Friday, February 25, 2011


"There's hope a great man's memory may outlive his life half a year."
- William Shakespeare (Hamlet)

If I'm honest, sometimes this blog is more about what I want to write than about what I think you want to read.

Yesterday made me think about Liev and his proclivity for Shakespeare. The works can be a common denominator, linking together people from all walks of life. You may be at cross purposes with someone, and then BAM find common ground in a certain passage or a play. It's like what Liev has said about the sense of belonging that comes with being part of a continuum.

George, one of our seniors here, passed away yesterday. The part of me that somehow functions as its own entity took over, like a knee jerk reaction, and I set about doing what had to be done. The weird thing about working alongside a human life is you're trying to be professional while witnessing someone struggle to exist, day in and day out.

George has been afflicted with Muscular Dystrophy for the 8 years I've known him and long before. He got around in a motorized wheelchair. He was one of those sturdy British immigrants who could wear both flags with equal pride of ownership. But he always flew the Red Maple Leaf on a long, bendy stick off the back of his wheelchair. I got many complaints over the years about some reckless fool driving down the middle of the street and it was always the flag that gave him away.

George was an educated man. A medical doctor, he loved all cerebral pursuits. I remember on my first November 11th here, I put out a memorial wreath and printed posters of In Flander's Fields which I placed on all our notice boards. (We were built to house Veterans). Not sure if people from other countries know this poem but it is a fundamental part of our identity as Canadians. Anyway, George wheeled himself into the lobby and proceeded to berate me for ten minutes about this ridiculous poem and all the grammar errors it contained. I responded with a puffed out chest and all sorts of indignant disbelief at his gaul. I emphasized it being *actual* trench poetry, not to mention the fact that poetic license is what it is.

I think George realized he had met his match. Over the past 8 years we've sparred over many different issues, but always with an undertone of respect. You could almost feel the inferred bow at the end of each row. And yes, I won this particular battle. The poem stayed up that November and the posters go back up every year.

George knew his time was near. The Public Trustee and I entered his suite to find he had already laid out a suit and brand new shirt and tie, still in the box. I also put his silver pocket watch in the bag. They will place it in his casket. I was looking around for something to act as a companion on his journey and found a copy of Hamlet, dog-eared and in the midst of being read (probably for the 100th time) lying open on his nightstand. So, that went in the bag too.

I will never read the Danish Prince again without hearing George's voice, shaky and damaged but with a fortitude behind it that comes from eighty three years of knowing exactly who you are.

George also left something for me: a well read copy of Breakfast of Champions. I do appreciate Vonnegut but I haven't read this book. Those of you who have, please resist the urge to spill the beans. I have a feeling George is about unleash some sort of karmic last laugh from beyond the grave. Can't wait to find out.

Goodnight, Sweet Prince.

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