On death and dying

I’ve been putting off thinking about this. I know I have to do it, objectively I know that it will be beneficial on a few levels to get these feelings out in the open. I don’t usually talk about my feelings, let alone broadcast them to the world, but maybe this will help to let them go.

My father died two years ago on March 17th 2008. I am not sure I told anyone other than close family, I don’t remember. I remember that on March 16th my mom phoned me from her cell phone at the hospital in Calgary and asked me to say a few words just in case my dad passed on. He was in a coma, he was 74, the same age as my grandfather (his father) when he died. She put the phone to his ear. I whispered I forgive you for everything, I wish you all the best. He never regained consciousness and died the following day on March 17th. I flew to be with mom for the next week to help her sort things out, and well, just keep her company. I enjoyed the time with her, but I knew she was very fragile. Who wouldn’t be after being married for 54 years and suddenly losing their partner? On the way back home, I was seated with a man who looked like my dad I kid you not. He was returning to Kelowna after a birthday celebration in Calgary with his family… guess when his birthday was? Yes, it was March 17th.

I thought I was over my father’s death, his passing. I thought I had dealt with all the pain, the anguish, and come to terms with the unfulfilled potential of a real relationship with him. Just this past weekend at the Farmer’s Market in Kelowna, I had a discussion with a man who was a woodworker, same as dad, and he had a wooden cane, same as dad. In trying to manage the conversation, I couldn’t stop crying, the tears were flowing. Thank goodness I had my sunglasses on. But I knew then I had to do something to deal with these emotions, I am ready to let them go.

My friend Vince passed on in April of this year, April 28th to be exact, at about 3 pm. I haven’t been able to deal with the feelings of his passing very effectively. Vince was such a kind and special man. He was everything that I wished my father was and more. He was intelligent, could speak (boy could he speak!) and he was always ready to look on the positive side of things. But most importantly, he was patient and he listened. He was only 70 I think, I never really asked his age, but I think he mentioned something like that earlier when I first got to know him. He just went through a very bad cancer scare in the past few years, and I kept hoping and hoping that he would get through it. He did. He seemed to conquer the illness and things went on, but it felt to me like something else was going on. I didn’t ask. I was not strong enough to ask.

I met Vince through the Kelowna Museum’s board – I can’t remember when I first got on there, I think it was 2005 or 2006, something like that. Of all the people on the board, I warmed up to a few of them, but Vince was the one I always hoped would be there. He was such a light at the table. He was so patient, and kept bringing up points that couldn’t be forgotten, he remembered everything. He had a comment for almost everything too lol!- but it was always in a positive, fun or intelligent way. Vince was ex military as well, and he always teased me about giving my MFO beret to the Military Museum. We bantered back and forth with his being army (though he always seemed too smart for that) and my being air force. Sometimes I would get glimpses in to his thoughts and feelings about protocol and the politics of situations. I don’t deal too well with either sometimes. He knew that and still liked me. LOL!

I knew he was thinking about the time when he was going to pass on, because he kept talking about his properties, and selling them, and I knew that he was trying to get things in order so that Fran, his wife of 50 some years, would not have to deal with a lot of this stuff. I think on one or two of the board meetings prior to his departure, he kept talking about things and projects not to be forgotten. I knew something was going on, but I was not brave enough to ask. I was afraid to ask.

I met Fran through Vince – she was so open and warmhearted. It was very easy to see why they were together. Two sides of the same coin, the cement between their relationship was something to be envied. Fran is a very talented artist sculptor, and one who was always willing to lend a helpful word. We talked a few times about art and carving, and I thought one day I might try that too. She was one of the people who was instrumental in me doing my own sculpture work today. Fran and Vince were such a special couple. They are where I hope my husband and I are in another 30 years. I know he loved just spending time with her. He supported her vision and he believed in her. Fran, you were so lucky to have a man like that be your partner! How you must feel the loss of his friendship, his voice, his nearness.

The first board meeting after his passing I did not have to attend thank God because I was with my family on vacation. Somehow I kept my brain going on other things so I would not have to think about Vince. But, because I have to pass the Laurel Building, which is right next door to the RCA where I have my studio, I had to think of him. I thought of how he would be so pleased to see the building being finished, and I can imagine him saying that he hopes it will be interpreted completely. That was one thing he was really strong about – he wanted to make sure that things were interpreted completely – no point in having an object that just sits there to be looked at – it needs to be understood as well. He had a few pet projects, I hope they are followed through. I couldn’t go to his memorial. Physically and emotionally incapable is the only way I could describe it. I got a little card in the studio when I got back about the day, Canadian Armed Forces Day, May 15th, and it had his picture. Tears again. There was no way I could go.

The second board meeting after his passing, so the beginning of June, I was fine until someone said his name. Then I couldn’t stop crying. I was not prepared for this reaction at all. I am still at the point that if I think of him then I cry. Can’t stop that it seems. I have not been able to talk to Fran, I mean, emotionally able. I am one of those people that when I cry, I have no voice and am incapable of talking. If I called her up, it would be silence on the phone on my end because I would not be able to speak. When my friend Emelia passed on a few years ago, she called to say goodbye, and even though we were not super-close, I still could not speak very well for the tears. She was a very nice lady and I will always honour her memory.

Even now, just writing this, I have a huge pile of wet kleenex on my desk.

Partnerships are funny things. You can either get along really well, or not get along really well, and still recognize that one person is the other part of you, the other contract you made for this life. You don’t always have to like it. Some days you can like it. Maybe most days you won’t. Lucky are the people who enjoy most days. Even luckier still are the people who enjoy most days in spite of their pain and/or dissatisfaction.

We all have to die. Yes, I know it is inevitable. Can’t run away from it, even though many would like to. I don’t think we just stop. I do think we continue on in some way. I do think that those who pass on are still around, and I don’t think they abandon us, though to the child part of us, it may seem that way. Dying and leaving just does not make sense. I can not see Vince leaving Fran at all, I think he is still there with her, and I think that that will never change. He is a loyal person who would never abandon her, just as she would not abandon him, if the roles were reversed.

I would like to believe that Fran and Vince will meet again, that their love story will continue on in another life. I am sure it will. What makes me cry? The beauty of their relationship, the beauty of their souls, what they shared with each other in this life, and what they gave to others. There is a purity in this kind of love that is heartbreakingly beautiful. This is what makes me cry.

In the ending, there is a new beginning. There has to be. The rhythm of the universe demands that it be so.