The second post I wrote for the blog back on November 13, 2006 was a eulogy to one of my dearest friends in the world Ryan (Ron) Taylor. Ryan was not happy with the name Ron and those of us who met him in Ottawa at a certain time in his life knew him as Ryan; his family and earlier friends knew him as Ron. No matter what name you knew him under you knew a charming, erudite, maddening, learned, witty, irritating, gentle and loving person.
By that strange alignment of the stars that we call serendipity a post about books by Old Lurker reminded me of the last note I received from Ryan. It came in a neatly (being from him of course it was) wrapped parcel containing a book. The book was Boy’s Like Us – an anthology of short coming-out stories/essays – and the note simply said “Darling boy, I won’t need this anymore.” The next day I received a phone call telling me his body had been found in the Niagara River.
I was fortunate to be able to keep in touch with some of his family: his cousin Dayle, his niece and, again through serendipity, his brother who lived in the building we moved into when we returned from Italy in 2011.
On May 30th, a day after reading Luker’s post, I received an email from Dayle telling me that she had taken Ryan’s ashes to England and he had found his final resting place: the small village of Grasmere in the Lake District. In the nearby church yard is the grave of William Wordsworth, a poet who’s works he treasured.
And when the stream that overflows has passed, A consciousness remains upon the silent shore of memory; Images and precious thoughts that shall not be And cannot be destroyed.
William Wordsworth The Excursion
At the time of his death I said something that is as true today as it was thirteen years ago: If you had any faults – and like all of us you did – the greatest was that you did not love yourself enough to realize how much you were loved. You are greatly loved. “The lad” and I miss you. Your “darling boy”
Today I can add: I am joyful that you have found a place of peaceful rest.
Strangely June 4th is Tailors Day – granted a different spelling but it will do.
Last evening Laurent and I had a reunion of sorts with old friends and colleagues from my Air Canada days. I wish I could say it was a joyous occasion but sadly we had come together to give our support to a friend and colleague and her family as they dealt with the loss of their young son. We were amongst a crowd of people who had come to the funeral parlor to express our sorrow at the suicide death of 15 year old Jamie Hubley.
I had trained Jamie’s mother Wendy when she first came to Ottawa Airport and worked with her for many years after. I knew her husband Al and had met various members of her family over the years. Though not close – retirement and distance means you lose contacts with so many people – we were friends on Facebook and I was shocked when she posted a brief message there on Saturday. Further details became available as the weekend progressed and the tragic circumstances surrounding Jamie’s death filled me with great sadness. He had problems and struggled with depression but his family had made sure that he was being given help and when he came out they gave him all the support that a loving family could. Unfortunately that could not shield him from the bullying, name calling and harassment that he endured because he was a figure skater when he was younger or that was to be the result of his coming out at high school.
On his blog Jamie had recorded his anguish, frustration and perhaps most heart-breakingly his dreams. And more recently he had spoken from that dark and lonely place that often leads to an act that cuts short a promising life and the heart out of a family.
Last evening as we sat waiting in the chapel to join the condolence line we watched a slideshow of a blond boy, more often than not smiling at the camera, in photos that captured those moments of any child’s life – Christmas, vacation, covered with measles, receiving skating medals, in school plays – growing up surrounded by family and friends. That same family, all wearing rainbow ribbons, greet those friends and so many others, surrounded by mementos of Jamie’s passions and accomplishments. Though they were meant to celebrate his life they were also a reminder of much that has been lost with his death.
Ironically Jamie’s funeral was held today – Spirit Day – a day set aside to show support for LGBT teenagers who have been the victims of bullying. Yesterday to remind us of the day and its meaning my friend Cecilia wrote this “status” on Facebook:
No matter what your beliefs, look into your heart. Children should be Loved, not compelled to suicide, not bullied or murdered. And not having an adult they can turn to gives these children no hope or guidance. If you can’t find it in your heart to accept, can you at least not promote intolerance? I’m pretty sure from what I recall from my religious training in my early years that Jesus really wasn’t so much into hate or violence.
Al, Wendy and the family have expressed the hope that talking about Jamie’s death may do some good and make people aware of effects of teenage depression, bullying and homophobia . “He had dreams and we want to help those dreams come true. So if by sharing our pain that’ll happen, then it’s good,” Al said in an interview. “Our boy won’t be gone in vain.”
Sadly the upcoming trip means that I will not be able to attend the Memorial gathering for one of my oldest and closest friends, Ryan (Ron) Taylor. For those of us who loved him, his death this past October has meant our world has been diminished.
I met Ryan 31 years ago this summer just past. It was a bright sunny Sunday afternoon and I was walking down the canal in Ottawa whistling a Rossini aria. Suddenly one of the most melodious baritone voices (think Leonard Warren sings Verdi) I had ever heard said: Di tanti palpita – Tancredi. I knew that I had to become friends with anyone who recognized that piece of operatic ephemera.
And friends we became – despite living in different cities, often on different continents. It was the sort of friendship that meant we wouldn’t see each other for a year or two but spoke, wrote (he was always better at it than I), or e-mailed once or twice a month. As with all friendships there were periods when a certain coolness developed. I recall a frosty ride on the Underground from Salder’s Wells to Baker Street seated at either end of the carriage – the icy glares freezing unsuspecting Londoners in mid-doze over their late-edition Daily Mirrors.
But those periods never lasted very long and were quickly pushed aside by happier events. “The Lad” – as he always called Laurent, Ryan and I in MossBros tuxedoed splendor heading down to Glyndebourne on the afternoon train from Vic Station. Christmas Eve celebrated with family and friends in the McClaren St. apartment under the watchful eye of Queen Alexandria. Ryan avowed that the portrait was an early example of Photoshoping – Alex’s head on a Tiller Girl’s body. A sunny weekend in Cooperstown, happily combining two of his passions – opera and baseball. The Cracker – that odd mixture of Times Obit, book reviews, books-he-had-read quotes that arrived every Christmas. A surreal vodka-drinking visit to a political cabaret in Krakow – he was the only person I know who would take Polish lessons for a two week visit. Trashing all the singers but our beloved Ewa Podles over late night port and desert after the opera in Toronto. Simply sitting before diner on his last visit in May, listening to and revelling in the most infectiously funny recording of Perichole’s drunk aria – in Russian!
A week after learning of his death I watched the first episode of his TV programme, Ancestors in the Attic . I wanted to reach into the TV and hug him for all those wonderful memories then slap him because he had robbed me of experiencing more. A gentle note from his cousin Dayle reminded me that the slap was a selfish reaction and the hug a loving one. Thank you Dayle – you’re right, the hugging feels better.
If you had any faults – and like all of us you did – the greatest was that you did not love yourself enough to realize how much you were loved. You are greatly loved. “The lad” and I miss you.
Your “darling boy”
Telling the stories of the history of the port of Charlottetown and the marine heritage of Northumberland Strait on Canada's East Coast. Winner of the Heritage Award from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and a Heritage Preservation Award from the City of Charlottetown