Archive for August, 2014

Hi everyone:

As I write these words it is late August 2014 – a typical warm summer day here in downtown Hamilton. I am sitting at a desk on the 4th floor of the Hamilton Public Library’s Central Branch, a place that I often work from when I don’t feel like being at home. And I must tell you that I will not mourn the end of this month and the change of calendar to September. There are a couple of reasons for saying this. The first is something you may recall if you have read some of my past blog entries. That’s right. I am not a huge fan of warm, summer weather (although to be fair, this summer has actually been a bit cooler than in past years and as a result we have not had many of those really hot, sticky and humid days that are often part of summer here in southern Ontario). When September comes, I know that most of the summer is over, and those cooler fall days that I much prefer are coming soon.

The second reason is that September marks the return of a normal schedule – especially when students at all educational levels start a new academic year. Many organizations like to take the summer months off (especially July and August), or instead of doing that, they will decide to slow down their operations and only ramp things up again in September. One such example is my Monday Night Bowling League at Burlington Bowl. I joined it in September 2013 at the invitation of a friend, and look forward to the new season, which is due to begin next week. As an aside, if you live within a reasonable distance of Burlington Bowl and are looking to try something fun on Monday nights from September to May, get in touch with us through the above link, or contact me at any time. We’re always looking for new members and if you’re interested, I would be glad to forward your message to those who run our League.

But the main reason why I feel this way is because it has been a very sad and emotional month. That’s because on the morning of Saturday August 9 a very special friend of mine passed away from cancer. To be more specific, Donald Carman Wilson departed this life at Emmanuel House, a Christian hospice administered by the Good Shepherd Ministries and located a short walk from my apartment. Although I just gave you his full name, he was always known as “Carman” because he preferred to use his middle name. I’m not exactly sure why he chose to do this, I think it may have been because “Donald” was a common name among the men in his family (as noted in an obituary notice for Carman published shortly after his death Donald was also his father’s name), and he wanted to find a way to differentiate himself. So Carman it was, and I think that’s how all his friends and family knew him.

We first met way back in 1980 through our mutual affiliation with St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Mississauga, Ontario. We were both Lay Readers there for many years (I’m still performing that ministry at St. Luke’s today, some 34 years later), and except for a few years when we lost touch with each other, it was a friendship that continued right up until his death. And as a Christian, I believe by faith that we will meet again in Heaven. I could write here for pages about our friendship, and all the great times we shared together. Instead, many years ago he asked me to do the eulogy at his funeral, which will be held on the afternoon of Friday, September 5 at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Hamilton. I can tell you that writing it was a very emotional and moving experience, and I know this will also be the case delivering it during the reception that follows. This format might sound a bit strange to you, in that it is customary for eulogies to be delivered during the service itself, but that was what Carman wanted. He came from we call the “Anglo-Catholic” branch of Anglicanism, sometimes referred to as “High Church” (as opposed to the “Low Church” term that is sometimes applied to the Evangelical branch of the Church). Or as many have whimsically called it, their style of worship is sometimes known as “smells and bells” because of the use of incense during the service, as well as bells that are rung at various points in the liturgy (such as during the elevation of both the bread and wine – when according to the theology of transubstantiation, they become the Body and Blood of Christ, during the Prayer of Consecration).

And that’s exactly the kind of funeral service Carman wanted. He first told me about that several years ago, right about the time when his health issues began. Probably at the same time he asked me to do his eulogy. An Anglican Requiem High Mass with all the appropriate ritual, pomp and ceremony that goes with it. And as part of that, he wanted any tributes (such as my eulogy) done after it was completed and not as part of the service. Before I go any further, since this issue is likely to come up, the eulogy was primarily written for presentation at the reception, and is probably best shared with people such as Carman’s family, close friends, and others who knew him (such as current or former parishioners of St. Luke’s, St. John the Evangelist or others with a connection to either church). Or at least I think those are the people who would appreciate reading it the most, or for whom it would be the most relevant. If any of you are reading this and fall into any of these categories, or you offer me what I decide is a valid reason why you feel I should give you a copy, drop me a line to my Sympatico e-mail account, or to one of my alternate addresses and I will send a copy your way.

Some of you reading this could say that I have already paid tribute to Carman by delivering the eulogy, but what prompted me to write this blog entry were two related issues which in their own way are just as important as that act. First, I wanted to tell you something of what has happened over these past 3 weeks or so since his death, and in particular something that happened right here at the Library that I hope will warm your heart today. Second, because I feel offering that eulogy isn’t really enough. I want to find some other ways to honour his life and legacy in a more longterm fashion. Things that at the same time will allow me to live a better life – something which I know Carman would want me and everyone who knew and loved him to do. Now let’s examine these days since August 9. Yes, it has been a very emotional time – and I must tell you that in all honesty I didn’t do much of anything except cry a few buckets of tears and not travel far from home during that first week or so after I got the news via a phone call from his wife. I suppose when you lose someone who has been that close a friend to you, such a reaction is natural.

But of course I knew that I couldn’t stay that way forever, and after that initial grieving/mourning time, I started to pull it together. And of course realized that I needed to get that eulogy done. I actually started it when I saw Carman when he was a patient at one of the hospitals here in Hamilton about a week or so before he died (he was moved to the hospice only a couple of days before the end came). It was a very poignant visit, and it wasn’t hard to tell that his days were numbered. The man who had once been a strong, healthy outgoing and all-around great friend was now just a frail shadow of his old self, and I remember telling my parents, who joined me at his bedside, that no one should have to live that way. A couple of days later, I started writing it, and after several emotional days of work, it was done.

And those few days were among the most poignant, difficult and emotional times of my life. But in a way I came across some episodes that were really touching and helped restore my faith in humanity, at least in part. Some of it came from some very nice e-mails, comments on my LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, as well as other sources, where people offered some wonderful messages of sympathy and condolence. Among them were a couple of people who had been close friends but over time we had drifted apart. When they learned about Carman’s death, they reached out to me and offered some very kind and classy remarks. I really appreciated that, and in each of those cases, I hope that his passing may lead to healing some old wounds, righting some past wrongs, and maybe even restoring those friendships again.

But the most touching moment of all actually happened right here at the Hamilton Public Library  , something which I referred to above. Not where I am writing this from now, but at a small study carrel on the 3rd floor. It was a day not unlike this one, and while Carman was still alive, it was just after that visit with my parents to see him at the hospital. I was working here on this laptop computer, trying to find the right words to say in the eulogy, but it was a struggle. And I was crying so much that every few minutes I had to stop and visit the washroom to wipe away my tears and clean myself up. After what seemed like the tenth visit there (and it wasn’t even 12 noon yet!), a man came over to see me. He had been sitting at a nearby desk and I guess he must have seen me come and go. He said to me something like: “I don’t know you and you can tell me to get lost if you want, but you seem very upset and disturbed. Can I help you?” I told him that I was writing a eulogy for a friend who was near death and because we had enjoyed a close friendship for so many years that it was very emotional, perhaps the hardest thing I had ever had to write in my life. In response, he put a hand on my shoulder and said he would pray for me, for Carman and his family and friends.

I was very moved by this gesture, the kindness of a total stranger. I had never seen him before and probably never will again. I don’t know his name, and come to think of it, I don’t think I ever really got a good look at him. I probably passed him this morning on King Street when I walked over here to the Library from my apartment. But it was a wonderful gesture and came when I really needed a lift. And if by some miracle he ever reads this paragraph I want to thank him. Sir, you were an angel sent from Heaven to shed God’s light and love on me, one of His children who was in trouble. I will pray for you every day and ask that God will bless you and your loved ones. Your actions meant more than any words could ever express.

As usual, I have written another long entry, but I can’t finish off before I address that second issue noted above. That issue can be summed by up saying that I feel I should also honour Carman’s memory by doing more than just sharing that eulogy. That’s the easy way out. It only takes a few minutes and I am done. Hmm, not so fast, Greg. What I really need to do is to move on with my life and make every day the best it can be. Yes, as noted in the Book of Ecclesiastes (and in the well known song “Turn, Turn, Turn, by The Byrds )to everything there is a season, and there is a time for weeping, mourning, and sadness when a special person in your life dies. But Carman would not want me to do that for long. He would want me to live the fullest, happiest and most productive life that anyone can have. Or as someone once put it: “Don’t count the days, make the days count”. And so with all of you reading this as my witnesses, I resolve to do that. I have always believed in helping others, and wanting to put their needs ahead of my own. But now I want to go the extra mile – and this might be where many of you reading this could play a role. To those of you here in the Hamilton-Burlington area, if you know of some organizations who might be looking for some volunteers, I would love to work out some arrangements that make the best use of my time and talents. In fact, Emmanuel House or another location here in town run by the Good Shepherd people might be an option. Note to self: get in touch with them soon!

A second way for me to honour Carman’s memory and legacy is to find some paid employment that would accomplish the same goals, and allow me to move forward with my life. If you are a recruiter, you work in Human Resources, or you have other hiring responsibilities, I invite you to look at my LinkedIn Profile. And if you feel that my many skills and talents could make me a useful addition to your company, I would love to hear from you. I am open to any working arrangements, whether full or part-time, permanent or contract. I would love to hear from you. In addition to LinkedIn, people are most welcome to “follow” me on Twitter: @gcbrown1956 and also look me up on Facebook. In spite of my struggles with social anxiety, depression and other issues that I have written about here, I really want to improve my life and welcome the chance to reach out to others. Interested? Why not get in touch with me using any of the Contact information provided here. Would love to talk with you.

Time to wrap this up today by dedicating this blog in memory of my wonderful friend Donald Carman Wilson. In thanksgiving for a special 34 year friendship. My life won’t be the same and I will miss him. But my lasting tribute is to resolve to live the best life I can. With God’s help and strength (along with that same help from all of you reading this), I want to succeed and life live in all its fullness.

Thanks for reading this, and let me close with the last words I said to Carman as I finished my visit to his bedside at Emmanuel House, just before 8:00 p.m. on the evening of Friday August 8, 2014: “Rest in peace Carman. Thank you”.

Until next time 🙂

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