetry. I believe your music truly helped me through the intense grief when my husband died in 2015. Since then, I have never missed an opportunity to attend all your local concerts. I have always enjoyed the stories of your family and recognized the powerful faith of your father, mirrored in you. The concert at the Winnipeg Concert Hall December 2017 was wonderful. When your dad came out and delivered that Blessing it felt amazing, somehow touching the very soul of all of us in that vast throng.
Prayers and blessings to your whole family. Rest in the sure and certain promise that we will all meet again.
How I appreciate your sharing this story (one of the many…) with us. I’m among the many who have not personally met your father, Yoda, but somehow when you’ve been with us at Bethesda Lutheran Church & told the many stories of both your parents – we get to know him a little more. I’ve lost both my parents & while my loss was different than yours will be I’m sure – it’s still the loss of the ones who got you to this life in the 1st place. It’s a hard process but you have a truly loving Lord who will help you navigate your way.
In your message you use the word “palliative care” & until 2 days ago, I didn’t know that word. I was in a class with other folks who want to learn about hospice & volunteer in that field of giving. Last June I was with a sweet cousin (who was more a brother than cousin) as he passed into his new state of being. After going through that, I realized that I wanted to give of my time to help others in the same way I was helped. I pray that Alfred is blessed with wonderful caregivers who assist him, you & your mom as he goes to be with the Lord.
Blessings to you Steve. Your music fills my ears often.
Alf was a huge part of my early years in New Brunswick. We loved his presence at the bottom of Hillview Avenue before he joined you in Winterpeg. Dad was very much impacted by the wise words of Yoda Bell and I felt comfort with their presence in our home often as grandparent figures that I had lost when we moved half a country away from home in 1989.
Please give our love to Alf and Marie from the Quirings on the East Coast.
I miss going to your concerts, but however the Lord has me in much the same spot as your dad. As we age we all realize how full of love and grace our heavenly father has been to us over the years. We as Christians have no fear of death and we KNOW that we will all meet again and be together will our Saviour who suffered unbelievable pain to free us from a sinful life so our pain is understood by our intersessor and He and the Father will give us comfort. I will pray for you all each day and look forward to our next meeting, as all our days are numbered, we don’t know when or where, the Lord will call us home or Jesus will come and take us with Him.
We will have a great reunion!
Norma (and Art) Jones
Thank you for sharing this journey with us. It’s hard saying goodbye to parents, those who know us so well and love us through it all. You have been very blessed by your amazing father. Even though we haven’t met him, we feel like we know him through the stories you tell and the songs you sing. Thanks for the gift you’ve given us!
You are in our prayers and on our hearts during this difficult time. We pray that God holds your family in his loving arms.
The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. Psalm 29:11
Chris & Bruce MacRae
Thanks for sharing with us, your friends, this difficult journey with your Dad …and your Mom. I relate strongly to the slow removal of a vital organ analogy, as I watched my precious Mom die just about 3 years ago from cancer. Like your parents, she, too was a woman of faith and knew where she was going. What I learned from watching was how to approach my own death with courage and honesty, and trusting in the One who promised us so much more beyond this realm. Much love to you and your family.
I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I first met your family when your dad was guest preaching in Emerson, Manitoba. You and your mother and sisters provided the music. It was a long time ago… your voice hadn’t even changed yet! Over the years you have often shared how your dad has impacted your life. These will be difficult days but we know of course that the Father will take good care of you all, as He has always done. Blessings to you and your family, and a special hug to your dad.
I remember your Mom and Dad from First Baptist in Moncton, NB. Their ministry to us and in our city and prisons was love. As you walk this road set before you may you all be very conscious of the peace of God which passes all understanding. With love and prayers, Jean Phillips
Steve and family, I have enjoyed your music and stories for years. I was an EA a Stonewall Collegiate while your kids attended there and your wife was a substitute teacher there. I do a number of road trips to The Pas, Thunder Bay and Wisconsin and your music is always with me. Your parents, with God’s help, have raised an amazing son, who continues to inspire and comfort people all over this world. My thought and prayers are with all of you during this time of preparation for the transition of your father’s life from here on Earth to his eternal home with our Lord and Savior. Thank-you Mr. Bell for sharing your son with us!
Dear Steve and family,
Shortly after my husband passed away 18 years ago, I was given one of your cd’s. Your music has been a daily part of my worship experience. I especially love the Sons & Daughters album and the “She’s Getting Ready for Glory” song. Your dad has served his God and his family well and I pray his journey is peaceful and full of grace. I’m holding all of you close in my heart during this difficult time. I was unable to attend the retreat in Leakey, TX that you did at the beginning of March, but I know that I will get to meet you and your wife someday soon.