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Sharing God Moments and Bidding Goodbye

Veteran Langley-Aldergrove MP Mark Warawa brought the House of Commons to tears this week with his farewell speech as he faces surgery for colon cancer that has spread to his pancreas and lung. Convivium presents his parting Parliamentary words in full.

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Sharing God Moments and Bidding Goodbye May 10, 2019  |  By Mark Warawa
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I was in the hospital recently for 15 days and I had zero interest in politics since I was possibly facing the end of my life. In just a few minutes here in Parliament, I am interested in politics again.

I am not running again. I announced that. However, I wanted to make a farewell speech. It is tradition in this House to be able to say goodbye and thank members of this House. I have surgery for colon cancer coming up on May 22 and my only opportunity to say goodbye was this week. I am here to give the House an update and thank members.

I was an election observer with a colleague and I had to come back early because I was turning yellow. I was very jaundiced. I came back, went to the hospital after a few days, and doctors found that I had a pancreatic tumour. They then found that I had colon cancer and then that the pancreatic cancer, which is what Steve Jobs had, had spread to my lungs. The prognosis from the doctors is not great. However, I have a strong faith in God; and the God who created me can heal me.

I want to share a little about my life. Throughout my life, there have been some wonderful little God moments, nuggets and interventions of guidance. People ask me why I became involved with politics in the first place, and it started with a dream back in 1990. I had a dream that there was an upcoming municipal election and that I was elected. This was out of the blue; I had no interest in it.

Later that day, somebody came up to me and said that they had a dream about me. “Oh, really?” I asked. “What did you dream?” The person dreamt that I ran in the election and was elected. When those little nuggets happen, one has to listen. So often we get busy and do not. I put my name on the ballot, and surprise, I was elected. 

I served on Abbotsford council with the wonderful, intelligent, good-looking member for Abbotsford. I served there for 14 years, and what an honour it was.

Then there was another God moment. I was with my beautiful wife, Diane, and we were going out for our anniversary. I said to her that one day before I retired I would love to get into managing or owning an auto body shop. I had just sold a business and everything and she told me not to start a new business. I told her that I was just thinking out loud, because I loved cars and would like to do that. That happened on Saturday. On Monday morning, the phone rang and this fellow said that he was Gary down at the so-and-so avenue body shop. He said that he was looking to retire and asked if I would be interested in managing his auto body shop.

From that I then went to ICBC, and then brought money into Langley and started fixing up things. I became known, and the next thing I knew, I was running for federal politics. Again, there are these little voices, these little nuggets in our lives where we need to listen and follow God's leading. That is why I am here. I am just an average guy who has had an incredible honour serving with members and serving our community.

I want to thank God. I want to thank my family.

Diane and I were married in 1972, almost 47 years ago. She is my best friend. We have five kids and 10 grandkids. We are so blessed.

My passion has always been the environment, justice, family, seniors, children's issues and respecting life right from beginning to end.

Diane and I met at Trinity Western University, and on the weekends, as I did not have a lot of money as a student, I would take her on a date to a senior’s place, where we would play the guitar and sing. We just loved dealing with seniors. We did not have to be great singers for the seniors to like us.

We are so blessed with our kids and grandkids: Jon and Jen with Carrington and Rich; Ryan; Eric and Carolyn with Christian, Jonah, Jeremiah and Jakob; Nathan; and Kristen with Russel, Mya, Mark and Will.

I have always been involved with sports over the years and I know the importance of teamwork. We cannot get anything accomplished as a lone wolf; we have to be part of a team. I understand the importance of this in politics as well, and I have this incredible team that I get to work with, my staff. I could not have accomplished anything without them. They are Annette, Kim, Jane, Liat, Monique, Megan and Rebeca.

As members all know, the best part of the job is being able to help people, and it has been such a blessing. We love our community, and it has been an incredible honour.

When I announced that I was not going to be running again, I felt that God was creating a new chapter of my life. I was preparing to be a chaplain giving pastoral care to seniors. I was doing this studying and reading, and lo and behold, I got sick. I was reading all these case studies about whether to operate or whether to give palliative care, and I was honoured by our leader to be given the responsibility for palliative care. Then I found myself in the hospital, a surprise, and experiencing what it is like to face end of life. With all that reading and preparation, maybe it was not for me to administer to others but to prepare myself for this trial. I want to thank everyone so much.

When someone is first given the diagnosis that there are some serious problems, doctors are dealing with the physical person, but there is more than just the physical to us. There are the spiritual and the emotional sides, the psychosocial, but that was left un-administered to. While the doctors were looking at my physical condition, that was being ignored. 

This is tremendously important. Doctors give a diagnosis and look at how they are going to fix a patient: at what kind of operation is needed or what chemo. But what about the person? What about the family and the distress? We need to encourage our medical system to make sure that it is providing a ministry for the rest of the person.

I was at the Vancouver General Hospital, which is an incredible hospital with incredible physicians and surgeons, but that need was left unmet.

I asked for palliative care. I was there for 15 days. Of the thousands of doctors, there are two palliative care physicians at VGH, and I never saw them. They came once while I was recovering and groggy and sleepy, so that need was unmet, unfortunately.

I have experienced first-hand the difficulty of accessing palliative care. We know from statistics that it is not available between 70 per cent and 84 per cent of Canadians – a tragic number. Our system is not designed to meet that need. We are trying to fix the body, but in some cases it is better not to do the heroic thing, not to remove the organs or use chemo and that sort of thing. Science has shown us that people can live longer and have a better quality of life, in some cases, if they are given palliative care. Those options were not provided to me. Why is that?

The system is broken and needs to be fixed. We passed Bill C-277. This Parliament is coming to an end, but I hope that the next Parliament will make a commitment to fix that and provide leadership in Canada, maybe through a university chair or something, so we can fix this situation. 

People are left in despair, emotions are raw and family support is not there, but they are not given the opportunity for palliative care. What is the only remaining option? If it is not surgery, it is maybe that they should consider MAiD, medical assistance in dying. I was on the legislative committee when we discussed that proposal and passed it. We had to, because of the Carter decision.

We have a situation in Canada of basic needs not being met, and out of desperation people are saying that the easiest way is to end their life through an injection. They are saying that would be the humane thing to do, but we cannot force people into that kind of a choice. We have to provide palliative care.

It has been such an incredible honour to work in this House. I was first elected federally in 2004, and 15 years went by just like that. 

None of us are here by accident. I believe that strongly. I have a strong faith in God. If we are not here by accident, then what is the responsibility for each of us that goes along with that?

To whomsoever much has been given, from him much will be required. Therefore, we have a responsibility to do what is right, to be truthful, to be people of integrity in making Canada better and working with one another when it is appropriate to do so.

I have not always done things right. I have a very mischievous nature, as chairs of different committees can attest, so I would like to apologize for some of the problems I created.

Death does come to each of us, and to some very early. We just said goodbye to a very dear friend. He had an aneurysm and he was gone. God has given me some time. I may be around for a long time or I may be around for a short time. We do not know.

This is the most important part: It is that I want to encourage each of you to love one another, to encourage each other, because God loves us. Pray for another. Pray about what is really important. Help one another. Seek God's will for you each day. Do what is right. Be honest.

We read in Galatians:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

It is all legal. It is all good.

Life is precious. Life is sacred. I have been reminded very freshly of how valuable and precious life is, from beginning to end.

God bless you. I love you all. I will look forward to being able to serve. Until October, it will likely be out of my constituency office, but to God be the glory.


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