Mourning diary: Craig’s last days – and a few more


I’m sure a grief counselor would tell me to just do whatever feels right.

These are my blog entries – in chronological, as opposed to blog, order –  from the time of Craig’s accidental fall until the days after his death. To read the strong support I received via comments, you’ll need to look at the original blog entries from the dates as indicated.

April 27, 2007 – A family emergency

Be careful when asking, “What next?”, even rhetorically.

My brother, (see “Faith” and elsewhere), had a terrible fall on Monday afternoon, his partner’s birthday, outside their Montreal home. Craig struck his head on the pavement and suffered a traumatic brain injury, the extent of which can only be revealed a little more each day.

Tuesday morning, before dawn, one of my sisters, Janice, rushed into Toronto and we grabbed a train to be with my mother (in Perth, southwest of Ottawa) while my other sister, Lynn, flew to my brother’s bed-side to be with him and his partner, Claude.

Craig and Claude had just been up to see Mom at Easter and those are the memories, for now, that Mom is holding on to. Janice and I are going to go to Montreal for a quick visit Saturday and Sunday and then report back to Mom firsthand. (Mom and I may travel to Montreal when I come back to see her, as has been planned for months, for the Mother’s Day weekend.)

As for my brother, he is in critical condition. He has had one emergency surgery, rather typical in these cases, to relieve pressure on the brain caused by the injury. He is showing signs of paralysis on his left side and still has a breathing tube down his throat so we are unable to determine how his speech, and all sorts of other brain activity, may be affected but Lynn says he seems to be comprehending simple questions, doing the yes-no, one squeeze-two squeeze drill.

The neurosurgeon has told my sister that he thought Craig would not have survived the emergency operation, so we chalk that up to family genes and the fact that he has a strong heart after quadruple bypass surgery almost exactly one year ago. We know the timing of that was perfect!

In addition to the ailments he and I share in common, Craig has been dealing with a condition called polymyositis for the past few years, a degenerative neuromuscular disease which was progressing very quickly to the point where a motorized wheelchair was soon going to be in the cards. He and Claude had just sold their home and are set to move into a more accessible condominium apartment as of June 1. There is all matter of legal change-of-ownership crap that Claude still has to deal with (and Craig, too, which will prove difficult in the short-term) as that deadline looms – unimportant, in so many ways, and yet things which cannot be ignored.

Now, assuming Craig survives (and we take nothing for granted on that score), he faces months – if not longer – as an in-patient at the rehabilitation centre of the Montreal General Hospital. That’s down the road, though, as he remains in the critical care unit of the Montreal Neurological Hospital next door to the Royal Vic, if you know Montreal at all. Both are part of the world-renowned facilities made famous by neurology pioneer Dr. Wilder Penfield. Craig has been visiting these hospitals regularly, both for his HIV and his neuromuscular concerns, so at least he is a well-known, well-liked patient.

We await to see how Craig’s speech might have been affected, which we will not know until his breathing tube has been removed. His comprehension seems good in that, when told he could be moved to a private room today, he gave the “thumbs up” sign! It is still not clear how his language skills will be impacted. Craig and Claude relate in French, for all intents and purposes, and Craig has spent his life learning both French and Spanish.

We await to see how his mobility will be affected, knowing that he was, at the very least, headed for a motorized wheelchair before the accident even happened. This just adds months and months, optimistically, of physical and vocational rehabilitation to the picture – and rehabilitation to what levels is still unknown.

We await much, with as much grace and patience as we can summon!

I do not know how soon, after my return from Montreal, I will leave Perth for Toronto. I would guess it will be the middle of next week at the latest.

My internet access is limited to the town library, just down the hill from my Mom’s, and a cafe that makes pretty good Cafe Americanos, but my blog, email and Facebook have suddenly become less of an urgency in my daily life (at least until I get home again!)

April 28, 2007 – Update on Craig

My sister Janice and I came to Montreal today for a visit with Claude, our sister Lynn and Craig. Little could have prepared us for how we found Craig.

He is in very bad shape, from our point of view at first sight, and not even as responsive as he had apparently been yesterday. We`ll visit again tomorrow morning before reporting back to Mom. (We are so thankful she is not here as she holds wonderful memories of their Easter together.)

copy-of-pic_0299.jpg

Much more lies ahead, if he survives, and so I will be heading back to Mom`s tomorrow for at least a few more days. I am fortunate to have options to stay with her, or come back here to Montreal, return home to Toronto or a crazy combination of all three which is probably what my summer will look like should Craig`s life be spared – and that is still by no means certain.

May 1, 2007 – Another update on Craig

Back in Perth with my mother, I did not leave Montreal on Sunday evening very hopeful for Craig’s recovery – but he has surprised us before. He remains on a respirator (which they are reluctant to remove until such time as they are quite certain not to need it again). This week’s neurologist (they cycle through week-by-week) says there has been some frontal lobe damage (behaviour, mood, memory) which is more than we knew last week so, as his hold on life remains precarious, we are getting used to the idea that he may not want to “pull through” should there be opportunities for elective surgery or ‘heroic measures’ in the near future. It is a time of much reflection.

I appreciate each of your individual messages of support. Mom is an inspiration of strength through adversity – always has been. I half-joke that it might be time for an update to an Observer article I wrote about our family 15 or so years ago – which I modified only slightly in “Faith in the Family”. She is not “wired” but I check my email every other day or so at the Perth library or at a great fair-trade cafe, with internet access, overlooking the lovely Stewart Park. Coutt’s (at Code’s Mill on the Park) makes great Cafe Americano, which fuel me here as they often do in Toronto!

Hugs,
Kenn

May 2, 2007 – Thanks for all the messages!

Between Facebook, my email and the comments here, I am so grateful for all the messages of encouragement!

Craig remains about the same which, if nothing else, allows us all to get used to the unimaginable. So long as his condition is critical there seems little use in speculating about the prognosis for any measure of recovery. Mom is finding it easier to reach out to friends a little farther afield as Craig’s birthday approaches and she thinks of people who might use that occasion to be in touch with him. Her strength is amazing.

Little to report today, all in all.

May 3, 2007 – Getting caffeinated in Perth, Ontario

Here I sit at one of four desktop computers surrounding a wood beam in Coutts & Co. coffee emporium, in a small corner of what used to be a felt mill overlooking Perth’s lovely Stewart Park. Code’s Mill on the Park is a very urbane destination in the beautiful town of Perth.

copy-of-pic_0450.jpg

The weather has been glorious since Monday – sunny and warmer every day – and trees are at their brightest green as they do their spring-time budding. Through the park the Tay River is running high. I had not packed my camera when I rushed here last week so I have bought an inexpensive one to take some pictures around town which I will upload whenever I return to the familiarity of my own computer.

Our noon-time update from my sister, at Craig’s bed-side, indicates little change in his condition. Tomorrows have morphed into more tomorrows as he remains intubated “at least until tomorrow”. Claude and Lynn are reading a couple of cards to Craig each day; whether he truly knows who they are from is hard to say although he indicates (with eyes mostly closed and head nods) that he understands what he is hearing. We are so relieved to know that Craig is experiencing no pain, which hospital staff can tell by his lack of restlessness.

He has fought off a hospital-typical form of pneumonia but a mild fever continues to come and go sporadically.

So, as my Mom says, that’s about all I know for today.

May 4, 2007 – A small dose of good news

Craig had the ventilator removed today, finally, just before noon. When my sister phoned with the news he had not yet tried to speak. No doubt his throat would be parched after eleven days with that obstruction!

He is still sleeping a good deal of the time and, otherwise, there is very little news to report.

Mom is doing well on this the fifth anniversary of my Dad’s passing.

May 6, 2007 – Weighing the news

I had no sooner posted that the ventilator had finally been removed from Craig when we learned that it needed to be re-inserted because he was having difficulty clearing some chest congestion and his breathing was generally laboured.

Nevertheless, yesterday the news was that his left hand had shown some signs of life. Indeed he had squeezed a nurse’s hand quite forcefully with it.

We’re taking the news as it comes, not trying to read too, too much into it as it seems to go up and down each day. I am continuing to stay with Mom, which helps to pass the time for both of us.

I am either going to have to go home for a few days next week, to get my $3500 in monthly prescriptions refilled, or else one of the pharmacies in Perth is going to hit pay-dirt with my insurance company!

May 9, 2007 – When…not if

Craig has been pretty much unresponsive since Saturday, with and without the ventilator. Monday an e-c-g type of test, with those non-intrusive thing-a-ma-bobs, was done on his brain and there was very little significant activity. It seems he has been shutting down. His health-care team now says it is a matter of when, and not if, he dies. We had all, of course, thought about this as one of the possible – even likely – outcomes but hearing it yesterday was still a sad reality check, and on the fifth anniversary of Dad’s burial no less. Claude is at peace, as well as anyone can be, with the inevitable.

So now we wait.

Mom is sleeping when she can and holding up very well. I woke up uncharacteristically early this morning and had walked down to “Tim’s” for an extra large coffee and “everything” bagel by 7:30. Mom awoke to find me reading her morning paper on the front verandah.

The good folks in my co-op residence sent me the rest of my in-stock medications so I am good for another two to three weeks.

At the risk of getting ahead of myself, Craig’s memorial service will be held in Montreal, probably at the large St. James United Church. He had thought the McGill chapel would be a beautiful location, and there’s no doubt that it would, but we anticipate needing quite a bit more space. His cremated remains will be buried next to Mom and Dad’s plot at Scotch Line Cemetery on the outskirts of Perth.

Craig has long planned to leave a legacy for theology students. Back in the early 1990s, when we both thought AIDS would kill us within a relatively short time, he made provisions in his will for a United Theological College bursary or scholarship. Craig received his M. Div. there. Contributions to the fund will build on the principal, the interest of which will be used to help an openly LGBT theology student or, to paraphrase his own words, another similarly disenfranchised person as society evolves.

I will provide the particulars, for anyone wishing to contribute, in the coming days. The letters he wrote, to set out his plans, make me so very proud of my big brother! I will be sure to write a tribute, much better than I can today, in the days or weeks ahead.

Your prayers in this difficult time of waiting will continue to lift us all.

May 9, 2007 – A. Craig Chaplin

May 13, 1955 – May 9, 2007

May 10, 2007 – Walking through ‘the valley’

Let it be noted that, even in grief, I journal.

My walk over to the internet cafe affords Mom an opportunity for a nap – not that she will sleep, necessarily, nor that this could not be done with me staying closer to home but I do find the keyboard somewhat therapeutic.

Claude asked that I write the English-language death notice for the newspapers which I was honoured to do. I am just waiting to confirm details of a bursary fund, to be set up in Craig’s name (it may already be established, I don’t know) at McGill University’s United Theological College, before sending the notice to Montreal and Ottawa papers.

In any event I can confirm the funeral will be held at St. James United Church on Ste. Catherine Street in Montreal on Monday evening, May 14 at 7 p.m. Interment will be the following evening in Perth, Ontario. Craig and Claude, not to mention the rest of us, are not morning persons so the near-dusk rituals seem very fitting.

The funeral promises to be a trilingual service: English and French, of course, but also at least a touch of Spanish as Craig had been worshipping with a Spanish-speaking congregation lately while pursuing his interest in learning a third language. He had done amazingly well, even preaching en espanol at the church on one occasion! St. James’ organist will be doing double duty, playing his other love, the cello and a choir is being assembled from Craig’s former congregations.

My sister Lynn remains in Montreal with Claude. I am at my Mom’s in Perth where we are anticipating the arrival this evening of my sister Janice, her husband Randy, and Mom’s two very cute four- and “five-and-a-half year old” grandkids. Would that adding or subtracting half-years meant as much to Uncle Kenn! ;) Mom is looking forward to having my niece and nephew around for a slight diversion.

Mom and I were going through a shoe-box of newspaper clippings, letters and other keepsakes of hers this morning. It is pleasantly surprising to see the sorts of things Moms keep for years and years!

Well, as the family comes together I don’t anticipate retreating to the internet too much more, but one never knows! I appreciate so very much the notes you have already sent. I am more connected than I sometimes realize.

May 10, 2007 – CHAPLIN, Rev. A. Craig – B.A., M. Div.

Peacefully in hospital on Wednesday, May 9,2007 at the age of 51. Former Minister of Sutton (Que.) United Church and of Union United in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Que., a graduate of Queen`s University and McGill`s United Theological College.

He is survived by his loving partner of sixteen years, Claude Lamontagne, and their extended families, Craig`s mother, Madeline Chaplin of Perth, Ontario (predeceased in 2002 by father Arnold Chaplin). Craig was the beloved brother of Kenn, Lynn (Joslyn and Allyson Howatt), Janice (Randy Shiga), and the proud uncle of Kailey and Brennan.

A memorial service to celebrate Craig`s life will be held at St. James United Church, 462 Ste. Catherine St. West, Montreal, on Monday, May 14 at 7pm. Interment will be held at Scotch Line Cemetery in Perth, Ontario on Tuesday, May 15 at 6pm.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Craig Chaplin Memorial Fund at the United Theological College, 3521 University Ave., Montreal H3A 2A9 (or online at www.utc.ca) are requested.

May 12, 2007 – Blogging through tears

I hope it is not uncouth to take a walk, away from my sad but lively family, to check in with my most loyal reader (that would be yours truly, me thinks).

The very first card arrived in the mail yesterday, from a high school friend of Craig, which released a few more tears (where do they all come from?) The friend reminded us of Craig’s days of leading a youth group of folk-gospel musicians with such enthusiasm.

Yesterday – I think it was yesterday as days flow so seamlessly into nights these days – Mom pulled out a shoe-box of treasures which included a letter from Craig, written when we thought HIV/AIDS would strike us both down +/-20 years ago, outlining his wishes to establish a memorial bursary in his name (details at www.utc.ca). Donations have already started to come in which means the world to all of us.

My Mom, sister (and her family) and I had originally planned to travel from Perth to Montreal on Monday, leaving just enough time before the evening service for Mom to have a bit of a rest. We have now decided to go a day earlier, tomorrow, thinking it would be insanely tiring to travel the same day as the memorial service, then travel again the very next day for the burial. Also this will give us a little more time with Claude. (In addition, he’ll spend a day or two with “the best mother-in-law”, and the rest of us, when we all come back to Perth for the interment on Tuesday.)

Well, back to the family home I must go, lest they think me a bit selfish to be spending so much time at a computer keyboard.

I am so accustomed to my solitude but at times like this I draw much strength from just being together with family members, from four to seventy-six years of age.

May 14, 2007 – Craig’s Memorial Service

Order of Service

A memorial service to celebrate the life of
The Reverend Craig Chaplin.

St. James United Church
Monday May 14, 2007 at 7:00 pm.

Celebrants / Célébrants:
The Reverend Arlen John Bonnar
The Reverend Dr. Jean Barkley
The Reverend Rosa-Elena Donoso-Cruz

Musicians / Musiciens:
Philip Crozier, Pianist
Denis Brott, Cello

Gathering / Rassemblement

Welcome / Bienvenue

Prelude

Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend (BWV 709)
Lord Jesus Be With Us Now

J.S. Bach (1685- 1750)

Ringing of the Bells / Le son des cloches

Hymn
We Are Pilgrims (The Servant Song)

We are pilgrims on a journey, fellow travellers on the road,
we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.

Sister, let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.

I will hold the Christ-light for you in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping, when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow, till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven, we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve know together of Christ’s love and agony.

Brother, let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.

Richard Gillard, 1977
arr. Betty Pulkingham

Prayer / Prière

Cello – Piano Duet

“The Swan” from The Carnival of the Animals (No. 13)

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

The Word / La Parole

Scripture

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ringing of the Bells / Le son des cloches

Reading / Lecture

2 Corinthians 4: 5-18

Reflection / Réflection

Grace and Thanksgiving
The Reverend Dr. Jean Barkley

Hymn

Psalm 91
On Eagle’s Wings

You who dwell in the shelter of our God, who abide in this shadow for life, say to the Lord: “My refuge, my Rock in whom I trust!”

Refrain: “And I will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of my hand.”

The snare of the fowler will never capture you, and famine will bring you no fear: under God’s wings your refuge, God’s faithfulness your shield. Refrain

You need not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day; though thousands fall about you, near you it shall not come. Refrain

For to God’s angels is given a command to guard you in all of your ways; upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.

“And I will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of my hand.”

And hold you, hold you in the palm of my hand.

Michael Joncas 1979

Prayer /Prière
(Lord’s Prayer /Notre Pére)

Ringing of the Bells / Les son des cloches

Hymn

Go To The World

Go to the world! Go into all the earth.
Go preach the cross where Christ renews life’s worth,
baptising as the sign of our rebirth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Go to the world! Go into every place.
Go live the Word of God’s redeeming grace.
Go seek God’s presence in each time and space.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Go to the world! Go struggle, bless and pray;
the nights of tears give way to joyous day.
As servant Church, you follow Christ’s own way.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Go to the world! Go as the ones I send,
for I am with you ’til the age shall end,
when all the hosts of glory cry “Amen!”
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Sylvia Dunstan, 1985
Ralph V. Williams, 1906

Benediction / Bénédiction

Postlude

Wirglauben all’an einem Gott (BWV 680)
We Believe In On God

J.S. Bach (1865-1750)

CHAPLIN, Rev. A. Craig B.A., M.Div.

Peacefully in hospital on Wednesday May 9,2007 at the
age of 51. Former Minister of Sutton United Church and
of Union United in Ste. Anne-de-Bellevue, a graduate
of Queen`s University and McGill`s United Theological
College.

He is survived by his loving partner of sixteen years
Claude Lamontagne and their extended families, Craig`s
mother, Madeline Chaplin, of Perth, Ontario (predeceased
by father Arnold Chaplin 2002). Craig was the beloved
brother of Kenn, Lynn (Joslyn and Allyson Howatt),
Janice (Randy Shiga), and the proud uncle of Kailey
and Brennan.

Interment will be held in Perth, Ontario on Tuesday, May 14 at 6pm.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Craig Chaplin
Memorial Fund at the United Theological College, 3521
University Ave, Montreal H3A 2A9 or on line at
www.utc.ca are requested.

Donations to the Craig Chaplin Memorial Fund

The Rev. Craig Chaplin, friend, pastor, teacher and graduate of the United Theological College died on Wednesday May 9th 2007.

Over a decade ago Craig made the decision to make a bequest to the United Theological College that would support an award recognizing the remarkable contributions of ministry offered by gay and lesbian people. In initiating this fund Craig envisioned an award that would be given regularly, and publicly, to a gay or lesbian person, ministering within the formal, organized structures of the Christian Church or in other faith traditions. This award is intended to be not only a symbol of affirmation, but also a means of fostering and encouraging positive role models within the GBLT community.

It was Craig who proposed that this award be announced at the time of his death and that others be encouraged to be Craig’s partners in contributing to it and the vision it promotes.

We are honoured that Rev. Chaplin has entrusted the United Theological College with the disbursement of this memorial fund. His affirming vision of the ministry of gay and lesbian people within and beyond the life of the Church is one we seek to affirm in tangible ways through our ministry of theological education. This Memorial fund allows us to live more fully into this vision and mission.

May 16, 2007 – Following up with stories about Craig Chaplin

copy-of-pic_0332.jpg

You will read, from comments received over the past few days, here and in “Faith in the Family”, about the impact my brother Craig had on one of his earlier boyfriends, of how they helped each other become self-accepting of their sexual orientation. That was one of the lovely conversations I had on the evening of Craig’s memorial service. Others told me of how Craig had married them or had baptized their children.

In addition, I spoke to a former educator who had enlisted Craig’s help in drawing up a curriculum on AIDS education for a suburban Montreal school board back when HIV/AIDS was just beginning to prick the collective consciousness. Margaret spoke to me with such enthusiasm of the assistance Craig had offered.

Mom later tugged on my arm and said, “Come here. I want you to hear this.” She introduced me to Karen and Patrick who had been parishioners in Craig’s congregation at Union United Church in Ste. Anne-de-Bellevue during the 1980s. Karen told me that she had experienced three miscarriages and when she became pregnant with a fourth child (or was it four miscarriages and pregnant with a fifth?) Craig prayed over Karen’s womb and she later gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Nicholas.

As Nicholas was growing up the story was recounted time and time again and – you can imagine the vocabulary of a young child – Nicholas declared that one day he would be “Prime Minister like Craig”! :) When Karen told Mom and me that Nicholas was indeed now studying for the ministry I dissolved into a wet blanket of tears.

I would love to read other stories about my brother’s ministry on this earthly plain – even stories I might have heard already.

May 18, 2007 – As Mom says, “You’ll always be my children!”

I offered to write, and pay for, newspaper notices regarding Craig’s death. And, while I am the first to admit that the bill for two days in two newspapers was more than I had expected, I think I can stave off the credit agency calls! Mom, God love her, is quite insistent that she “go half” with me.

If she hides a cheque in my suitcase, as she says she will do, I’ll be forwarding it to the Chaplin Memorial Fund in her name. That’s not to boast, but just to keep the fund out there :)

I know, Mom, we’ll never be as old and wise as you but we do grow up and we’ve turned out not half-bad :)

My niece, 6, and nephew, 4, left for home with their Dad this morning. Their Mom is staying for a few extra days with me and Grandma. Cute story…In the hours preceding Craig’s memorial service on Monday my sister, brother-in-law and the kids were walking through a historic and trendy neighbourhood of Montreal. They came upon a grand, old fountain – the kind you throw pennies into. My nephew “wished that Uncle Craig wasn’t dead”.

May 20, 2007 – These in-between days

One of my sisters, the mother of my mother’s grandchildren, remains with Mom and me in Perth for a few more days. I leave tomorrow evening after almost four weeks. Perth has certainly felt like home, more than Toronto, since April 24. We have all been noticing how tired we are. Hardly unexpected, that. Last night I went to bed shortly after nine and slept right through to nearly eight o’clock this morning.

We visited the cemetery yesterday morning. While Craig’s white roses are showing a little wear the mauve irises still looked fantastic.

copy-of-pic_0369.jpg

In what will surely be at least a pair of firsts for Scotch Line Cemetery Craig and Claude’s graves will be marked with an inscription describing them as “compagnons de vie”. Two men acknowledging their love for one another, and in French! Claude has bought a stone similar in design to Mom and Dad’s, only black and gray. My cremated remains will one day be buried in my parents’ plot which has plenty of room minus caskets.

There is also, by the way, a better, much more picturesque road – Allan’s Mill Road – to get to the western side of the cemetery, meaning everyone but the driver can blink as we go past the Kelford Road disgrace, an automobile grave yard which shows no signs of shrinking, on County Road 10 at the fork in the road which splits Scotch Line and Upper Scotch Line. [map]

The lovely stone house and, to a lesser extent, the mill on Allan’s Mill Road are still intact, as well as Allan’s General Store, although no longer operating as originally designed. Below Grant’s Creek, part of the Tay River, flows over peaceful rapids.

copy-of-pic_0372.jpg

The family graves are in the morning shade of a beautiful one-room, stone schoolhouse where Mom’s mother taught many, many (like maybe 65) years ago. The huge tree out front, Mom remembers, was planted during the time “Gammy” spent there.

copy-of-pic_0370.jpg

Claude was planning to go to this afternoon’s regular service of Camino de Emaus, the Spanish-speaking United Church congregation which Craig had been attending in downtown Montreal. It meets at L’Eglise Unie St. Jean on Ste. Catherine St. E. The second language there is Claude’s first (French).

copy-of-pic_0343.jpg

Tonight I’ll do a big laundry before taking an evening train tomorrow for the three-and-a-half hour trip back to Toronto.

May 21, 2007 – Heading home from home

My train leaves the nearby town of Smiths Falls this evening at 7:01 p.m. I will be back in Toronto by shortly after 10:30.

Janice, my youngest sister, will be heading home Wednesday morning leaving my mother alone for a couple of days at least. I anticipate a tearful good-bye after nearly four weeks of keeping Mom company through the rawest emotion. (It will be one month on Thursday since Craig’s ultimately fatal fall. Sometimes it seems like yesterday; other times like half a life-time away.)

Spring has evolved from high water levels and buds on the trees to a slightly receding Tay River and trees in full leaf. It has been lovely weather.

So I bid adieu to Coutts & Company Coffeehouse Emporium, a wonderful host as I have checked my email and blogged almost daily.

Tonight I reboot my home computer as my cat Emma wails in displeasure over my long absence.

Until then (and perhaps a little later…)!

May 22, 2007 – Walking, and photographing, in grief

I am back in Toronto, with a very grateful cat (Emma), so completely exhausted not even a full pot of coffee has revived me. Seems as though any fatigue I felt in Perth was supplemented, even as late as yesterday, by adrenaline.

Whenever Mom laid down for a rest, while I stayed with her in Perth, I set out with my camera to walk around, grab a coffee and check my emails. I took a lot of pictures, and there are many repeats in these Webshots albums which I will eventually edit out or lump together at least.

Image hosted by Webshots.com

It was the same in Montreal where I spent a few days, once visiting Craig in hospital and then again as the family gathered for two days there, culminating in the memorial service (a sister and Claude kept daily vigils while another sister and me kept an eye on Mom in Perth).

Image hosted by Webshots.com

The thumbnail is of street level at the new accessible condo Craig and Claude were set to move in to at the beginning of June. Claude is going ahead with the plans, and I’ll be heading there some time this summer to watch one of the many fireworks festival weekends on the river from their his balcony which overlooks the beautiful Parc Lafontaine.

May 24, 2007 – Craig Chaplin eulogized

The family is so grateful to The Reverend Dr. Jean Barkley for her warm reflections on Craig’s life during the memorial service ten days ago at St. James United Church in Montreal. The beauty of Jean’s words, in both English and French, the text of which she sent to me yesterday, flowed like free verse.

GRACE AND THANKSGIVING

 

Eulogy and Reflection for Craig Chaplin

 

May 14, 2007

 

We gather tonight in that place of profound

sadness that accompanies the loss of someone dear to us.

And we gather with heavy hearts

lightened by the special memories of Craig

we treasure and now share.

 

The events of the past several weeks

are still so hard to take in.

We knew Craig’s life and health were fragile

for a very long time.

We may even have rehearsed this event at his bidding,

in times when it seemed his life was drawing to a close.

But there was something about his tenacious hold

on all of our hearts and on life itself

that makes it really hard to believe

he’s gone.

What we are about here this evening, however,

is not about the way Craig died,

but the way he lived.

And it is not about the life he has entered now,

comforting as that assurance is.

It is about the quality of this life

and how knowing our Craig,

a beloved partner, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend,

has taught us so much about a life well lived.

 

Quand je pense à la vie de Craig –

Quand je considère ses qualités – je pense premierèment à la générosité de son esprit – comme on dit en anglais:

“He had a heart as big as a house.”

Il était l’ami qui prenait le temps de parler,

d’écouter, de questionner, et de conseiller.

Comme pasteur à Sutton et Dunham, sa premiere paroisse,

et ensuite à l’église Union à Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue,

Craig était adoré.

C’était vraiment sa vocation, d’être pasteur.

Apparement il a commencé très tôt cette vocation:

Dans son enfance Craig aimait jouer le pasteur;

Kenn, Lynn, et Janice étaient obligés de jouer les rôles de paroissiens!

Just imagine it!

 

With a beginning like that,

it makes sense that even after Craig had to conclude

formal ministry, he would continue to minister – to pastor.

He found himself in the company of patients and staff

at the AIDS clinic and other medical treatment centres.

There would be Craig, attentive to the needs and hopes

of so many people he met,

helping them give expression to their fears, their triumphs.

He was a huge strength to his former colleagues and friends.

The home he and Claude, and the delightful dog Wesley, made

was an oasis for the needy among us – a place of

patience and receiving considered, wise counsel.

 

Craig was a truth-teller, a seeker of justice.

And he did it, not just with his words,

but with lived-out convictions.

He asked questions about how things are and how things could be

better than anyone I have ever known.

He came out as a gay man in a considered, unapologetic way.

Madeline, Craig’s mom, says it was all she and Arnold,

Craig’s dad, could do to keep up to him at that time.

But they did keep up – they gave him the acceptance and support

he needed to keep on being a truth-teller and a seeker of justice.

Craig continued to be an advocate for gay and lesbian people

who were experiencing alienation or discrimination.

I recall another arena for justice –

In this city on on December 6, 1989, fourteen women

were murdered at Ecole Polytechnique.

At a vigil held a week later at Eglise St-Jean, I can see Craig,

in a group that was mostly women, standing in solidarity with women

he truly felt were his sisters.

He understood our need to speak and mourn.

He spent time at Kanesatake in the summer and fall of 1990,

helping to build relationships in the Mohawk community.

 

On se souviens de Craig pour son courage et son enthousiasme,

démontré pendant toute sa vie.

Le fait qu’il était gai lui demandait beaucoup de courage.

D’être pasteur gai dans l’église unie

pendant les annees quatre-vingts était dur,

surtout quand les gens discutaient la sexualité continuellement.

Mais de recevoir un diagnostique positif du SIDA

Et de voir des dizaines d’amis mourir,

Ca prend un courage extreme

Que la plupart de nous ne possederons jamais.

Pour Craig, de vivre avec le SIDA

lui donnait l’énérgie de vivre et

une appréciation de la vie plus profonde.

Il y a deux ans Craig m’a envoyé une lettre quand j’étais

moi-même dans une periode difficile

de ma vie:

It concluded with the most hopeful, yet realistic view:

“Wishing you the kind of peace and joy that are only to be

found in the eye of a storm.”

Here is a man who could see hope and redemption

in almost everything.

Here is a man who was truly alive.

Craig appreciated so much –

the beauty of language – all three languages, and perhaps more, which he knew –

the music he made and loved – the constant care of Claude.  

But perhaps the sign of someone truly alive is his ability

to make and enjoy laughter.

I hear his laugh still, relishing the absurdities of human nature,

the odd and funny things which happen,

which only some notice – Craig, of course,

ALWAYS noticed.

And he wasn’t above humour which was playful, and

sometimes, good naturedly, at the expense of his friends.

I recall turning 50, and shortly afterwards,

meeting Craig for dinner:

“Well, Jean the Bean, what’s it like to be 50? How do you FEEL?

FEEL any different being 50?”

What was I to say?

“I don’t really feel like 50, Craig.”

“AHA!!! That’s the first sign of advanced age,” he said.

“The 85-year-olds ALWAYS say that!”

Trapped by my friend.

So, along with the sense of huge loss we feel,

now that Craig is no longer with us,

we are aware of the many ways in which his life

has touched ours.

And we are thankful.

For it is people like Craig Chaplin

who bring a generosity of spirit,

a humbling courage, and

an ability to be alive to truth and justice

into a world that is all too short of these things.

 

We want Claude and Madeline

and Kenn and Lynn and Janice, and all whom they love,

to know that we share in their grief, that their loss is ours too

and that their strength is in the love of a gracious God,

and our continuing love and friendship.

 

We hear the words of scripture, that although we are afflicted,

we are not crushed.

We know that truth through our practice of faith

and we know it also through the signs of resurrection

Craig’s life has been.

We have met here tonight to say our thanks

for an extraordinary man.

He would be the first to argue with the word

“extraordinary.”

But when we walk in the light of God

and search for the goodness and truth our God proclaims,

extraordinary things happen.

The witness to God’s grace which Craig has been,

These signs of resurrection, of transformation,

we’ve had to take notice of in his life –

these are his legacy.

They are the eternal things written on hearts,

the things which will never perish.

And they are ours.

The treasure in earthen jars.

It could be hoarded because the memories are lovely.

There will never be another Craig Chaplin –

we hold onto all that has been so good – so holy.

BUT, how much finer to take that legacy

and live it ourselves.

How much more faithful to see Craig as

the grace of God personified:

gift – to be shared

strength – to strengthen

courage – to encourage

generosity – to become more generous

alive – to enliven.

These are the things of eternity.

To take these gifts

and use them in our lives would be an amazing thing,

a witness like no other,

a tribute to one whose spirit takes hold in all of us this night.

I hear him cheering us on still –

“Wishing you the kind of peace and joy that are only

to be found in the eye of the storm.”

May we go in thanksgiving for all we have learned from Craig.

And may we walk in God’s grace all our days.

Donations would be appreciated to the Craig Chaplin Memorial Fund at the United Theological College, 3521 University Ave., Montreal, QC H3A 2A9 or on-line at www.utc.ca.

May 26, 2007 – Honouring feelings

I could have – and perhaps should have – written a book on grief back in the ’80s and ’90s when friends were constantly dying, dead, or dealing with someone else’s death as AIDS ravaged my circles like a tornado.

One thing I learned, among many other things young people should not have had to learn so soon, was that no emotions are inappropriate, if expressed in a healthy way. I lost many friends, too many to count, particularly as I purposely dove into circles of support believing – with good reason – that they would likely accompany me to my death.

I’m still here.

The circles have changed almost completely.

Grief, or at least waves of mourning, began to slow down in my life at some indefinite point in time shortly after the misnamed “cocktail” of antiretrovirals became available.

Then Dad died. Suddenly. In his garden. Five years ago May 4. I remember the pain of watching my mother grieve her best friend, her husband of fifty years-less-two-months. It was heart-breaking. We lost our Dad, too, of course. He had just turned seventy-five a month earlier. I cry just thinking about those days of raw mourning.

Mom says she was just beginning to move in to a new phase – grief never ends – these five years later when my sister called her with the news that she and I were an hour’s cab ride away; that there had been an accident the previous night and Craig was seriously injured. Was that just a month ago yesterday that we arrived in Perth? While in some respects it seems like yesterday it also seems so very much longer. Our hearts have since broken into many pieces. Please may it not be so, literally.

As Jean Barkley said in her eulogy we had rehearsed this in our minds when neither Craig nor I were expected to see our fortieth birthdays. I’m now 47. Craig was a few days shy of 52. Somehow this ‘borrowed time’ does not have a gift feel to it today as I sob more deeply than I have since, perhaps, the burial. Emma watches me in stunned silence. Damn, I’m down to toilet paper or paper towels.

Oh well, I had planned to go out anyway, if for no other reason than to watch the parade of visitors in the Village here for the U.S. Memorial Day weekend.

Maybe I will not cry sitting on the patio of Timothy’s Coffees. Maybe I will.

Something else Jean said, quoting Craig,

“Wishing you the kind of peace and joy that are only

to be found in the eye of the storm.”

May it be so. May it be so.

One thought on “Mourning diary: Craig’s last days – and a few more

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s