Not all days start the same but none have ever begun like August 23 did this year.
My husband Alan was picked up at our dock at 7:30 a.m. by our neighbour Wayne and driven into town by his wife Linda where he was getting a house ready for his mom to move into. Next thing I knew, Wayne had rushed into our house and told me to call 911; Stu, another neighbour, had crashed his boat onto shore and was unconscious. I did as I was told then went down to help. On the way, I was in the state of shock not wanting to believe this. Stu was a good man and a very good friend, so I called upon Love to bring me back into focus. Calmed down, I took a quick survey of the scene, then hopped in the water and, with the help of two other neighbours, started CPR. Neither we, nor the paramedics, were successful in reviving him, and so I lost yet another wise, kind elder in my life.
Stewart Gillespie was like an uncle. We had some good laughs and most importantly, we looked out for each other. In fact I probably wouldn't be living on this boat-access lake without his companionship and guidance. We didn't need to speak everyday; it was just comforting knowing we each were there. It was especially comforting for my husband, for when he was away for work and I wasn't answering the phone, he'd call to check on me. "Hey Stu, do you see any lights on down there?"
Stu knew how to fix anything, and he used to joke about me taking a small engine repair course. I kept saying I was going to bring my old snowmobile up and have him show me how to fix it, but regrettably I didn't. He would have enjoyed teaching me as much as I would have enjoyed learning.
Stu, at 77 years-old, was from an era when men were as comfortable hunting and trapping as they were feeding the birds and caring for vegetable gardens. He showed me how to skin a beaver once and then teased me about practicing on squirrels.
He liked to laugh. Even more, he liked a good story. He could tell you about the horse trail and who was in at the various hunt camps on any given day. He knew where to take the metal detector and look for relics from old logging camps. He told me about the animal tracks and scat I found on the trail, and he always had a loving smile and story to tell about his grandchildren.
Stu could also be a little rough around the edges at times, but we always knew he'd give us the shirt off his back, and his pants too, if we ever needed them. Some of the sayings I learned from were: "The winds from the east are lazy winds. They don't go round ya, they go right through ya." "When the days get longer, the cold gets stronger." And my favourite was, and he liked to laugh at me when I forgot to follow it: "If you keep the top half of the gas tank full, you don't have to worry bout the bottom."
I have a lot of fond memories of Stu, but strangely no tears. My husband cried, and I began to think that I was an emotional cripple because I didn't. But then I came across a friend who reassured me that if I didn't think death was the end, then there was nothing to be sad about. One wasn't sad about a caterpillar that changed into a butterfly.
But I used this as a way to find fault with myself, and soon found lots of other things I wasn't good at either. Next thing I knew, I was withdrawing and blaming others for my state of being. Fortunately, the Swami's quote came back to mind: "Refuse to be seduced by what is past and over, and what cannot be changed. Remember, more important than what is behind you or what is ahead of you is what is in you." I realized I was worrying about what I wasn't instead of appreciating what I was. I'm not a lot of things, but I always am a source of love.
One sees what one chooses to see, and when I see Stewart Gillespie in my mind, I see happiness and love, and maybe that's why I haven't cried. All days may begin differently, but when the heart is open to loving whatever comes along, they all end with a smile.
I love you Stu. Take care. And I promise to feed your birds.