The Year Everything Changed


If this were any other year, we’d be talking all about Vivian. If it were any other year, we would be talking about the publication of my first book, The Unwritten Girl, and the launch of Erin’s second, Seal up the Thunder. We should be talking about Erin’s new job, my freelance career, the mentions of my blog in the mainstream media and the Toronto scene. All of these things together would have made this a very good year.

But this has been a year of disaster. Natural disasters for many families — but for this family, this is the year that Wendy died. Erin’s sister drowned while in Mexico to celebrate her sixth wedding anniversary.

Wendy’s death has left a hole in many people’s hearts. It is unfair that someone so young, so talented and so loved should be cut down. This is a pain that will last well into 2006 and never fully dissipate. We are angry that God could allow such a thing.

But at the same time, the family has come together to honour Wendy a number of times. Over 200 people turned out to her funeral and we continue to be welcome at the Holy Family Shrine where Wendy resides. The mass around Wendy’s birthday was also well attended, and there has been an outpouring of support for the memorial scholarship being set up in Wendy’s name. This family will ensure that Wendy won’t be forgotten, and Erin and I will do our part.

It is fortunate that this year of disaster is also a year of great joy. Vivian arrived on November 2nd. After a very hard labour, and after a shaky first day, our daughter has thrived. She is today alert and growing and starting to sleep through the night. She is intelligent enough to feed from both the bottle and the breast. Most of all, though she does not diminish our grief, she has been an affirmation of life to her parents and her grandparents plus her many great aunts, great uncles and honourary aunts and uncles.

These two events alone have made 2005 possibly the most remarkable year ever for us. Certainly it has put a lot of things in perspective, about the fragility of life and its beauty, about the importance of living it to the fullest.

Wendy once said, never buy anything you don’t love. She later amended that to “never do anything you don’t love”. She lived her life doing what she loved, and the result was a remarkable artistic life. To honour her, Erin and I hope to live our life doing what we love to the best of our ability. We have been blessed to realize just what it is we really love to do and, moreover, we have been blessed to realize a decent living doing what we love. In February, Erin returns to work as Writer for the Engineering Department at the University of Waterloo, translating Engineering into English. At the same time, I am going to become a stay-at-home dad, raising Vivian and keeping the house clean, while at the same time working on my freelance career.

And we realize, now, that our primary responsibility to Vivian has to be to teach her Wendy’s true lesson: that to live should be to love. And that will be our task, in the many (we hope) far less shocking years to follow.


This blog will continue, as long as there is fire in me to write on it. 2005 has been a good year for it. My readership has actually increased, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find myself quoted on the CBC and the CTV during the election campaign. I’ve enjoyed the conversations I’ve had here, and I’ve especially appreciated all of the expressions of support I’ve received from you, both in good times and bad.

I’ll also continue working on Transit Toronto, since that website has given me that uTOpia gig with Coach House Books and made Eye Weekly nominate me as a TTC Commissioner. That’s a complement I’ll be remembering for some time to come.

To my friends, I especially want to shout out to Pat Degan, who no longer lives in New Orleans. It saddens me that you’ll no longer count your old home town as home, but I hope you and your family are recovering and building a new life for yourselves inland. I haven’t forgotten my promise; I’ll be mailing you your copy of the :Trenchcoat Farewell Project: as soon as I get your mailing address.

And to Dan, I was shocked and sorry to hear about your mother’s diagnosis of lymphoma and I want you to know that you are in our thoughts and prayers as you and your family go through this difficult time. You are not alone.

I hope you folks will consider contributing to Wendy’s memorial scholarship. Details on how to do so are available from the now-memorial website. We have a few ways to encourage donations. We’ve produced a set of greeting cards featuring Wendy’s paintings, the proceeds of which will go directly to the scholarship. These are fine cards for writing letters in, or sending invitations with, and the artwork is brilliantly reproduced. These are cards which will turn some heads. Some of you should look for these when I send out the invites for the launch parties celebrating The Unwritten Girl.

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