My Friend Steve (In Memoriam)

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There are some people you meet in your life that become a kind of reference for the place you live, the times you have, and the triumphs and failures you go through. My friend Steve was one of these people for me.

I had come in contact with Steve before I moved to London. In 1999 my brother and I were talking in that kind of half serious/half joking way of creating an internet service provider company. So when moving to London became a fast reality I reached out to The London Economic Development Corporation ( LEDC) and it was Steve who replied. 

Frankly I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or what I was talking about, but with the bravura that comes with being in my 20’s, I bulled ahead. When I arrived in London in December of 1999, Steve, with his usual grace and charm, invited my wife and I over for diner. Fortunately for us Steve, his wife Sharon, and his brilliant son Jeff had some people in common with us. The Longstaff’s. Kip and her sons, Nic and Michael, had a long standing relationship with The Glickman’s and on that December evening my wife and I arrived and began an 18 year relationship with the Glickman’s.

Jeff and I created plays together, had serious long talks about art, and I have had the joy of being a part of his work as a film maker. Sharon has always been generous with her time and expertise in design, and my wife Heather always made sure Sharon got our year end newsletter. But then there is Steve. My reference for my time in London.

Steve was there during the struggles and triumphs we’ve had with our daughter Erynn. Steve was there when , with my gifted friend Jennifer Wigmore, we created the Theatre Arts program at Fanshawe – Steve sat on the first advisory committee. Steve was there to see some of the plays i directed and preformed in. Steve was there during my time with Emerging Leaders, always encouraging me and always supportive. Steve was there with Sharon when we bought our home and quietly suggested i needed a good stereo and helped me choose one at his business, London Audio. 

Steve was there with thoughtful advise on the many times I fell flat on my face and had few friends. Steve was there. That’s the point. Steve was there to introduce me to London, to make a family from out west feel welcome in a new town, to show me the good places to eat in town, to introduce me around, to offer his wisdom and insight, to share his sharp and riotous wit when we sat together, and …well …to be Steve.

About a year ago I received an email from Sharon. Steve wasn’t doing to well and things were difficult, but Sharon was very grateful for our year-end newsletter and wanted to let me know how Steve was doing. Steve had Alzheimer’s. 

I asked if i could come and spend time with my old friend and over the course of the next year I was blessed by the time I had with him. 

Steve was born and grew up and married in Montreal. He went to University there and like many others decided his new family needed to leave that city and find opportunities elsewhere. London is where he came, and with his family, created London Audio. Steve served on many Boards in our community including Kings and at The Grand Theatre. He gave back to his community again and again and in so doing quietly added to the tensile strength of our forested city.

During this last year he memorialized his life in Montreal and London with me. He would tell me again and again of the accomplishments of his sons and how deeply proud he was of them. He told me of his childhood on the streets of Montreal and of his early married life with a brilliant young wife. He would share with me his philosophies of business – you must make sure the customer always gets what’s right for them. He shared his thoughts on politics and religion and the deep admiration and fondness he had for his friends and colleagues. 

My most cherished memory of this past year though is sitting quietly, no words needing to be spoken, and listening to music. We would sit for a few hours and listen to his favourite album, K.D. Langs Songs Of The 49th Parallel. Sometimes I would play my ukulele and sing for him and sometimes we would sit and talk. It was…..so very good. 

In his last week of life we was hospitalized and I would go and visit him to spell off Sharon or Jeff for a short time. I would sit and play K.D. Lang and just be with him. I was with there the day he died. Jeff and Sharon had left for a quick bite and so I sat and played his favourite music and offered what comfort I could. We spent two hours together . Me holding his hand and him, eyes closed, listening to his music. I left at around 4:30 p.m. that day. Picked up my wife from work, went home and ate some supper. It was 90 minutes later that Sharon let me know he had died with Jeff and her next to him. 

His funeral was a triumph of a life well lived. His three sons lionized their father with humour, honesty, and deep love. London came out and marked the passing of someone who made a difference to our little city, not with flash and spectacle, but with quiet service and dignity. And his friends, those of years, and those of his life in business , came and shared the grief of his passing. 

For me Steve’s funeral marked something else though. It marked my time in this city and pointed to a way of being and engaging – a way I have often failed at. It pointed to the loyalty of friendships long developed, it pointed to the strength of serving community, and it pointed to the pleasure of living a life well.

It was a privilege to know Steve. From my first moments in this city to his last moments among us. It was an honour to spend time with him in his last year. It was a joy to hear him telling me the stories of his life and it was with pride I watched his family, friends, and community honour his life. Thank you Steve for your generosity of spirit, your warm and joyful wit, and for allowing me to be a small part of your life for the last 18 years. I have been marked by our time together and will carry your examples with me in my heart.

Thank you dear friend

Rest In Peace.

 

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You’re a good person. Right?

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You are a caring person, aren’t you? Sure you are! You give to charity, you volunteer in your community, you post encouraging things on facebook to people who are having a hard time, and you show your love to your friends and family. You are a good person.

But if I put you together with a group say the size of a city are you still caring? With a group the size of a province or state? How about as a country? The reality is is that while you show many excellent qualities as an individual when we become a collective, we are not nearly so nice.

What are you talking about you ask? Well in my little city there is a 20% child poverty rate. In Sri Lanka, there are thousands of Rohingya killed. In Europe and In North America there is a growing exclusion of immigrants. In the UK between 2011 and 2017 homelessness shot up 60%. There is a shrinking middle class as a small number sit comfortably amongst the elite or much more likely in the ballooning serving classes. Thousands of children are starving to death in Yemen, and South Sudan and the planet is warming to such an extent that unless we cut out world emissions by half, then the world will descend into climate chaos that will make millions homeless and kills hundreds of thousands.

So while YOU are a kind person WE, collectively, are so cruel that we allow these crimes against our fellow humans to happen unimpeded.

Well fine, you think, but what the hell am I supposed to do about that? I’m only one person. I don’t have any power.

But this is where you’re wrong. Every 2 to 4 years you vote for people that allow this to happen. Every 2 to 4 years you vote for lower taxes for yourself. Every 2 to 4 years you vote for those who are suffering to receive less, for corporations to receive more, and for the service that would alleviate many of the worlds problems get fewer and fewer dollars.

“Well, I give to charity!” I hear you saying. Well yes, you do but charities, both global and local, are a way for you to do a little to ease your guilt or to reinforce your good impulses. Charities are the single best way to justify governments ( which you voted in) to not pay for the service we need in our nations. We donate to charities so we don’t have to pay increased taxes for poverty, education, mental health, homelessness, or refuge services. Charities are a stop gap, a cheap, ineffective fix, that allows us as citizens to avoid our responsibleness to our fellow citizens.

Governments should pay for poverty, for refugees, for health, for education, for end of life care, for infrastructure, for all the services that charities or private businesses have no business being in because that business is our collective responsibility. Let business sell us phones and cars and presents to put under our Christmas trees, but take them out of the care of our fellow citizens. In a world of governments that take care of its citizens we don’t need charities. They become irrelevant.

“But we can’t afford all that,” you say. Well, more wealth is traveling across our globe now than in the history of our entire planet combined. Yet we, as citizens, chose not to pay for these issues to become solved once and for all. We as the wealthy, middle class, the poor, decide not to pay to address the growing needs of our fellow citizens or our planet. We choose to allow corporations to pay as little toward the well being of our fellow citizens as possible. We decided to enable the Über wealthy not to pay; we chose as the middle class to spend as little as possible, we decided to do this every time we go to the ballot box to vote. We decided to allow this growth in suffering to keep growing.

But I thought you said I was a nice person? You are. As an individual, you are a very thoughtful and kind person. But once I put you into a group that votes then you’re not very nice at all. You’re selfish. You, collectively, chose to turn your backs on your fellow citizens and allow suffering across the globe to increases.

So during this time of good will on earth and people of good will I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy, kinder, and more thoughtful New Year.