On December fifth, the second of our Toronto dates, I learned of my uncle Sean’s death. As I write here on the tenth of December in London Ontario, the funeral is over and Sean is gone. I don’t know where his body is, perhaps I’ll ask the right questions at the appropriate time. The last few days have seen a lot of sadness and on the evening of my departure from my mother’s apartment, my stepfather Davy was weak, unable to eat or drink and had decided he wanted to go to hospital the following morning, the ninth. I held his hand as he prepared to lay down on the sofa, preferring it to bed.
Sean’s funeral was a Catholic mass in Montréal and was attended by many. Cousins last seen as kids are now adults and adults last seen as vibrant are crestfallen. From snippets of conversation overheard throughout the past few days I am unsure as to whether Sean expired on his own, or there was a plug to pull. I was only minutes away from seeing him alive, and there follows a series of what-ifs. It’s funny how time is, when you think about it, still just a concept for most of us. Mathematicians might perhaps prove it exists through a colossus of geometric language, but we still can’t hold it or see it. For the vast majority of us, we can only witness its silent creep. The inevitable what-ifs and if-onlys are founded by the invisible spider-thread of time, joining the many other puzzles which will never be complete.
I was only minutes away, a block away, from seeing him alive. He was with us, and so quickly he was gone, without any prior hint. People say he didn’t suffer, but I wonder about that — in my imagination I see a very frightened man. To be sure, frightened for perhaps only moments, but to say there was no suffering at all is, I think, something we tell ourselves to lessen our own suffering.
It may not be of mantric quality, but I have proposed in the past that death is most inconvenient for the living. We the living cry, we ask why, we ask the things that won’t be answered and we ask them over and time again. The cats just want to be fed; Sean looked out for many stray cats in the neighbourhood who had come to rely on him for handouts. The morning after Sean collapsed, still technically alive, I left Montréal for Québec City while the cats gathered outside Sean’s place in the biting cold, looking for their handouts.
Until the time feels right, this will the last diary entry I will promise for the Old Ideas tour. There is little colour in the world right now — in fact, it is literally grey in London Ontario. The sky and the concrete buildings weep slowly. Anything I have to muse upon right now has very little to do with the tour, and is mostly selfish retrospection. I am the only child of divorced parents and Sean can easily occupy a hundred childhood memories. Even though Sean and I had grown apart in time and distance he was like a big brother to me.
When the day of Sean’s funeral had gone dark, I held the hand of my stepfather as he lay down on the sofa. The Northern Irish man — my connection to the land I adopted, to whom I have to thank for taking my mother there, whose presence in my life, if having never occurred, would prevent me from meeting Elaine, prevent my learning of a world outside a narrow, teenage Toronto perspective — his sofa is not a bed of roses. It simply doesn’t look good.
A little piece of me is dead and another is dying. Allow me to borrow a phrase: That’s how it goes, everybody knows.
Fate delayed Has little Patience To wait . —LB