In November 2013 I wrote the first draft of a new book. It’s been a work in progress ever since. It begins with a 27 year old man facing a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, and deals with how he and his girlfriend, his friends, and his family come to terms with fate, free will, and finding purpose in a life. But I’m not a full-time writer and life gets in the way sometimes, and that first draft has been through five full revisions, and was left about 1/3 of the way through a sixth. I wasn’t sure it would ever see the light of day.
On May 24, 2016 I woke up to news that for me – like it did for many Canadians – felt like a punch to the gut. The news that Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The Hip were a big part of the soundtrack of my teenage years, my twenties, and beyond. Their songs are ones that evoke very specific memories for me: vivid, full of colour and sound, memories that have that haze of years gone by, but still seem so real that I could step into them and be 17 years old again.
Since that day this past May I’ve found myself listening to Hip songs more and more, and slowly I found myself wanting to get back to the manuscript that had been sitting there, waiting for me. The irony of the subject matter didn’t escape me. I’ve had conversations about the purpose of life, and why bad things happen to good people. It’s all been swirling around in mind. And so I work.
I’m not done yet, but I’m working my way through it, with Gord’s music, and memories about those conversations as my soundtrack. I can’t promise you when it will see the light of day. I can’t tell you whether it will be another indie published book, or if this one might end up with a traditional publisher. But I feel a sense of necessity now; a sense of responsibility.
I watched last night’s concert with my husband and a few close friends. It’s been a long week in our family, and today and tomorrow we’ll be celebrating my son’s birthday. It was quiet: I think we were all in awe, but we stayed glued to the Man Cave’s giant screen for the whole night. It was incredible to watch and know that people across Canada were gathering in homes, in parks, in movie theatres and concert halls to watch together. I had friends watching from Chicago, from Amsterdam, and from Hong Kong. It was a feeling of wholeness that I don’t think I will ever forget. I know that part of me never wanted it to end. And the truth is that I refuse to believe that it is the end. Canada has been eulogizing a man who is still here – who still has days, months, and hopefully years left to live to the fullest. Whether that means spending time with his family, travelling, or making more music is his choice to make. Canada has had its moment. Anything else now is a gift.