Just over two weeks ago I did a blog post and a podcast about attending a special Remembrance Day Ceremony for Mike, a friend and fellow veteran, suffering from Stage 4 prostate cancer. It was a very special event.
Today I got the sad news that he passed away this morning.
Mike was a loving husband and father, a caring friend, a distinguished soldier, a proud veteran and a patriotic Canadian.
He will be greatly missed by all. Condolences and love to his family.
For myself and a couple hundred others, Remembrance Day was different this year.
Not because of the weather, although it was not the usual weather for Remembrance Day in Edmonton. It was sunny, blue skies, and 5C. The weather was excellent.
This year, the location for all of us was different from the usual. We were not at a cenotaph, or a Legion hall, or a high school gym. We were gathered at Mike’s driveway.
Now, why on earth would we gather at Mike’s driveway, and for that matter, who is Mike.
Well, Mike is a friend and fellow veteran. He had 35 years of service, been wounded in Afghanistan, and has not missed a Remembrance Day ceremony for as long as we can figure.
So, why his driveway of all places.
You see, Mike is suffering from stage 4 prostate cancer, and his daughters knew that, because of his dedication to Remembrance Day, he would ignore his pain and travel to attend the local ceremonies. To prevent that, they came up with a plan.
They called out to Mike’s friends, colleagues and fellow veterans, inviting them to take part in a Remembrance Day ceremony of sorts in front of Mike’s house. And thusly came into being, “A Very Special Remembrance Day”.
In response to the efforts, persistence and dedication of Mike’s daughters, many others became involved in various ways and a most wonderful event was the result.
A local cafe provided coffee, cocoa, and special Remembrance Day cookies. There was a piper, another provided a mike and speaker system. One of Mike’s fellow veterans used the PA system on his truck to provide the appropriate Remembrance Day music. There was a chap who called Mike’s daughter and asked if they had a flag. She indicated no, and he indicated, well now you do. Then he proceeded to come by and erect a temporary flag pole in front of the house. During the ceremony the Canadian flag was lowered to half-mast as per protocols thanks to this gentleman.
Mike is a biker, so what should appear, but about half a dozen motorcycles which arrived and parked on the side of his driveway.
At the beginning of this you will recall I had mentioned a couple hundred others. Both directions up and down the street were packed with people.
When the ceremonies began, all serving members and veterans in attendance formed up and came to attention under the direction of Margaret, our honourary sergeant-major. Having had much experience as a military wife during her ninety-five years, she certainly had all of us in order.
After the ceremony there were a few speeches, including a lovely one from Mike’s daughter. There were a few presentations, including one from Mike’s former colleagues at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton.
Mike shared some very emotional words as we came to the end of the event, which touched all of us.
Just at the end, after concluding their own Remembrance Day ceremony, members from the local Royal Canadian Legion arrived, including a colour party, and performed one final presentation to Mike.
As I had indicted in my podcast earlier, it was a different, and most excellent, Remembrance Day ceremony. One of the best that I have attended.
Here are a few photos to give you an idea of the event.
I have a friend. His name is Jim. Usually though, I refer to him as Gunky. Strangely enough, usually he refers to me as Gunky. That’s the way we roll. The title of this post is one of our favourite expressions.
Jim and I first met September 1970 in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, when we began recruit training for the Canadian military.
We have both gone through a great many stages in our lives, some with each other, however most apart. Yet, in some inexplicable fashion, we were always together, linked by some unfathomable force.
Such has been our friendship over time.
What is friendship? I came across this description from Friendship – Simple English Wikipedia. “Friendship means familiar and liking of each other’s mind. People who are friends talk to each other and spend time together. … A friend is one who admires a person’s skill and helps or encourages them to make the right choices and do not get into any trouble at all.“
If one fires up their favourite search engine and enters “friend” or “friendship” there comes a plethora of information, some of which may actually be germane to one’s personal situation.
Generally, I believe that each friendship is unique, and as such, one can have many friendships (be they casual or profound), all different in some way (minuscule or significant).
Interestingly enough, Jim and I are what could be considered a “loose fit” for the description I provided above. Particularly the ‘talking to/spending time with’ and ‘not getting into trouble’ parts. You see — we don’t really do these parts as described.
‘Not getting into trouble’ is a topic for another time. Suffice to say, there could potentially be more than enough subject matter available.
The ‘talking to/spending time with’ is my focus for today. I believe this area shows the depth of our friendship.
First, the ‘spending time with’ part. Oh yeah, we have had times where we lived together (basic training, trades training 1970-72) or lived close by (1984-87 while I was stationed in Nova Scotia). For the most part however, we have lived far apart, and on more than one occasion, have had absolutely no idea where the other was.
As far as the ‘talking to’ part, this might be considered by others to be a bit of a “dog’s breakfast”, particularly during the periods we were not near each other. That would account for forty-four of the last fifty years. Actually for the last ten or so years we have been connected via social media (primarily Facebook), so now there are only thirty-four years to account for.
During those years we would pop in and out of each other’s lives on a sporadic basis, often with gaps of several years. One thing however was consistent. When we would get together, it would be as if no time had passed, as if we had just spoken the day before. On occasion even our conversation subject would continue from our last encounter. For example, years ago, I was living in Ottawa, there was a knock on the door, and there was Gunky, unannounced, unexpected, but definitely not unwelcome. In he came, we sat down, shared a beverage (or two), and continued as if it were a normal daily visit. Four years ago, while Kim and I were in Nova Scotia, we stopped in to visit he and Ruby. It was just as if we were regulars at their place.
I have always marveled at this aspect of our relationship and consider it an indication of how deep our friendship is.
There are, of course, many other aspects of our friendship, things we have done together, experiences we have shared, and so on. This particular aspect is one I cherish and am extremely thankful for.