I remember much of our conversation and I remember saying goodbye, but most vividly I remember the view out the window as I spent my last few hours with my father.
It was 16 years ago, and I still recall watching from on high in the Peace Arch Hospital palliative-care ward, as people continued to drive by and others strolled down Russell Avenue, seemingly without a care in the world – as mine, as I knew it, ended.
Death, while not always sudden, hits hard when there are those left behind. Some lives fade with public mourning, others with little fanfare. These disparities sometimes reflect the impact the loved ones had on the world but are rarely indicative of their significance for the individual.
Thoughts of this unfairness raised its head again last month, when I learned federal NDP Leader Jack Layton had succumbed to cancer.
For what seemed an eternity in this Internet age, media sites – social and mainstream – were filled with very public lamenting of Canada’s loss, many seeming to backhandedly denounce his political views but maintain his status as a political demigod.
No disrespect intended for Layton’s loved ones, but the day the news came down I was more concerned about the welfare of a friend and co-worker who was undergoing a very serious operation. By day’s end, I learned publisher Linda Klitch’s operation was a success, her pancreatic tumour was benign, and we were rejoicing, all but sure she would be back in our workaday lives in a few weeks time.
Oh, how fate can play nasty.
As it turned out – and as my publisher’s multitude of fans already know – her surgery suffered complications and she died last week, amid accolades normally reserved for statesmen and royalty.
Klitch was by no means our community’s only loss over the past few days. And I’m guessing there might be one or two readers who question why they were reading so much about one person’s demise, when whomever they mourn meant so much more in their day-to-day lives.
There is nothing fair about news coverage when dealing with death. Some of it’s perception, some of it’s circumstantial and, regrettably, some of it’s timing.
News media – indeed the public’s attention – appear ensnared by a person’s story when it seems untimely or under unconventional circumstances.
Here, at the Peace Arch News, we endeavour to tell as many stories of people’s passing as come to us. Some survivors prefer to mourn in private, others prefer to share their memories of loved ones with the masses.
While we sometimes get accused of ghoulish, tabloid-like behaviour when we contact family members so soon after unexpected tragedies, just as often we find relatives expressing appreciation for being able to tell their community of its loss.
And while telling such stories can take their toll on the writers as we share our subjects’ heartache, we as reporters have an innate need to tell these stories.
And inside, I feel that by highlighting one death and virtually ignoring another – as we regretfully must do – we aren’t fulfilling our sense of obligation.
None of this is to take away from Layton, Klitch or any of the others whose passing has captured attention en masse these past few months.
It is meant merely to note that every death creates a void. And that we recognize there are too many stories we haven’t shared, while the world passes by.