Martha, Jack’s wife flew in from Winnipeg for the funeral, as did Grace, his daughter. I hadn’t seen Jack since the revelation of his fatal condition. It turned out, that shortly after he’d driven to Winnipeg and spent a few weeks there, tying up loose ends, so to speak.
I’d called him a few times, but he hadn’t answered, and I’d taken that as a sign that he’d maybe gone off on a last trip, which would have been typically Jack. But no, he’d spent the last two weeks after his return at the Ottawa Hospital, Civic campus, not bothering to let any of his friends know; probably to spare them a difficult time.
The service at Saint Remi’s was simple: a short mass and a ceremony over the cremated remains. As the priest mumbled the appropriate liturgy in French, I remembered Jack’s final words as we finished our last lunch.
“It’s been nice,” he said as he got up, “but I gotta go.”
“Why? I asked, hoping we could talk a little more.
“I have to see a man about a box.”
“What kind of a box?” I asked
“I’m not sure,” said Jack. “Maybe one six-foot long, or maybe cubic foot size.”
As it turned out Jack had chosen the smaller option.
After the funeral, I asked Martha what she was going to do with the urn.
“I’ll take it with me to Winnipeg. What I’m going to do with it after I get there, I don’t know yet.”
Now that he’s gone, life seems considerably more dull. I considered the matter this morning: what was Jack’s special gift? Well, for one thing, I miss his inventiveness, his childish delight in coming up with crazy ideas. And his zest for life, as evidence in his ardent pursuit of women. And while he rarely talked about his travels, the fact that he was always on the look-out for new adventures in distant places, was itself a beam from a lighthouse for me: a vicarious pleasure in following the dream of someone who keeps on looking for whatever special visual and other delights the world has to offer in lands of which I barely know the name, and have no urge to visit myself.
I’m bereft of a good friend.
Where, at this time of my life, will I find another?
Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.
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