A Bay Beyond The Bagpipes
Sometimes, this life can be sad. Make no mistake.
We weave our sullen moonlit paths through quiet cornfields of contemplation and hope that we can make it to the clearing.
Maybe I mourn at a different rate than most people, but things stick with me - like a winter bowl of piping oatmeal caking to the inside of my guts.
But I need to get this out.
Dale Smith was a guy I didn't know all that well, but I got to know him through my brother. He originally got into blogging through my brother (after some nudging) and he wrote well - and with conviction. A simple but intellectual public servant, Dale was a man raised from the ethics of hard work and down-home, country values. He was never judging and always happy to see you for you - not some foreign or future idea of who you might become.
As an avid fan of cinema, it was nice to have a rival who could rattle off actors and directors more quickly than I ever could. We could get from Jim Jarmusch to Abel Ferrara in two easy steps.
When he started getting sick, it seemed like he was rolling downhill fast. I'd hear updates from Adam, and although my brother is a severe realist, I knew there was a tinge of gut-wrenching existential fog surrounding the whole topic.
After battling brain cancer once, his body didn't have the gusto to fight it a second time when it came back as leukemia. That nasty word. I wish that the autocorrect didn't know the words cancer or leukemia, and that they were redlined as some foolish, knavish language of aliens.
We were going to visit him (for the third time since he'd been really sick) on a Saturday, but we cancelled due to being too busy. He died the following Wednesday. That's tough to swallow.
He died way too young. 43. And now he's gone and the rest of us are left here in the space between sadness and discovery.
What a fucked up year of death and destitution.
Even in the wake of Dale's sudden departure, I'm still reeling from the loss of another mutual friend (Jay - who also had the last name Smith) who, even though I wasn't close to him, deeply affected many people who are close to me.
Being the loved guitarist for Matt Mays and a prominent Halifax musician, Jay's end, after only 34 years of existence, was a sad one - and one that was all too quick.
On a newspaper interview phone call recently, I was expressing to Matt how I feel close to the situation, even though I'd only had one really good conversation with Jay in my entire life.
Matt responded simply; "One conversation was all you needed, man."
One conversation was enough to know that Jay was a quality, loving and funny guy.
Jay died far too quickly in late March.
ACE AND DENIS
Ace (Errol) Coleman was an accountant who worked himself to the bone with my dad, and who was a bit of a mystery to many. He liked his lunch hours, where he would hit the local greasy spoon, and read a left-leaning paper, and enjoy solitude. I could talk hockey with him for hours on end. Apparently, in his day, Ace had quite the windmill pitching technique in softball and helped my dad's office team win a few tournaments. He was always kind to me and seemed eager to talk hockey when I popped into his office.
His sudden battle with cancer took his life at 65, and he died days after Dale in early August.
Denis Larocque was a man I never met, but I didn't need to meet him to know his impact. He was the father of one of my good, good friends - Dan. Being at his funeral in Hawkesbury was enough to show anyone that this man was a man of luminance, kindness and positivity, as the entire town showed up to honour him.
He died in April - shortly after Jay.
GOODNIGHT, FELLOW PRINCES
I imagine Ace and Denis having some conversations together, now - with many other loved ones around them. Maybe the four of them have all had drinks and they're making evening plans.
Although the surname Smith has more ties to England and Ireland than it does to Scotland, I can't help but think of pipers playing all four of these fellas into the great beyond as they appeared.
Dale was a stern man of English descent, but being from Maxville, he had a fond likeness for the Scottish highland games that featured one of the largest, annual bagpipes celebrations in the world.
I can hear the pipes playing now - and they are playing a version of Feel Flows by the Beach Boys.
I need to say goodbye.
Goodnight, Dale. Goodnight, Jay. Goodnight Ace and Denis. Rest easy, my brothers. May you walk among the lush greens of the ether, like warrior poets surveying the rocky crags and moors stretching out before your eyes. May the beautifully sad drone of the pipes follow your feet into whatever meadows you choose to roam within. Although you are strangers to each other, I have a feeling you guys might be friends, now - maybe even family.
See ya when I see ya.