Time goes by

29 April 2024

In 1994, long before Facebook or Instagram would flood our timelines with RIP’s for lost celebrities, John Candy died unexpectedly. I was inconsolable; in fact, I was shocked by just how emotional I was. I called my best friend Woody to talk to him about it. We’d grown up on John Candy; first in SCTV and later in movies like The Blues Brothers, Stripes and Splash. As we chatted and laughed about those cinematic mile markers in our life, I began to understand my response to his loss. John Candy had been with us – a buddy of sorts - through a very transitional time between those awkward teenaged years and our early adulthood. He made us laugh and cry, and laugh and think, and laugh and get mad. His death was the first real evidence that life was fragile.
Today, some 30 years after the world lost John Candy, I’m remembering that phone call with Woody. Tuesday, April 30th marks what would have been his 61st birthday. He's been gone for 8 years and I miss him every day. This blog was inspired by him and the acknowledgement that death is unpredictable and life doesn’t come with any guarantees.

We wander through this world, unwinding the days with work and family and friends. Sometimes we do a great job of balancing all three and sometimes we fail, but we do what we can.
And time goes by.
We create families of our own and we work through the idea of what it means to be a good parent or a good partner or a good colleague. We buy things. Waccumulate stuff.
And time goes by
Families grow or move or change. In my case I tunnelled out from under depression and into another life by necessity. I honestly think if I’d continued down the road I was on 16 years ago, I wouldn’t be here writing about this now. Unfortunately, that decision cost me a connection to my grown children. I’ve tried to reconnect with them over the years but so far, my attempts have been met with silence or anger. Truthfully, I think I failed them in a haze of sadness and despair. Their silence and absence are my karma, or maybe that’s too harsh. It could be either, or both.
And time goes by.
Throughout most of my life I’ve been lucky to have other family members at my side. My mom outlived the 10-year lifespan of her 1990 bypass surgery by two decades. My dad has had serious medical issues but he still lives in my childhood home, golfs three times a week and, although he misses my mom intensely, he has a pretty good life. My sisters are healthy and happy and contribute significantly to the communities they live in. My wife is an amazing woman who has an all-encompassing heart. In the 16 years since I met her, life has been better than I could have hoped for.
And time goes by.
I’ve learned a few things as all that time has passed and I keep trying to learn more but one recurring lesson has become impossible to ignore; we’re not guaranteed anything.
I’ve never subscribed to the concept of a supreme being but I do believe we all are part of something much larger. My comfort - my faith - comes from the backbeat, the power chord, the pocket, and the groove. It comes from Rock and Roll. Time moves more slowly when I’m immersed in a song or a concert or a performance, but it still moves.
And time goes by.
Each time Woody's birthday rolls around on the calendar, I’m reminded of the lesson I learned from John Candy. We’re brought into the world and after that. all bets are off. If we’re lucky we live a long life surrounded by a loving family and the friends we’ve collected along the way. We assume those friends and family will always be with us; until they’re not. And when they’re not, we often look back and wonder, “Did I do enough?” “Did they know I loved them?”
Once in a while the universe gives us a not-so-gentle nudge in the right direction: John Candy, Matthew Perry, David Bowie, Prince. We share collective memories of their art and its effect on us, but the connection isn’t substantial. We didn’t hold their hand at a wedding or sit with them when a child was sick. The loss of a cultural or artistic icon will subside but if you’re open to it, you can take that momentary celebrity loss and use it to affect the people you are connected to. You don’t have to be married to someone to let them know you love them. I have so many friends through music and hockey and just plain living, and I have love for all of them. Some make me laugh every time I see them. Some make me feel stronger. Some just surround and infuse me with an incredible level of contentment. All of them make my life better and I’m pledging right here that if you do, if you did, if you might, I’ll let you know. And here's a little unsolicited advice; you should do the same. You never want to be standing beside a friend at the end of their life wondering if you said or did enough to let them know that their life made your life great.
Ultimately, you can only control what you say and what you do to let others know you love them. The one thing you can’t control is…..
Time goes by.