Saturday, March 13, 2010
A Life With a Purpose
Actually, this isn't "by Belinda." I could write much about yesterday's funeral for Vu Pham, and I am sure that over the next few days I will; but I want to give you the best--and today the best is the eulogy delivered by Vu's partner: Constable Dell Mercey at yeaterday's funeral in Wingham, Ontario. Here it is, with an explanation of the enigmatic statement at the end.
Family, friends, police family and dignitaries, thank you for gathering here today to honour a great son; father; brother and police officer: Vu Pham.
My name is Dell Mercey, I work out of the Huron O.P.P. Detachment. I was Vu’s partner for almost two years. A lot of you here today don’t know Vu and I would like you to know his story.
For those of you who do know him, you will probably hear things you didn’t know about his life. His story is a truly extraordinary one. It’s a story of a man who overcame some obstacles.
I’ve known Vu since he was posted to Wingham and more so since becoming his partner, two years ago. During that time I would often get bits and pieces of his past—how he got here etc. I felt I knew him well enough I didn’t feel like I was prying so I got to be blunt and asked him certain questions. The more I found out, the more my admiration for this man grew; you will see why.
Vu Pham was born on March 20th 1972 in Saigon, South Vietnam. The country was torn by war at the time and North Vietnamese troops were taking over. People were desperately trying to get out of the country. For reasons beyond the control of his mother, Men Nguyen, she could not accompany Vu and Vu’s uncle Bing. She told him he was going fishing with his Uncle Bing and they were separated.
Vu and his uncle got on a boat and reached a refugee camp in Malaysia. They stayed there until they were sponsored and brought to Canada, to the Elmira area. Vu stayed with his Uncle Bing for a short time before he went to live with Ward and Ruth Schwind for about a year. In 1981 Vu came to live with Dan and Terry Thompson. Vu was raised in Elmira and Tottenham, before the family finally moved to Sundridge. He was now in his late teens when he met the love of his life, Heather Weber, through school and church. Vu went on to Seneca College in Toronto after high school, where he graduated with a diploma in Law and Security. After college, he accepted a position with the Ontario Provincial Police.
Vu and Heather married on September 30th, 1995. Their first son, Tyler, was born in Parry Sound on February 17th in 1998; which was Vu’s first posting. The family transferred to Cochran and two more boys followed: Jordan being born on February 11th 2000, and Josh on March 30th, 2002. Vu’s brother and mother also eventually emigrated to the United States and they both now live in California.
Vu ended up transferring to Huron O.P.P. and worked out of the Wingham office. I often thought, “Now here’s a guy who has lived through what most of us could not possibly understand as a child and yet look how he turned out.” As police officers, most of us would look at the ingredients at the start of his life and predict he wouldn’t amount to much. How wrong we would have been if we would have judged him that way.
Vu was fortunate enough to have a mother that loved him enough to let him go to a better life, leaving herself behind. Vu was fortunate to be embraced by the church and people of Elmira. Vu was fortunate to be welcomed in by the Schwind family and then raised by Dan and Terry Thompson, who did a phenomenal job. Vu was fortunate to have met and married Heather and become part of the Weber family. The bottom line is that he turned into a man that has no equal when it comes to the love of his wife, sons, family and his church.
Vu and I would start our shifts an hour apart every day. He started before me and I would walk to work in the mornings. As I walked to work I would always look forward to seeing him there and the greeting would always be the same. He would smile and say, “What’s going on Dell?” We would sit and talk before we went out onto the road and his conversations would often be about his boys. He would describe the hockey games, soccer games...it was so obvious how proud he was of his boys. You could see it in his eyes, his smile and the enthusiasm when he was telling me these stories. I would listen and he would tell about the plays in the game the boys made in either soccer or hockey. His descriptions were quite good and he was obviously very proud of the boys. Whenever he spoke of Heather and the boys it was always the same; you could sense the love and the pride that he had in his family.
Vu also had an unwavering faith in God and his church. Sometimes the police office where just the officers hang out can sound a little bit like a pool hall. You never heard Vu partake in that language but he would never judge. And it’s a funny thing, but in a short time I found myself, toning it down a bit—quite a bit.
He would never judge you; he wouldn’t force his beliefs upon you unless you asked. On a few occasions I would discuss God and religion with him, but it would have been me that brought up the topic and he would answer my questions. Vu always made me feel comfortable with his answers. He was very committed to his community and his church. He was often at the arena, the soccer field, the hockey rink, always helping out; always a pleasant part of the hockey and soccer social network, along with the parents of the other children. He was also no strange face at the school where the boys went to classes. He would often drop in for an event and all the kids there were very comfortable with him.
I have had time to reflect on his life since this tragedy happened and my thoughts keep coming back to a book I read a few years ago. It also coincided with me partnering with Vu.
One day I was sitting on my deck having a beer and the neighbour behind me came down. He came over...I knew his faith was strong in church and I don’t know why but the talk came around to God—God became the subject, and we had a good chat and he left and that was that.
A few days later I was out on my front lawn and my neighbour across the street comes strolling across and he has a book in his hand and he gave it to me and he wanted me to read it. The title of that book was: The Purpose Driven Life, and it’s written by a minister named Rick Warren. Some of you may know it. The book is a guide to help understand why each of us are here and what plan God has for us. It also focuses on our purpose. I remember thinking then that two neighbours, coming to me in this way in the span of, I think, almost less than a week--um--somebody was maybe trying to tell me something. So I read this book.
I believe a lot of people have not figured out their purpose in this world; maybe me included. Vu Pham is not one of those men. He knew his purpose; he lived life with a purpose. His purpose and choice was to know and love God. His purpose was to be a dedicated husband and father and to instil solid values in his children. His purpose was to help people and enrich their lives. His purpose was to teach young people, always being there at school, church, hockey and soccer. All these purposes define what kind of a great man he was. And I believe his final purpose was when his spirit stood beside me, helping me when I was sure I was going to die that day. I didn’t die that day because Vu Pham saved my life.
Post Script: Following the funeral, I asked Vu's Canadian brothers, Mike and Brian Thompson, what Constable Dell Mercey meant when he said that Vu saved his life. They told me that Constable Dell Mercey thought he was going to die that day, but he believes that Vu took the bullet meant for him because he wasn't yet "ready" to die.
Here is a link to theThe Toronto Sun where you can view a slide show of photos of yesterday.