September 11th, and it seems everyone is looking back and remembering. As I listen to the radio, watch TV or look at posts people are making today, I am drawn to remember the people whom I was close to, shared my life with, and who have passed on, leaving only my memories of them.
Today’s date is significant to my fiance and I because it is the date our friend died of cancer at age 31. Randy was an especially close friend of Ben’s. Their history together encompasses musical endeavours and the shared experiences of two impetuous single guys in their twenties. I too have the fondest of memories when I think of times I was able to share with Randy. So many of the friendships I still treasure are inextricably linked to Randy. I remember most fondly a road trip I took with him in his ancient gas guzzling car to a friendly sea-side tourist town. I remember how that jalopy seemed to sail like a metallic brown boat over the poorly paved roads while providing an ambient hum that we likely should have been concerned about. The wide bench seat was so low it felt like your butt might be in peril of dragging on the bumpy asphalt. Our conversation that afternoon was easy, quirky, and filled with laughter. It makes me think of his songs, where I can hear him telling his stories and that always makes me smile. Randy taught me to never take myself too seriously.
I remember my grandparents and recall the lessons they taught me. When my mother’s father died, it was the first death I ever experienced; I was only 7 years old. This was my first glimpse at the impermanence of life. My most vivid memories of Grampie are of food: if the strawberries were fresh, it meant eating them covered in sugar. At maple harvest, he would be sure to cut off thick slabs of maple butter for your snack and drench your buckwheat pancakes in syrup. I still love the rich foods my grandfather insisted on. A balanced diet includes the healthy harvest of a garden and the savoury goodness of rich sauces, butter and sweets– that’s what I learned from Grampie. It was from my dad’s dad that I learned to thicken my skin. He was a relentless teaser. He had a dry wit and was scathingly sarcastic. I cried incessantly when he remarked that my freckles looked like someone had thrown shit at me through a screen door. Oddly enough, I now appreciate the aptness of the comparison, as rude as it seems. I learned that humour can sometimes hit a little too close to home, and to know your audience before you venture too far flung with your wit. My dad’s mom had a Scottish temper and a stubborn streak but she also loved her family feverishly and completely. She fancied watching baseball and soap operas; tending to her garden, playing cards and fishing at the camp. I have learned from her to keep a close eye on my short fuse and to find compromise over being obstinate. I also delight in being outdoors like she did. She loved to sun tan on a lounge chair reading a celebrity gossip magazine, and I have been known to do the same. My mom’s mom was one of the smartest women I have ever known. She was a teacher also; she taught in a one-room school house (far from my own experience of a large high school). She was a talented painter, wordsmith, world traveller and voracious reader. She loved long walks and the sea shore (whether in Nova Scotia or Florida in winter). Our shared times at the cottage are ones filled with memories of family, friends and good times. From her I learned patience, optimism, and kindness. I look to always make new friends, to explore the world and to keep my mind wide open to all of life’s possibilities, all qualities instilled in me through her.
I commemorate my dad’s sister and brother today as well. My aunt: spunky, out-going, effervescent, brave, candid, and generous. I live my life a little edgier for having known her. My uncle: quiet, strong, precise, organized and calm. When I sit in thoughtful repose, away from the chaos and trying to make sense of it all, he is with me.
Of all of these people I remember today, four of them died of cancer, which makes me think of the recent passing of Jack Layton and his poignant words: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” That’s how I want to remember today.
If you’d like to get to know Randy Cable and his music, or find ways to download his music or donate to the The Randy Cable Fund (dedicated to providing financial assistance to cancer patients and their families through treatment), please visit: http://randycablefund.org/fr_home.cfm