Monday, March 17, 2008

It's All In the Way You Look At Things....

Mr. Thompson died.

He died as he had lived.

He stayed the course and was true.

Everyday he instructed his twenty five year old son to shave his face, to brush his hair and make him presentable so that he may face the day.

Everyday, his son took this task as an honour and a great privilege.

Everyday, though bedridden in a hospital, was a brand new day with infinite possibility.

Everyday, Mr. Thompson lived. Everyday Mr. Thompson savoured his moments left on this planet.

Everyday there would be a line up of people coming to say 'Good-Bye' to Mr. Thompson.

Everyday, his room would be filled with laughter, and wonderful, reflective, warm conversation, as cancer ate away at Mr.Thompson's body,But cancer could not and would not take away his giving spirit.

Mr. Thompson's room was filled with countless cards, countless photographs and countless moments of people retracing their paths with him, retracing moments of true friendship with a learned friend and colleague.

Mr. Thompson made cancer a dignified experience.

Mr. Thompson held court. And taught people how to live, through his passage. He made cancer easy. He never mentioned cancer, he wanted to hear your news, and share a moment, cancer was not part of it. He was lying in a hospital bed, unable to move from the neck down, but this, 'affliction', this 'insideous disease'(as Mr. Thompson put it) would not define him.

I was due to see Mr. Thompson on the day he passed.

I had printed out my blog, as a letter and was going to go up to see my dear teacher.

It was not meant to be. Mr. Thompson died before I could read my story to him. But I was not in want.

I had already told him how much he meant to me so many times. I already poured out my gratitude before the illness. And through the illness, I had the chance to give him a kiss on the cheek and tell him I would miss him and our lunches. I had the chance to meet his wonderful wife and his great grown children. I was able to share my moments with Mr. Thompson, with them. And they could see another side to their father. As one's life is never just one defining moment, it comes in so many arrays and pieces that make up a person. I was glad I could bring one of the many facets of Mr. Thompson's life to them while he was still alive.

Cancer gave me that, as much as it took away my friend.

I was at peace, as I knew that Mr. Thomspon however brave, would not want this illness to linger and for this fuss to be longer that it needed to be.

And so Mr. Thompson had his 'wish'. And so, I was not at a loss, with his passing and leaving us behind.

But I knew his friend was. His friend of thirty years could not think of his years ahead without his trusted friend. He was in total despair. The past was of no comfort.

I forwarded on my letter to Mr. Thompson, to his grieving friend. I forwarded on my letter, to my ole gym teacher. I forwarded it on so that he may realize that we were unified in grief. And somehow, I felt the letter would bring comfort to him. If for a moment it may bring his dear Leon back to him.

And my dear, sweet, primary school, gym teacher could not open it. It could or would not bring his beloved Leon back and he was emmerced in his grief. And at the visitation, in the funeral home, he could barely look my way without tears. His heart was not allowing him to let go.

And where I was able to talk with Mr. Thompson's family and friends, Jim, my ole school teacher could not.

And in the wee hours of the morning before the funeral, I went to my computer to get the final details of Mr.Thompson's arrangements, and as I logged on, I received a phone call from my gym teacher, Jim. Jim had been waiting until I 'logged on and was awake before he called.

Jim called and cried.

' Pendullum, Pendullum, I, I,' he sobbed, ' I read your e-mail yesterday. I read your e-mail. And I, I, oh, gosh, I did something...'

'What did you do?'

'Oh, Pend, you have to understand, we have had weeks of this... Weeks to prepare for this funeral, and we have been trying and trying....'

'Trying to do what?'

'We've been trying to write Leon's eulogy.'


'And we finished it early last night...'

'Well, that's good...'

'No, no it's not...'

'Okay, it's not...'

'I read your e-mail late last night... And there, there was Leon...There, he was... And well, I forwarded on your e-mail as the official eulogy to be read by Barry... I am so sorry... I should have asked you first... And now I am calling you... Could we???'

'I would be honoured... Truly, I would be honoured...'

And with that, my letter was read to Mr. Thomspon as he lay in his casket.

My letter was read to a congregation of three hundred plus mourners. Three hundred people who were blessed to have known and had shared part of their journey through life with Leon Thompson.

And as it was read, there was a great deal of laughter, there was a great deal of light. For this funeral was indeed a celebration. A celebration of how very lucky all of us were to have met such a wonderful man. We were so lucky he was part of our lives for a brief, glimmering moment.

And near the end of the service, Leon's ninety year old, spritely, mother-in-law, leapt to the pulpet...

She surged forward with an bouyant energy, an energy which could not be contained, an energy which catapulted her petite, wirey frame, to the front of the church, it seemed to take her by surprise as she stabilized herself by clutching large black patent leather handbag and cane...

She reached the front and belts, ' I am compelled to speak! I need to speak, I need to have MY say!!!!'

And with the confidence of a matriarch she marches in front of all the flowers and announciates Leon's name.

She turns to the casket and lovingly touches the box, she pauses and places her handbag and cane beside the coffin, she turns to face all of us and then opens her arms wide, raises them above her head to the heavens and exhalts to the entire congregational body.

'My son-in-law, my son-in-law, Leeeeoooon, was all about L.O.V.E....He was LOVE...
To know Leon, is/was to love Leon...
One of the kindest souls, I have ever had the pleasure to have met!
I have always loved Leon. And now, Leon is watching over us, and for once, for once we are without our master of ceremonies... But his voice is within all of us...We are all truly blessed to have been loved by Leon Thompson.'

And with those words, it caused me to smile. It caused me to laugh. It caused me to feel so very, very happy as he would have been so embarrassed with such an announcement... But silently proud. It 's all how you can look at these things...

And at the end of the funeral, Mr. Thompson had planned a huge sit down luncheon where we could all sit and mingle and remmenice. We laughed, we joked, we even marvelled that Leon ensured that there were endless cakes, as he so had a sweet tooth. And we felt as though he was watching from above, happy with how we were all getting along and bringing him into the room with our stories.

And when I came home, there was my beautiful family waiting for me...

They knew of all that I have had with Mr. Thompson and all that I seemed to have lost.

But life has a great deal to hold.

And through the knowing of Mr. Thompson and of his love, I know that all is possible.I have a certain set of roots thanks to him. I have a sense of telling a story all the way though. I have a sense of his laugh and twinkle of faith in my heart.

It is all in how you look at these things...

And through all these moments where my heart has been tested, there has always been something life reaffirming. There has always been gratitude in my heart for all that I have experienced with some truly remarkable people.

They may have gone, and there certainly is a true feeling of dysphoria in my heart, but only because I know of the lives they have lived and have shared with me. And I am certain, I am who I am today because their stories, their beings,their life experience are within my heart even though their bodies have left this fair planet. I am a far better person for knowing and loving them while they were here, I suppose it is all how you look at it.