I don’t really know where to start, as it’s been a really long time since I’ve written about this.  Time has a great way of making you move forward.  During hard moments, you think that life will stand still for the rest of your life.  And I guess in some ways it does for a while, but then it doesn’t.  But, you have that hook that holds you to that former place and reminds you of what you lost, and where you’ve gone because of it.

I looked out the window today on this cloudy October Saturday, and it felt a little similar to the one of 17 years ago when my friends died.  I was 18 years old – a lifetime ago, in my eyes.  I truly don’t ever feel like an 18-year-old about 99% of the time.  But somehow on this day, that part of me comes back up and sits with me – and we just think and remember.

A few months ago, Lea opened my bedside table drawer and asked “Daddy, who deees?”

The deees she was referring to was an old picture of my friend that my friend Catherine took.  The picture used to be framed and sitting next to my bed for years and years, but time and moving from place to place made the frame break, and I didn’t want to lose the picture.

“That’s Daddy’s friend Erin, my love.” And I left it at that.

My friend Erin – a sentence I hadn’t articulated in a really really long time.  Even articulating that to my 2-year-old made me choke up a little.

Some things don’t go away, I guess.

I make no claims whatsoever that she was my best friend in life, or that we were inseparable.  I make no claims to being at the top of the food chain of friends where her life was concerned. What she was to me was someone whom I spent the greater part of my young life with – she was just simply my friend – someone I laughed with, someone who could annoy the shit out of me A LOT, someone I used to act with and share thoughts with, someone (on one occasion) I babysat with, someone I would hang out with on every Saturday evening and who would gladly kick my ass if I was in the wrong in any way – and ultimately she was someone who I cared about and loved.  And when she died, it was as though that part of my life died also.

She went from someone I took for granted in my young, immature life, to the subject of countless poems in endless spiral books and the subject of many strange dreams.  I clung to her memory every moment that I could, thinking that if I didn’t then perhaps our entire friendship didn’t really exist either.  What life has taught me thus far, was that I didn’t need to cling hard because it was a precious part of life made up of many facets that would never go away.  And it didn’t need to be proved or reinforced because I know what it was – and I think she does also. 🙂

When I first met my wife, there were two things that I told her about that I feel have defined the person that I am – the loss of my father and Heather and Erin.  I talked to her about how losing them somehow made me understand what it meant to lose my father, (which was something I had subconsciously felt the entire time), though the difference being that I knew the two of them and not him.

And she listened, and she knows how painful it all remains and lets me kind of be immersed in it because there’s no escape sometimes when this rolls around every year.

I still think about them.  There are fleeting memories that will permeate my mind on any given day that will make me reminisce of a time that truly does not exist anymore.  And I love those memories.

Modern life is amazing. There are two things that are transcendent when it comes to connecting yourself to a moment these days: social media and children.  I’ll start with the obvious.

Children just have a way of mending any wounds you may have psychologically and allow you, as the parent, to give yourself a kick in the ass and make a positive impact in your little one’s life.  What Lea has taught me will always be superior than the vice versa scenario.  She is my metaphoric band-aid and though I will never thrust this intentionally onto her – she has definitely, in her magical bright light way, made me see that there is a greater love that exists in the world.

Social media is a strange and beautiful thing.  It has allowed people to join together in different moments to show our likeness and sometimes our differences.  What I read about how Heather and Erin touched a huge amount of people – people I didn’t even think it would even hit their radar – it floors me.  Losing them was not an isolated thing, but rather a real game changer for so many people other than myself.  And it makes me smile to think that their brief, shiny and beautiful lives touched so many more than I imagined.

So, yes it is another cloudy day where I wax nostalgia and I may even shed a tear. But I will also smile – because I miss them and love them both – and because they have fueled me and saved me in so many ongoing ways that I am so grateful for.

With love.


Performing Arts for Everyone

What a week.

I had the greatest opportunity to go to Washington DC on behalf of the National Film Board and facilitate a screening presentation of some NFB animated films to a group of middle and high school students at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  To say that the entire experience was a “pinch me” moment was the biggest understatement of the year.

My hotel that I was staying at was right across the street so I was able to walk over.  It was a gorgeous, warm October day in DC and the walk was amazing.  Here I was surrounded by history as I crossed the street.  To my right was the Watergate building, and of course right ahead was the arts center itself.  What a sight.  The building is overwhelming beautiful from the outside, and having the sun pelting its rays on it just made the first viewing of it so much more spectacular.

Getting a tour of the place, seeing the various theatres where different shows are held (saw the Opera Theatre where the “Kennedy Center Honors” show takes place every year, and where the president sits) blew me away.  Everywhere you look, there is a tribute to JFK as well – his likeness, his name.  You feel surrounded by him in this building – something that makes one feel at home and comfortable.  The theatre itself has a free concert EVERY DAY for people to see on one of their stages in their lobby.  This explanation actually made me a little teary to think of this resource that is accessible to people to interact with.

The picture above is one of those free stages and it has the statement Performing Arts for Everyone on its front – and that moved me to see.

Not only was my presentation received really well, but the students themselves were lovely.  Here were sixty American teenagers who had no idea what a National Film Board of Canada could possibly be – but were now aware of it after an hour and a half.  The films got great reactions, and all were so engaged throughout.  I felt like I was on a high – the whole time I kept my awestruck self in check – marvelling at how circumstances can bring someone from one place to an entirely other orb that you didn’t think would ever be possible.  It also reinforced my own work and career and how I love what I do and what I get to talk to people about.

Following my presentation, I had some down time before I had to head to the airport.  It’s amazing how many historical monuments there are that one can visit without paying anything.  Signage indicated to me that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial  0 to commemorate the names of all of the people who gave of themselves both living and dead – was also walking distance.  I didn’t have the right shoes whatsoever, but I wanted to get to it and find it.  I ended up being pretty adept at reading the map that I had acquired from the hotel (a skill that I am really not good at all in other parts of my life) and I walked to the memorial.

It’s hidden.  You have to walk down lower to get to it.  It starts low, at your feet but then grows and grows until the piece is taller than any person and then returns to an earthly low once again.  I am speechless looking at it.  The sheer largeness of it all – all of those names.  I felt very Canadian in that moment as well.  I wanted to touch it and I did.  The names were all engraved, letter by letter.  I felt their names on my fingertips.  It made it real and not some textbook event that one learns about in school.  Everyone walking and observing the memorial around me were silent too, paying their respects.  There were little American flags at the bottom of the memorial, put up by families of loved ones.  It’s a beautiful piece of art, quite frankly, that can render one silent and completely emotional.  Which is what good art and life should do.

This trip was probably one of the briefest I have ever done for work purposes but it is one of the most memorable that I will fondly look back on years from now.