COLUMN: There has to be a mourning after

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.

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Amica White Rock resident receives the COVID-19 vaccine during a Jan. 15, 2021 clinic. (Tracy Holmes photo)
PHOTOS: South Surrey seniors grateful for ‘freedom’ of COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccination clinics at Fraser Health long-term and assisted-living sites were to wrap up Jan. 15

Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)
Surrey city councillors complain not enough public input in committees

City has gone ‘exactly the opposite direction,’ Councillor Brenda Locke charges

A Transit Police officer and another driver were injured on Nov. 4 in a traffic crash while the officer was responding to another officers call for help catching a man who escaped custody. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Police watchdog investigating Surrey crash that injured transit cop, another driver

Crash happened 11 p.m. Nov. 4, at 128th Street and 93rd Avenue in Cedar Hills

Friends and family of murder victim Paul Prestbakmo wore memorial masks outside Surrey Provincial Court Jan. 14, 2021. (From left) Family friend Tyler Whitley, sister Angela Prestbakmo, childhood friend Jimmy Slater, brother Steve Prestbakmo, Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Roxanne Charles and sister Liz Prestbakmo. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Two accused in 2019 South Surrey murder were ‘really angry,’ pacing at party: witness

‘We had this really strong gut feeling that something was really wrong’

Semiahmoo Rock
Record-setting 10 Semiahmoo Rock players selected in B.C. junior lacrosse draft

Kaleb Borg is the highest Rock player selected, going in the second round to the Coquitlam Adanacs

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read