The two blank sympathy cards have been sitting on the shelf in the corner now for over a week. Why are they so hard to write?
“You are,” I chastise my refection in the computer screen, “supposed to be a writer. Why can’t you write?
Cousin Al’s passing came pretty fast. He fought it hard. Used a sense of dry humor that I even remember from back when we were kids. The guy was really funny when he was eight years old.
You fear a sympathy card just wouldn’t carry the message. Just wouldn’t say it. A sympathy card would end a story. And you really, really, really don’t want to begin with an end.
So you stop with the search for wisdom you don’t have. You listen. Like writers do. You try to pay attention.
Your brother sends Allan’s twitter feed. Both of you amused by the fact that his twitter handle was “Rainmanreuters.” That fit well.
You start reading his stories. You pause.
He was really good.
And then from the reading, from that looking for clues, you get a chance to act. To do something besides the card. Allan’s colleague, Nicole Mordant, is participating in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.
She’s riding to fund the research so others won’t have to go through what Al went through.
You send what you can send here:
And then you remember, when you can’t write . . . . . read!
So you read what a pro wrote. You remember why God made reporters when you read something this well said. Janet Guttsman. Al’s boss writes:
“Dedicated master of quirk Allan Dowd, pictured, died this month in a Vancouver hospital at the age of 52. Allan, who delighted in the oddball stories that everyone loves to read, joined Reuters in Vancouver in 1998 after several years working in Maine as a stringer for Reuters, Maine Public Radio and other news organisations. Born in Rochester, New York, where his mother still lives, Allan was an old-school Reuters all-rounder, able to tackle any story that might come up including business, commodities and sports. But he was happiest with politics, general news and brights, where he really made his mark on the news file. His colleagues speak fondly of his dry humour, and of his stories. There was the tale about the sasquatch, and whether it had any connection to the UFO, or the one of the single feet that washed up on BC coasts – four right feet and one left foot, according to a 2008 story – and where they might be from. He could write with sensitivity and tenacity, as shown by his years of coverage of Vancouver’s notorious case of dozens of missing women, and the gruesome trial of murderer Willie Pickton.
Allan went to his doctor with what he thought was a mysterious, hard-to-shake cold in July, just weeks after reporting on the rioting that erupted when Vancouver lost in the finals of the Stanley Cup. It turned out to be a particularly aggressive form of lymphoma, and he died on 10 January. His mother, and his sister Laura were with him. Special thanks from the Reuters family to all the Vancouver journalists who stepped in to help when Allan fell sick, but especially to his Reuters colleague Nicole Mordant.”
Those blank sympathy cards have now somehow moved from the shelf in the corner over to your desk. Almost ready to be tackled.
You wonder if it was all that good reporting that made you want to stop typing and pick up your pen to write the cards. Maybe it was the thought of that bicycle ride. Later on this year. A 130 mile ride from Vancouver to Seattle.
You imagine the sights of that ride. You hope Nicole makes her goal for the money and finishes the ride.
And then from somewhere, from the blessed unknown, comes this image of a very large, smiling Buddha like Hawaiian man strumming a ukulele and singing like a golden sunrise angel.
You picture Al listening to this guy sing. Getting the guy to talk. Getting the interview.
The story is never over.
So now you can write the cards.
Take care Al.