Saturday, 25 February 2012

February 25, 2012

At noon today, Mike escaped into another realm, like the white dog in Marshall Soules’ collage, like the way he disappeared in Bill Gaston’s dream.

Alison and I had been with him throughout the week, and he was visited by some much loved family members and friends. He signalled with raised eyebrows or frowns that he understood the conversations we were having as we “talked amongst ourselves.” There were many other dear  friends and family members who were not able to see him during these short two weeks, including his much admired older brother who arrived at the hospital just after Mike had died.

He was very well cared for in Nanaimo Hospital’s Palliative Care unit. I stayed overnight in Mike’s room  last night and was with him during the night when he was wakeful. This morning he was awake a lot and, when it was time, he was really ready to go and he just took off. Alison and I were with him, each holding a hand, on either side of the bed, with Victor lying quietly at his feet. We were very proud of his brave endurance of pain and his determined departure.

He had a good life and, we think, no regrets. He’d never been in hospital until all this began last fall.  As John Tucker said when he first heard Mike was ill, "Some people feel too strong to be thus afflicted. Mike is one of them." His life was too short, but we’re glad that his suffering was brief.

There was no one like him, and he will be with us forever.

Thank you all for your love and support. We read your messages to him every day and feel sure that they gave him comfort, as they did us.

From John and Audrey Knowles

Dear Carol, Suspending the blog seems right now. Reading your note makes it clear that this is a time of contracting, not expanding, focus. Besides, the blog has unleashed a flood that seems to be building, not abating! Even I woke this morning with a belkoom for Mike in my mind. Here it is, with much love to you both from John and me. May he go in peace. Audrey

Dear Mike,

You imagined choice ‒

A long swim,
No other voice.
But no, a slew
Of thoughtful tender beings
Is swimming with you.

Message from Margaret Fulton

Carol dear and family,  I have just reread all the tributes to Mike and you.   I can only repeat my love for you.
Knowing Mike's love of literature, I thought these few lines from Shakespeare at this time might be of some comfort for you:
There is Providence in the fall of a sparrow.  If it be now, 'tis not to come;
If it be not to come, it will be now,
If it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.
I'm sure that Mike and you and all his many friends are ready.  I am totally with you in spirit

Another From Rick and Adrianne in Cambodia

HI Mike, Carol and Alison,
Here we are in the middle of the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia, taking the clinic to it’s new destination on the Stung Sen River, it is day three and we are able to find internet... hard to believe. You are all travelling with us in our hearts and we know you are surrounded by family and friends and we wish we could be there with you if it was possible.
Mike you would laugh as Rick seems to find work to do on this slow boat/clinic and is constantly in motion, today it was figuring how to pump out the bilge by motor.  
You two have had many discussions together and spent time talking pumps and other Island living challenges. I wish you could have been on the shore when we were taking off, it was a bit of a gong show as the small boat that is towing us took off and those that were not coming with us were scrambling to get off the clinic and then the plank got caught and almost put the outside cooking stove through the wall. Then the clinic broke loose and we were adrift and Rick had to jump ashore and then he fell in to the water up to his waist, everyone yelling and pulling and jumping in the water trying to help. You can imagine!!!! Somehow Rick just can’t get away from “messing around with boats”.
We are sending you all our love and missing you all.
Adrianne and Rick
So glad Victor is there too, your trusted and constant companion
PS we do not know how to blog so are sending this the regular way
xoxoxox big hug!

Message from niece Sharon Matthews

I am thinking of the three of you, being brave together.  
It is amazing that in this time of great sorrow, you bring people together and make art out of it.
Uncle Mike’s “g-ness” is spreading, even as his physical being is going in the other direction.  
I echo what was said earlier – this world is a better place because of you three – your bravery and your powerful warmth and grace.
I am glad Uncle Mike cannot see me, barley able to type, a weeping woman at my computer.  But there it is.  
All my love,   

Message from Neil Smith

Like so many of us who care about you, we have followed the wonderful stories posted on the blog, and like so many of your friends, we struggle for meaning, question the lack of fairness, and try to make sense of what is happening in your lives.
But then we step back from our immediate sadness and we try to imagine your experience as you move from day to day.  It is in this imagining that we recognize the incredibly special thing you have created together as a family; the strength, intensity and deep love that the three of you share.
As we read through the blog, your influence on the lives of friends and colleagues is evident in each and every story. Each writer’s life is enriched by your fierce courage, infinite energy and full commitment to building a better world.

Together, you have truly offered us the very highest of standards – whether they be measured by love, moral courage, or humour.
For that we thank you.  Our hearts are with you ...    Neil and Deidre

Friday, 24 February 2012

From niece Leah

Dear Carol and Alison,

My sadness as I read of Mike's decline is profound, but it's tempered by admiration, wonder, and even laughter as I read the many messages on the blog, each of which captures Mike's essence in it's own unique way. What is also abundantly clear is the love the three of you have for one another and your strength as a family. All three of you are facing the unthinkable with inspiring bravery and dignity. It seems so unfair that the incredible love you have for one another should have to be disrupted, and yet I know it is the strength of this love which will get you through the dark times ahead.

With all of this in mind, I have a few more things to add to the list of 75 things we like about Mike. I won't bother trying to number them, because I'm sure others are also sending their lists. I fear I'm taking up more than my share, but I can't imagine anyone will object if there are more than 75 things on the list

That he married Carol (I like this for two reasons. It demonstrates that he was smart enough to recognize what an amazing woman Carol is, and it made him part of our extended family)

That he and Carol raised an amazing daughter

The way his eyes light up when he talks about Charlotte

That his profound love for his family is evident in everything he says and does

That he has touched the lives of so many family members, friends, colleagues and students

That he is, without a doubt, leaving this world a better place than he found it

Sending you much love,

Leah xoxo

from Sharon Tillie

Hi Carol,
Please know that I stand as a member of that wider ring of people who have been touched by you and your dear Mike and I offer you the words of this old Irish Sun blessing:

May the Longtime Sun Shine upon you.
All Love Surround You
May the Pure Light Within You
Guide your way Home.

sharon tillie

From Tricia Blair

Dear Mike and Carol,

I, like many many others, have been spending much time mulling over
times spent with you both. Many sweet images enter my mind’s eye. The
beautiful light of a summer evening making me feel like I was in an
Audrey Hepburn movie as we sat together on the deck on Protection with
good food, lovely wine and the best company. Sitting in a church in
Nanaimo in the afternoon listening to music with joy and peace because
you two had thought to invite Jay and I to come along with you - you
thought we might like it. The transformation of our kitchen into a
room full of culinary harmony when we had the chance to host you for a
meal now and then (because Carol, Jay and I don’t often cook together
so peacefully!). But the sweetest, most vivid and the most apt picture
that comes to mind is from the very first time you two came to visit
at out house. Hannah Lily was only five at the time. We knew you two
were coming and we prepared some cheese and bread and crackers - maybe
a few olives too. The power that you and Mike have to elicit grace and
generosity in those around you is so powerful that my five year old
daughter took it upon herself to help with all the preparations for
your visit. When we saw your car pull up in front of our house and we
said you were here, she opened the door, walked down the path to greet
you and announced “We’ve got everything ready for you!”. You see, she
had never met you but because of how Jay and I spoke of you and
because of the very essence of who you are (which if why we spoke -
and speak - of you the way we do) she became the generous and
welcoming host. This was NOT usual behaviour for her at the time!

Know that we love you and that we are ready and able to help in any
way we can.

Oh Carol. There really are no words.



From Al McWilliams

Oh, Dear Carol,
I can't imagine that unique force that is Mike being diminished, and so quickly. I really don't know what to say. I have tears and I feel for you and Alison - I do know that heartbreak is a real thing, it is physical, palpable. All Lyse and I can do is send you our love. Know that we are thinking of the three of you, Yes, he is a man of 'G' words - glint, glare, guffaw, gruff, grace, generous, grin...but never goofy.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

From Carol -- Thursday, February 23rd -- 10:20 pm

Things are worsening quickly. The main goal now is to keep Mike comfortable for the next few days, which likely means an increase in pain medication. Alison and I have just come home for the palliative care unit, having been assured by the nurses that Mike was likely to sleep comfortably through the night. We will return in the morning when we expect him to be more awake and a little more communicative.
He is very brave, dignified and accommodating, and it breaks our hearts to see how difficult all this is for him, especially since only a few weeks ago he was his hearty, hardy, humorous – OK, then, gleeful – self. In retrospect, I can see that he was worried about a few things, but they seem much like the worries we all have at this time of life: forgetfulness, mild confusion, lost keys, fatigue, and so on. Now we realize that he was likely ill for some time, that he probably had lung cancer for at least a couple of years, and maybe he was uncomplainingly ignoring some symptoms. Or maybe the symptoms were silent. In any case, after all the stresses he endured last fall (two surgeries, a long time on a catheter, and so on), the cancer just spread really quickly, affecting the spine, the pancreas, the brain and the liver as well as the lungs.
All of us, family and friends, are glad that he will not have to suffer an extended illness. He appeared hale and hearty until February 8th, when he was admitted to hospital for, I think, the first time in his life, and he has had an extraordinarily happy 74 years, entertaining himself and others and, as he liked to say, “exercising his faculties at large.”
We are hoping for a few more peaceful and comfortable days with him. Probably I will be staying at the hospital from tomorrow night on, and probably Alison will do so for a few days as well. We’ll keep adding to the list of things we love about Mike – it’s so easy to find those – but I think the blog may be a little silent for awhile.
Thanks so much to all of you for your expressions of love for Mike. It has been a great comfort to our family.

I Love That Man

Today I spoke to Brian and Marg Smith here at Parkridge, where Mum and Dad have their Nanaimo Condo, and they asked to pass on a message to Mike from Ray Lawrence.  Ray lives in the complex as well, and he is now in his late eighties.  Some years back he was a student in Mike’s English class at VIU.  Though I haven’t met Ray, I recognized his name because Mike had mentioned several times to me that he’d had a “wonderful” older student who was a pleasure to have in the classroom. Mike said Ray was a pleasure to have in the classroom, always so attentive and, as well as having his own intelligent comments, was so interested in what other younger students had to say.  

Ray’s message, upon learning of Mike’s situation, was “I love that man.”  He acknowledged that it is not the fashion now for a heterosexual man to profess love for another heterosexual man, although in Shakespeare’s time it was different. “But, he said, “I do love that man.”

It is such a comfort to know that my father’s students (and friends and family) love him so dearly.  And at this time, though my father’s decline continues at a shocking pace, I witness too the mighty and profound love between my parents.  Mike was dozing off holding Carol’s hand, and I started click-clicking again on the electronic thingy.  After a while, I looked up to see my father asleep in the hospital bed and my mother half asleep in the chair, still holding hands.  A very awkward position for my mother, and I suggested we could head out since he was settled.  “As long as he’s holding my hand, I’m not letting go,” she told me.

May we all have such fierce shepherds to keep watch over us.

Letter from Terence Young

Hi, Carol,

I was corresponding with my sister, Joan, and she told me she thinks she remembers meeting Mike at the old Munro's on Fort Street, and that he recommended Rose Tremain to her, for which suggestion she has been grateful ever since. With this small act and countless others you and Mike have influenced so many people. Lives well lived, I say, and my sister said, too, that this blog of yours bears witness to those lives beautifully, and at the right time when all that should be said gets said and not later. May it be so for all of us. I am no Alexander Pope who believes that "whatever is is right," but I can also see no other way than the one we've got, and am perplexed by it all. How much more so then must you be who are ahead of us on the path. Your strength and grace are an example to us all. Our Hollywood hearts are growing by leaps and bounds with every post and every testimony to Mike's greater heart. Tomorrow we send Liam back to Edmonton after hosting him for a few days during reading break, or what the Albertans call Family Week. Funny as the name sounds, we have been conscious of nothing but family the last little while, yours especially, how much larger you have made the idea seem with messages coming from around the world. I know I am glad to have been a part of it for all these years. Please tell Mike I never had a brother, older or younger, but he's pretty much what I would want if I could have the choice, one who cooks brilliantly and likes good scotch and a goofy project to occupy the body and the mind. All of that.

Much love to you both,


From the Frasers

Dear Mike and Carol et al,

It's at times like this that my memory plays the most damnable tricks on me. I could swear that we have a great picture somewhere of Mike standing in Ross and Judy's dining room, holding a glass of wine with a big, self-satisfied grin on his mug. I wanted to find the photo and forward it, but despite this damnable piece of technology in front of me, it eludes discovery. On reflection, maybe it never was a photo that I had, just a fond memory...

Speaking of which, I remember we came to your house on Brechin Road one cold Christmas Eve for a group reading of A Christmas Carol. As soon as we walked in your house I was immediately warmed by the smell of mulled wine and by the presence of loving souls. As the evening unfolded, though, what I remember most -- and it comes back to me every Christmas -- is an image of you, Mike, standing tall and holding your copy out in front of you with your glasses on your nose, and you just transformed and completely became Ebeneezer Scrooge. It was one of the most delightful bits of magic that I've ever seen, even if it wasn't that big a leap for you in some parts...!  

This an apropos moment to celebrate such warm memories, but also hopefully to express my overwhelming gratitude to you for everything you have shared of yourself with me, and with us -- your excellent company, your care and kindness, your wit and zeal, your intellect and wisdom, your love and compassion, and so much more. I also want to express our thanks for the blog because we feel so far away and a bit helpless, but the blog has helped us feel closer to you.

You are all in our hearts and we are thinking of you every day, wishing you all strength, grace and peace.

With all our love,
Jeremy (and Janet, Jennifer, Caitlyn, Emily and Heather)

Janice McCachen's letter to Carol

Dearest Carol,
Just hung up the phone with Lucy who was so glad to have spoken with you today, though sad too. You and Mike and Alison have been constantly in my thoughts.  This week I have been teaching the closing scenes of The Tempest and it seems to express so much of what is happening with your lives. Transformation especially:  "Nothing of him that doth fade but doth suffer a sea change into something rich and strange..." That part for sure. And Victor as Mike's magical spirit Ariel. Except that's you too.  And Alison. And Charlotte.  The blog shows how much you and Mike have and continue to transform other people's lives, make them richer (stranger? Well in a good way). And you live on a magical island and  Mike would make a great Prospero, with his rough magic,  except that he's not so much of a bully and he certainly has a better sense of humour.  And of course the problem with that play is no balance: where are all the women? When I read the speech "we are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded by a dream" I cried and my class (the sweetest group of  young souls)  was very impressed. The Epilogue too "Now my charms are all o'erthrown /and what strength I have's mine own/Which is most faint...As you from crimes would pardoned be/Let your indulgence set me free." That too.
Today I also was teaching an excerpt from Bertrand Russell's "The Happy Life" and we read this: "The happy man...feels himself a citizen of the universe; enjoying freely the spectacle that it offers and the joys that it affords, untroubled by the thought of death because he feels himself not really separate from those who will come after him.  It is in such profound instinctive union with the stream of life that the greatest joy is to be found." That too made me cry. Reading everyone's letters it is clear Mike holds that passport.
Lucy and I said how we are ready to be there when it's time for us to be or when you need us to be. You know that of course. Oh Carol.
Love Janice

Poem from Fred Wah

Dear Carol,
I tried posting this poem to the blog today but it ended up as a comment on the Crossword.
I don't have any cross words for Mike but I'd like him to have this.
love, Fred

Dear Mike,
maybe the body is poetry
and it rhymes (or doesn’t)
but now in our own old bodies
I think it’s easy to say that
harder to think it

The talk’s been a joy
(the poetry too
ok, novels)
but when I think of you
I think of your body
which is always where you are
slight query of your head
(just like Victor)
swaying height and tilted
like the ideogram for “man”
the intensity of running
no, that’s from your eyes

Well, I guess we do think in pictures
the mental life belongs to all of us
but the body is a beautiful poem
(at least that’s the plan)
we can read it and read it
and read it

So I see you dear friend
every part of you moving
like the words of a poem
(ok, and a novel)
our music at the heart of thinking
always there to be read

with love, Fred

Rod's List

          A Few Recollections, and 75 things we like about Mike
A few things from the past stick in the mind (but not guaranteed accurate): 
In Grade 8 (roughly 60 years ago), Mike, tasked to use the word 'tendentious' in a sentence, offered "Olive's breasts were tendentiously high, firm and well-separated." 
Robbed in early high school years of his closing line "Now I know the importance of being Ernest" by my premature closing of the curtain—despite the attempt of Miss Langridge hanging on the curtain rope to forestall me—Mike offered me condolences for my mistake, rather than condemnation for my theft of his spotlight moment. 
Robbed later in high school of fame for his adaptation of Julius Caesar, the one that introduced the character of Little Caesar to clear the stage at the close, by my failure to deliver my one line audibly, Mike was again accepting of my incompetence (though I believe he lost that tolerance with respect to politicians in all places later on). 
Much later, in the Elder College role he created to back Alice Munro in cage matches against all comers—even Mavis Gallant—Mike returned to the tolerant classroom persona that clashed so violently with his moments of political commentary.

75 things we like about Mike in his 75th year (to be completed by others on the blog):
1.    1, the rants (of course)
2.     2.the plantain breakfasts (of course)
3.     3.the turkey mole
4.    4. the inspirational guidance to aspiring young chefs
5.     5. his communion with Victor 

          6. his espresso (WHAT!? sugar! Hrrrumph)
          7. the gusto in which he embraced...everything. 
  1. 8. the logs he loves to move on the beach he loves to tromp across to get at them and the grimace he loves to make every time he lifts one.
    (Terence Young)

    9. his welcoming, generous and caring nature
    10. his honesty (whether we want his opinion or not
    11. his imagination and creativity
    (niece Leah, with love and admiration)

    12.The fact that he knows even less about septic tanks than me.
    (Dag Goering)

    13. his pruning technique (or, how not to be intimidated just because it’s bigger than you)
    14. his letters, and his insistence on writing them to a digital world
    15. the way his eyes light up just before an especially good rant
    16. his delight when you accept a second helping
    17. the comments he offered on my graduate English essays(with love, niece Darcy)

    18. the way he wouldn't dream of harvesting logs from across the invisible border on the beach: Those are Sprout logs! (we wouldn't have minded)
    (Frances Sprout)

    19.  the fact that he created a Fetish. To guard the house or maybe to protect his logs or keep his septic pump going or just because?
    20.  that he was delighted to receive 5 gallons of kidney beans for his birthday
    21.  he could rant and rave and yet be gentle in editing
    (Liz HK)

    22. his unbeatable homemade salsa
    23. his disdain for sentimentality
    24. his lavish improvidence
    25. his encyclopedic command of trivial facts
    26. his love of dimes because they fit so neatly into his coinsaver
    27. his utter lack of elitism, sexism, racism, or most other "isms"...though he does admire prisms.
    28. his magnificent collection of pens.  And glasses.
    (Carol & Alison) 

    29. His strength.

    30. His laugh.

    31. His tableaux - and the gusto he brings to all performances.

    32. His love of the arts, from the Bard, to basketball.

    33. The born teacher in him.

    34. His appreciation of the little things, as well as the big ones.

    35. Himself.

    (niece Lauren)

    35. His disgust with the use of the word "multiple" or of any large word when a smaller one would do as well.
    36. His big expressive hands, too large to be fitted with gloves.
    37. His long arms that can reach the highest shelves
    38. His long eyelases that he gave to his daughter and grandaughter
    39. His dislike of anything cute
    40. His love of everything grandly Mozartian

    41. That he married Carol (I like this for two reasons. It demonstrates that he was smart enough to recognize what an amazing woman Carol is, and it made him part of our extended family)
    42. That he and Carol raised an amazing daughter
    43. The way his eyes light up when he talks about Charlotte
    44. That his profound love for his family is evident in everything he says and does
    45. That he has touched the lives of so many family members, friends, colleagues and students
    46. That he is, without a doubt, leaving this world a better place than he found it
    (niece Leah)

    47. his no nonsense "stomp stomp stomp, splash" into the bay!
    48. his subtle ;) warnings to my dog Henry about where each dog gets to go/bark where when visiting the bay.
    49. his influence on my 10 year career as a bad ass chef!
    50. that he shared his summer visitors with my little brother and me for years(and fed us, and made us feel pretty special)
    (Megan Sprout)

51. His concern about dishes touching in the dishwasher.
52. "Smuggy, smuggy, smuggy!"
(son-in-law Alex)


    A Crossword for Mike

    Ok I know it isn't a challenging cross word, but defiantly a worth while one.  All of us here are sending lots of love to you and your family.
    Krista, Fredrik, Dexter, Lola and Ruby

    Fw: O Teacher, My Teacher

    A Message from Rhonda Lillard:
    Hi Carol,
    I don't think anyone has yet written about Mike's important work as a teacher, a role he threw himself into with all the characteristic traits already mentioned...gusto, glee, and grumpy grace. As just one of his hundreds (thousands?) of former students, I can attest to his greatness. We all have, if we're lucky, at least one teacher who really makes a difference. Mike was such a one for me.
    Mike was my theatre instructor at Malaspina in the early 70s. Having already been a member of a small theatre group in Ontario, I thought I was pretty hip, but Mike imparted, as no other instructor before or after, the sheer magic of The Play. From Antigone to Uncle Vanya, he provided insightful background information and encouraged us out from our comfort zones to strut our stuff. I can still see him striding into the class (one of those dreadful portable classrooms at the Kennedy St. campus), ready to rock our complacent adolescent worlds.
    I remember two particular shows that Mike directed. One was a modern-dress version of Moliere's "The Physician in Spite of Himself," in which Mike cast me (for reasons I now blush to think) as the wet-nurse. He and Carol have a photograph of me on stage in this production...with my big hair and short, tight nurse's uniform! (How much ransom $ for that photo, Mike?) And another memorable show was Dylan Thomas's "Under Milk Wood,"
    which was eventually filmed, at the seaside, somewhere near Yellowpoint I think. I wonder if that film still exists in college archives?
    Anyway, Mike was instrumental in my choosing to complete a BFA in Theatre at UVic, and while it's not been the most useful of undergraduate degrees, it has served me well in other walks of life. "All the world's a stage...(and I'm leaving on the next one.)"
    If we're lucky, remarkable teachers can also become remarkable friends. To have never lost touch, after all these years, means a great deal. Thanks Mike. Thanks Carol.
    My love to you both,

    Frances's photo

    Sunrise on Protection Island

    Hi Carol,

    Megan and I have both left comments on the blog earlier, but they may  
    have been lost in the wonderful plenitude you and Mike have inspired.

    I don't need this to be uploaded to the blog (unless you wish to do  
    so), but thought you might find some small comfort in an image taken  
    from our shared beach this morning.  We do miss seeing the lights on  
    next door . . .

    We'll be heading to Victoria on Saturday to talk wedding plans with  
    Zach and Joey, but otherwise are available if you need anything  
    brought over or want someone to check anything in the house. Just give  
    us a call.

    hugs to you and Mike
    and a pat on the head to Victor (after the usual wary inspection, of course)

    p.s. I hope you don't mind, but I ended up mentioning you and Mike  
    (without names) on my blog this morning. If you're uncomfortable with  
    that, I'll delete the post:

    From Adrianne and Rick in Cambodia

    Dear Carol,

    I can imagine you are click, click, clicking through so many e-mails and here is one more. I just needed to write you again.  I truly wish I was there now but I will soon be home and be there with you. It is so hard to believe this is all happening.
    The other day in the village a woman came to see us; she told us her story of how she had ten children and her husband drowned in the floods, she could not afford to bury him and so they put a rock around his waist and  sunk him in the Lake, she cried as she told us her story and my heart broke for her. We were able to help her with some thatch for her house and a fishing net so she could feed her children. I thought of myself and my loss and I thought of you and your loss and I thought of how loss has no culture and no boundaries. It also reminded me about how strong we are and how we can face losses even though we do not think it possible at times. I know you are facing this head on with courage and grace..just as Mike is.
    We are off again tomorrow for another 7 hour journey. I am tired and wish I was home but I also know what we are doing here is helping many  people, the people in the village were at the clinic all morning getting medicine and getting help and we felt good that we could all bring this to such an isolated area. Thanks to you and Mike for always being such a part the work  here. Please tell Mike how much we have always appreciated his wonderful support. Please give him a hug from me.
    Sending you love,

    ...from Ross MacKay

    I was at the pub yesterday with some English department folk (Frances Sprout, Marni Stanley, Terri Doughty, Brenda Sully, Dawn Thompson), and of course, we were talking about Mike and how great a colleague he was.  The unifying theme was the great love he had for his work and his students, and his quirky, mischievous sense of humour.  A few tears were shed.  Everyone is concerned for your well-being through this ordeal, but confident that your strength, optimism, and the love you have for each other will help you through it.  

    All these qualities and more you have generously shared with the huge community you have built together, something that is evident in every post on your magnificent blog.

    Love and blessings from Ross, Lynne, and family.

    Message from Linda McDonell

    Dear Carol:
    I wanted to let you know that I heard news of Mike’s illness late last week and have been thinking lots about you over the past few days. Mostly I have been thinking about how supportive and caring you and Mike have always been to others and what a force you are as a team. I always have had an urge to suppress a giggle when I am with you both - even when there is no joke as I know there is one coming from one or other of you!
    I have checked the blog to keep up with what is happening – after a rather stressful effort to become a google account holder! I am not sure if I am ashamed or proud to say I have no experience with facebook or any of the other social network sites so I was a bit nervous to become a google friend. All was good, I had access and thought I was set to go. Sadly, I can’t get back in! Drat! Please accept this email in lieu. What an amazing list of contributors!
    Take care both of you. It must be great comfort to know there are so many friends who love you and are there for you even if in spirit and not person! Count John and me as two more.
    With lots of love and white light your way,

    Wednesday, 22 February 2012

    From Pauline Butling

    Dear Mike and Carol
    I've been so touched by all the tributes from friends and family: what an incredibly rich life you've led together.  I myself seem to be at a  loss for words other than to say that our hearts are with you and we hold you close. I'm sending you a playful/serious Phyllis Webb poem (It's from a section called "The Birds" in her book titled Water and Light) that seems right for this moment. I hope it resonates for you, "if only for the sound of"
    Grey-eyed dryad, have you seen one if only for the sound of grey-eyed dryad. Or gull gone into blue empyrion, the liftof wind fabulous, flowing, free-for all.Nothing is pure praxis,axis of this globe sends degree by degree us into curvedpath of portent, accident, perishableeye-sad dryad. Look at her. Here.The varied thrush, the orchard oriole,the crying dove, the skin-smooth olivegreen, olive-green, with a red pimiento heart.
    Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

    Message from Kory and Ian

    Mike and Carol   Thinking of both of you at this very challenging time in your life. Keeping you in our thoughts and hoping for the best.         Kory and Ian

    Anecdote from Caroline Purves

    Hi, Carol and Alison and Mike,

    That story of the boys on Snake Island reminded us of a time you came
    to our rescue. We had come to Nanaimo for Christmas after we'd gone
    back to the States and were left completely stranded on Boxing Day. I
    hadn't thought to buy food; every story was closed, as was the hotel,
    so we 4 were well and truly stuck. So we called you and you and Mike
    had us over for a wonderful Boxing Day dinner, and we all watch Raising
    Arizona. True friends in deed.


    Thinking of you with love.


    Mike's triumphs

    ------Original Message------
    From: George Bowering
    To: Waywordr
    Subject: Re: Dear Mike
    Sent: Feb 22, 2012 4:19 PM

    Okay, I will admit, for the sake of argument, that you may have been
    a better stage actor than I was.

    I was today re-reading your letter of August 3rd and 8th. I have to say
    that it is one of the greatest letters of all time, easily matching or surpassing
    John Keats, Samuel Pepys and Gordy Lipkowitz.

    Well, it was just an honour, for a rube from the Okanagan, to be on the
    same UBC stage with you, eh? And then you showed me the ropes at the
    Ubyssey and the Raven.

    I got to play on the same ball team in Montreal, and then I think I got
    to be on some committees trying to withhold degrees from you in Montreal AND

    I got to co-author a novel with you, and you were the funniest of the 4 authors.
    But I was pretty funny too. So the book did not win any awards? Well,
    neither did Jake Zilber or Gordy Lipkowitz.

    But here's my favourite thing. When you were working on the docks in
    Montreal, once in a while a crate would break and i got to help eat what had been inside.

    I love you, fellow.

    George Bowering
    The pen is mightier than the pencil.

    Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

    Fwd: we love you

    Message from Steph Johnson and family
    Dear Carol & Mike. I'm so grateful you've been keeping us in the loop during this sad time in your lives. My folks and I have been reading and re-reading your beautiful blog - numerous times throughout the days and feel right by your side in this journey. 

    I've longed for my life the experience of feeling the 'big' love you two share together. You are beautiful partners to each other - true friends, supportive, silly, solid, caring all come to mind. I can't imagine one without the other. 

    Please know, we are sending our love to you and your family and all that love you too.

    All our love,

    Stephanie, Delores & Jim Johnson 

    From God-Niece Nancy

    Uncle Mike Auntie Carol and Alison.

     As I sit here and write this I can only imagine the pain and emotions you are experiencing.  I am struggling with the reality of what is happening and how quickly.  I so badly wish to come be by your side.  I feel so helpless in Kelowna right now it seems so far away.  Yet as I read  Mike’s Blog all three of you sound so strong.  Please read this to Uncle Mike.  Thank you Uncle Mike for being my God Father and a wonderful one at that.  I saw you less in my adult life yet you gave me so much.  It goes way back to when I was a little girl at Salt spring even then I felt your compassion, caring and support.  I always remember the comfort you gave so generously.  When Grandpa Matthews passed away suddenly that Easter weekend and you came back to Salt spring for the second time that weekend to Grammas’ house.  All the adults were in the living room discussing the plans as Adults; you came into the Den where the grandchildren were and sat down and expressed your sorrow over the loss of our pet dog Pogan.  Even in your time of deep grief you reached out supported and grieved with us.   Thank you Uncle Mike and Auntie Carol for all your family publishing’s  you have provided me with you wrote them with pride and all your heart and they have given me  a knowledge and love of my family history I wouldn’t have otherwise known was there.  I read your most recent “C.G. MATTHEWS: A Son’s Account By M.P. Matthews”  all in one sitting I couldn’t put it down regardless of what “needed” doing. In the first paragraph you write about this memoir being of some interest to another generation family member down the line.  This was very true and fulfilling for me.  I also want to say how much your presentations of heart at family functions have meant to me weather they came in the form of poetry , songs or productions they really showed heart, feeling and creative expression of your love of us and family.  Thank you also for taking the time in your travels to Vernon to make a point of stopping by and visiting Mariah and I or taking us out for lunch.  I will Cherish those times. Another example of how you go out of your way  to show your dedication, and care to show your love. You three  are constantly in my thoughts and I immediately stop and pray for you.  May you feel all the love and support behind the courage and strength you three have and are showing as you live in this painful difficult time.  As well may it be an intimate time of closeness and support for the three of you that you can hold forever.
     With much love, hugs and prayer
    Nancy and Mariah.


    We are now in a private room which is very comfortable. Victor is looking after everything, as you can see, steadily seated on Mike's chest atop Sue's lovely quilt while we all listen to the very beautiful recording of Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience which Ross McKay brought.

    On the tables are the orchids Michelle Dartnall brought, the antherium that niece Dana brought, and the Witch Hazel from Alison Watt as well as the great many cards from so many dear friends.

    Mike is peaceful, wearing his Black Apples shirt and enjoying the messages we read to him from so many wonderful friends and family members -- friends from all over Vancouver Island, from BC, from Quebec, Halifax, Berkley, Israel, Bali, Barbados.

    Alison is always at hand with gingerale and quiet conversation. Liza and Kim LeDuc come and take Victor for walks.

    Yesterday we had visits from two nieces, a nephew, 3 doctor friends, and 2 other friends. Mike enjoyed it all but it was a bit tiring. Today we are focusing on tranquility.

    Friends on PI and at Parkridge and in Nanaimo have been enormously supportive. I can't begin to list those who brought or offered soup, casseroles and cakes. All much appreciated. For now we are well- stocked but later on we will surely take up those offers with great gratitude.

    Things move forward steadily, gently. Alison and I may stay all night tonight. At some point this evening Mike might have a small glass of Ross's 14 yr old scotch. Alison and I feel things are pretty good, given everything.

    Mike in Black Apples Shirt, Victor keeping watch

    From Margaret Horsfield

    Dear Carol: Waking in the night and thinking of you and Mike,  out of the blue I found myself thinking "Let the wild rumpus begin,"  a phrase I associate with Mike much more than Sendak.  At some large gathering at your place --  when, for whom, I can't remember --  he looked fiercely around at the crowd and suddenly declaimed this phrase, to no one in particular -- and grinned.  I cannot tell you how often I've used that phrase ever since -- with Emma, at parties, on birthday cards -- all thanks to Mike.  Sure I'd read the book, remembered the phrase, but I hadn't really GOT it till I heard his version   -- and saw the grin. You may know that Maria Coffey has a birthday this weekend, turning sixty, no less.  Now a commonplace event amongst friends, and coming my way in just over a year  -- but back when the world was puddle-wonderful and so much younger, I never imagined being so old.  The first sixtieth birthday party I ever attended was Mike's on Protection Island.  With a belly dancer in attendance.  A wild rumpus all around, and one I've not forgotten, especially Mike's face when the dancer (Lynette?) came on the scene.

    I loved Alison's sketch of Victor.

    May time pass as gently as possible for you. 

    with love Margaret 
    Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

    Message from Chris Yeomans

    Dear Carol and Mike
    Thinking of you both...
    Thinking of your family and friends
    Wondering what words could convey some comfort
    Perhaps only that I care...
    Only that I am open to share
    Loving ,loss, connectedness


    Message from Kimberly Saward in U.K.

    Dear, dear Carol,
    I am so moved by reading the words of your family long-time friends as they pay tribute to Mike... and to you, too.
    I can feel your depth as your spirit moves with me throughout the day.... as I wonder how you are doing, remembering the oh-so-sacred nature of the bittersweet days while we were in the hospital with Aaron a few Christmases ago, and that I remember from my own experiences as loved ones embarked on their own journeys through the dying process. I know these are deep and difficult days, but I also believe that you are holding them in heartful ways. In my limited way, I am sending you energy, and love, often throughout the day, and when I wake at night....
    And I trust that the humor that has punctuated your life will also weave through these days in the hospital with Mike!
    I wish I could magically appear and whisk you off to share a cup of coffee and a chat....
    Much love,

    Message from Patricia Young

    dearest cj

    just want you to know i'm thinking of you and mike tonight and wondering how you are both holding up.  it is very hard what you are going through but you're doing it so well and for each other.  i know this. you are both amazing and i love you dearly.


    Alison Watt's Portrait of Victor

    When I first heard that the palliative ward would welcome Victor I was relieved. Victor was after all that man's best (four-legged) friend. They are deeply attached and, as a Protection Islander, one of those oddly comforting aspects that make up the fabric of "home" has been, for me, seeing Mike and Victor on their daily walks. But having been greeted on these walks and at Carol and Mike's door countless times by Victor's loud and long Arooo's I was anxious that he might not "fit in" on that hushed ward. 
    Yesterday I spend time with Carol at the hospital. It was very touching to see Victor's somewhat worried expression. He is clearly perplexed but somehow he seems to know what to do. He curls up quietly on Mike's bed, where every so often Mike's hand will extend to rest on his head. Victor has quickly learned that people come and go around Mike. But he greets friend and stranger quietly and when he needs to vacate the bed he curls up in his own little bed on the floor. Here's a quick sketch I made of him there yesterday.

    Message from Mary Todd in U.K.

    Warm thoughts and thanks from across the ocean!
    At a time of such deep emotion, and being nearly 5K miles distant in Bristol, UK, how completely wonderful it is to feel close to you - Mike, Carol and Alison - at this time.  since hearing last evening, I'm filled with thoughts of such rich sharing over 28 years with all of you in BC and UK, incl. my beloved Yorkshire!  you are indeed part of my 2nd family and reading your heartbreaking updates is so warming and inclusive - many many thanks.
    my mind is filled with so much of who you are Mike, that words can’t match, and how you’ve enriched my life.  and especially I’m reflecting on the walk you and I took with Victor on Protection on my last visit, and such an evident deep bond between you has been revived with all the wonderful pix posted from your bedside now.  a particular memory I hold with such warmth is of setting off on my intro for you both to my home county Yorkshire and you saying 'Mary this had better be worth it after all your pestering us!' but even within the first 24 hours I was a mite happier to realise you thought it was!!  at such a difficult time it is so special to continue to receive so much from you Carol & Alison - and good to know that messages are possibly the best way of giving back to you right now.  Mike you're so much in my thoughts from across the ocean, all you are and have been for me over the decades, my warmest love - as indeed to you Carol and Alison my wishes for continuing courage and strength.  Mary

    Words of Mike

    From: Liz Hammond-Kaarremaa
    Sent: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 2:46 PM
    To: Carol Matthews
    Subject: a picture for you

     Carol & Mike,
    Attached are just some of the words people kept using when talking about
    Mike.  Mike seems to Generate a lot of words beginning in G: grace,
    glee, graceful, generous, grammatical, gusto, glare, gentle, grin, grr
    and GREAT.

    Liz H-K

    Tuesday, 21 February 2012

    favorite haiku?

    Subject: favorite haiku?

    Hi Mike,

    Do you have a favorite haiku?


    Not like anything
    they compare it to---
    the summer moon.

    -Basho (tr. Robert Hass)

    Hugs from Hornby,


    Message from Heather Cooling

    I have been reading the blog. You and Mike, Carol, have touched so many people. Everytime I read a quotation, or story or memory related by a friend, or one of your wonderful extended family, I exclaim, yes , yes, that is so true. Glee, wit, glare, kindness, talent, funny, flare, grace, kindness and generosity, on and on.  What a great man!
    And my brain is overloaded with my own memories and pictures.    I could also bring my own many many stories. But I won't try now.
    For now, here are  a few of my very personal 'photos' which I will aways conjure up to remember Mike.  I will remember looking out my upstairs window, or up from working in the garden, and spot Victor walking Mike every day, rain, cold, sun or fog. They were a real pair - friends, I see, forever. If the gate was open, Victor would pull Mike down our path, and the two-legged one would sigh and say - Heather, once you feed the 4-legged one a bisquit, he will be forever wanting another from you , he will never forget.  I always told Mike, I want him to remember I was an easy take.
    And Mike plunging into Blunderbus Bay. Not wimpering with trepidation about the cold water, or taking forever to get wet, but thrusting his body through the seaweed and flotsam, perhaps swimming for only a few minutes and then leaving it for us, Carol, to take our time talking and bobbing around. If it was warm, he did stay to discuss - what? - well any topic was fair game,  I recall.
    And so many good meals at your PI tables, inside and out. All with such fine conversation, wine, and frequent Mike rants.
    (What did he rant about that last time at the Travelodge?  Perhaps Chris remembers.)
    I will always remember dropping in to see you two - often without notice - and stay for tea, or a little cup of strong coffee. And more great discussion.  And being welcomed by Victor, of course.
    I would like to be there with you.  I can't physically, but I am with you emotionally. 
    Jim and I are thinking of you constantly, and wishing peace for all of you. We love you Carol and Mike.
    I hope Mike will remember us with a nod.   
    More later. I am tearing up.
    Much love to all, Heather
    (Jim may write later - or wait till he sees you - he does not handle this well).

    Message from an old pal

    Thanks George. I read this to Mike and he was pleased but raised his eyebrows at the last sentence and indicated that it was clearly an understatement.
    ------Original Message------
    From: George Bowering
    To: Waywordr
    Subject: Re: Rimbaud and You and Me
    Sent: Feb 20, 2012 5:02 PM

    Dear Mike,

    I am writing by this infernal system because I thought who the hell is going to pick up mail on Protection Island anyway? So here goes. I will in all likelihood screw it up.But at least in my failure I will be able to remind myself that I am writing to a person who shares my distrust of these things with screens and keyboards.

    We are just back from the poetry festival at Gabriola Island, where I was of course brilliant, and got lots of free food, and made friends with the cook lady after getting off on the wrong foot. On the way back, just as we were getting back into our auto in preparation for disembarkation, or as Victor calls it, disemBARKation, we met your son in law and grand daughter and a woman we did not know, looking for their car.

    Next weekend we will be doing the Galleano poetry festival, and staying 45 minutes north of the venue, so that I will have to get up in the morning before the sun is out, I think. When DOES the sun come up? I asked my dear Jean, "See? How many of your earlier husbands took you to Pacific islands?

    Here is what I want to know. Was Charlotte enrolled at Montroyal school as a kind of doffing of the hat to that murky city in Quebec? On the boat she and I gave each other coded eye signals such as were not seen much less understood by the lesser beings around us.

    And after all these years I have to tell you that when we were in plays together at UBC, you were every bit as good an actor as I was.

    George Bowering
    Obtuse but friendly.

    Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

    A happy day at Rosh Hanikra

    Thank you, Pnina and Francois

    Fw: Words

    Thanks, Darcy. Good words for Mike...

    Dear Carol and Mike,
    I've loved seeing how, in these posts, we find ourselves talking about the words we use to talk about Mike. It seems a fitting tribute to Mike's deep attention to language. I was especially touched by Jean's and Alison's posts today, because just last night I found myself making a list of the words that I associate with Mike, and of course "arms" and "glee" and "King Wenceslas" were all on it.  here are some others:

    Open (as in arms, or a bottle of hearty red wine)
    Aha,  (intrigued) or Aha! (triumphant)
    Cher (only those of you who witnessed that historic game of charades will understand, but I have never since been able to think of Cher any other way)
    Gruncle (the grieces and grephews know)
    Grill (mixed)
    Cahoots (long story that includes Partridge's etymological dictionary)
    Green Man

    But mostly right now I wanted to share someone else's words. Looking at the poem Directions, posted earlier by John Lampman, I was very struck by how it echoes Levine's Ask For Nothing. When Ross and I were married, you gave us this poem as a kind of blessing or totem - stipulating only that we were to change the "alone" in the first line to "together." Tonight we offer it back to the two of you, likewise, and with all our love.

    Ask For Nothing

    Instead walk together in the evening
    heading out of town toward the fields
    asleep under a darkening sky;
    the dust risen from your steps transforms
    itself into a golden rain fallen
    earthward as a gift from no known god.
    The plane trees along the canal bank,
    the few valley poplars, hold their breath
    as you cross the wooden bridge that leads
    nowhere you haven't been, for this walk
    repeats itself once or more a day.
    That is why in the distance you see
    beyond the first ridge of low hills
    where nothing ever grows, men and women
    astride mules, on horseback, some even
    on foot, all the lost family you
    never prayed to see, praying to see you,
    chanting and singing to bring the moon
    down into the last of the sunlight.
    Behind you the windows of the town
    blink on and off, the houses close down;
    ahead the voices fade like music
    over deep water, and then are gone;
    even the sudden tumbling finches
    have fled into smoke, and the one road
    whitened in moonlight leads everywhere.

    Darcy Dobell  |  Vice President, Pacific Region |  WWF-Canada
    t: 604.694.6651 | c: 604.616.2443  |