don kerr

5 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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Saying goodbye. Saying hello.

Saying goodbye. Saying hello.“Let no one be discouraged by the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence…Few of us will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all these acts will be written the history of this generation.”

 - Robert F. Kennedy

There is a new series on Netflix called The Crown. It tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II - or Betty Windsor as I like to call her! It's pretty good, but you'll have to wait for @Jim Murray's Couch Potato Chronicles for the expert perspective.

Regardless, it naturally features a segment where King George VI dies, and Elizabeth ascends the throne. At that point, we hear the famous comment: The King is dead. Long live the Queen. I've always like that notion in that it communicates that while someone has passed the role continues.

Monarchist or not, it's a comforting notion.

Anyway, it came to mind yesterday when I attended a memorial service for my very dear friend and mentor J. Brian Blackstock. I wrote on this site about him back in September when he died.) and before that in July when he presented me with my treasured Mazinaw paddle (

Brian died suddenly and peacefully on September 9. Yesterday, approximately 200 friends gathered at Yorkminster Baptist Church in Toronto to remember him and celebrate his life. It was a much harder experience than many of us expected. Why? Because we had yet to realize the depth of feeling we had for Brian and the tremendous loss we were all feeling in his now, absolutely confirmed, absence.

Here's something I learned yesterday that made me realize what a great guy he was.

Brian was a complete Luddite when it came to digital media. He did not have a computer. He did not have a smartphone. He did not use any form of social media and wouldn't have recognized at Tweet if it pecked him in the ass. And yet, he was the most connected guy I knew. Brian lived solidly in the analog world. He hand wrote all of his communication. When an envelope arrived by post with a handwritten salutation in green gel ink, I experienced a frisson of excitement because I knew that Brian had just sent me something that I knew would be heartfelt, relevant, compelling and accompanied by real affection.

I venture to say that of the 15 people who spoke at his service yesterday fully 15 referenced Brian's astounding ability to stay in touch and to connect people and to do so with genuine fervor and commitment which was entirely independent of modern-day media.

And this is where Brian lives on. Through the intimate connections made with hundreds of people over the course of an important life in education and camping.

So I will miss Brian desperately. I will miss the arrival of the green salutations. I will miss picking up the phone and engaging in a Ranger Report with him. I will though continue to experience the benefit of his life and his spirit. Will I start to send handwritten notes to people? Doubtful. I can't even read my handwriting but will I be mindful of taking the time to consider the message I want to send? Will I take more care before firing off a comment with the ease that digital media allows? I hope so.

Brian is dead. Long live Brian. 

"The beauty of the trees,
The softness of the air, 
The fragrance of the grass, 
Speaks to me.
"The summit of the mountain,
The thunder of the sky,
The rhythm of the sea, 
Speaks to me.
"The faintness of the stars,
The freshness of the morning,
The dew drops on the flower, 
Speaks to me.
"The strength of fire,
The taste of salmon,
The trail of the sun, 
And the life that never goes away,
They speak to me.
"And my heart soars."
Chief Dan George

©2016 Don Kerr. All rights reserved.

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don kerr

5 years ago #7

thanks Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

5 years ago #6

So many of us write, Don, but how many of us can truly communicate through our writing? It sounds like your friend had a rare gift and, like all gifted people, has undoubtedly left something of himself in many hearts and minds. If his writings have lead to only one recipient asking why, and not resting until the answer appears, then your friend has truly left behind a legacy..

don kerr

5 years ago #5

many thanks.

don kerr

5 years ago #4

Thank you#4

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #3

To the Brians of this world

don kerr

5 years ago #2

Thanks Phil Friedman Well expressed thought.

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #1

Don, I am truly sorry for your loss. And for that felt by the other 199 friends of Brian's who met to commemorate his life. Personally, in situations like this, I try to remind myself that the pain of loss suffered is the price we pay for the much greater joy we experience in knowing someone like the man you describe as Brian.

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