Cards and Letters

August 28, 2007 would have been Gord's 57th birthday.  For the fourth year in a row, Margaret and her daughter Emily commemorated Gord's special day by releasing message-carrying helium balloons from our local lake.  Then, they visited "Nessie" (one of the last wild creatures Gord saw before his death, and one of the Trumpeter Swans they adopted and named in his honour), Nessie's mate Heather and their three beautiful cygnets.  After that, Margaret and Emily enjoyed Swiss Chalet chicken for dinner (one of Gord's favorite meals).  And then, Emily took a spin up the farm road on her bike, riding almost 3 kms on just her third day without training wheels!  After Emily was snuggled into bed, Margaret toasted Gordon with Single Malt Whiskey from the Highlands of Scotland.

These pictures depict the balloon launch, from Margaret and Emily's kayak, and the picture Emily "sent to her Dad." 


The following is the text of the message Margaret "sent to Gord," this year, via helium balloon.:

August 28, 2007

Dear Gord:

Happy birthday, love.  Today you would have been 57.  It has been almost five years since you passed away.  Em and I still miss you and talk about you regularly.

You wouldn’t believe how your little girl has grown.  Just yesterday, after only two days of practice, she learned how to ride a bicycle without training wheels.  She was so happy and proud!   Em will be starting Grade 2 next week.  She loves school, and has a particular aptitude for reading, writing and math (she must get her math skills from you… that subject was definitely not MY forte!)  Em also enjoys swimming, skating and dance classes, throughout the school year.  Like you and I, Em is passionate about nature and animals.  Last year, for her birthday, she asked friends and relatives to help her sponsor the care of animals, at a local wildlife centre, instead of giving her gifts.  She ended up with $320… enough to feed two endangered reptiles, and five others, for a year!  She wants to sponsor animals again for her seventh birthday.

We are still working with another local wildlife centre, to raise funds to enable underprivileged children to attend summer day camp in your memory.  To date, your memorial fund has enabled 65 youngsters to experience the wonders and solace of nature.  Emily also designed two note cards that they are selling in the wildlife centre gift shop to raise funds to support the Trumpeter Swan Reintroduction Program.

This year, one of the Trumpeter Swans we adopted in your memory, four and a half years ago, had his first successful brood.  He and his mate are raising three little ones and should have them up and flying within a few weeks.  We will be adopting all three of this year’s cygnets, and naming them in your honour.

This summer, Em, the dogs and I embarked on a one-month camping road trip, to the Thunder Bay area, and back.  We had such a wonderful family-time.  At almost-age-twelve, both dogs are still great travellers and campers, but little Scratchers can’t hike every day anymore, without getting stiff and sore, so this year we took days off to accommodate her needs.

I’m still working my way toward a full time, permanent teaching job, but (thanks to maternity leave fill-in positions, and the like) I’ve been fully employed for the past three years, and will be again this school year.  I’m also doing volunteer work for a non-profit web site that educates children about animal migration and, recently, had the privilege of doing some curriculum development work, around the theme of “green pest control,” alongside two very experienced educators.  I loved that work, Gord!  I think curriculum development will definitely be in my future.

I hope you and Buddy-the-cat are enjoying a quiet day, paddling the marshes of heaven together.  That’s still how I like to imagine you; doing what you loved best when you were here on earth.

Alpha-Omega, Gord…




To commemorate what would have been Gordon's 56th birthday, Margaret and her daughter paddled their kayak to the middle of Gordon's favourite local lake and released a cluster of seven helium balloons, bearing a laminated card and poem.  They also went out to Gordon's favourite restaurant for supper and watched a couple episodes of one of his favourite situation comedies.  At bedtime, Margaret toasted Gordon with Single Malt Whiskey, from the Scottish Highlands.



To commemorate what would have been Gordon's 55th birthday, Margaret took their daughter and Gordon's dog to the shore of a local lake to release two Monarch Butterfly helium balloons.  That day, Margaret and Emily also celebrated with a birthday lunch for Gordon, and Margaret toasted Gordon with Scottish Single Malt Whiskey.


To commemorate what would have been Gordon's 54th birthday, his daughter, Emily, made him a card and Margaret wrote him a letter.  They then launched these into the sky, via helium balloon, on the shore of a local lake.  After returning home, Margaret and Emily sang "Happy Birthday," Emily blew out a candle, and Margaret  toasted Gordon with Scottish Single Malt Whiskey. 


The following is the text of Margaret's letter:

August 28, 2004

Dearest Gordie:

Happy what-would-have-been-your 54th birthday. I can' believe it has been almost two years since you lost your life in that motor vehicle accident.

You would be very proud of me. Since your passing, I've learned how to use the snow blower, completed Teacher's College and supply taught for a year. I've also taken Emily and the dogs on several camping trips, with friends and on our own. This May, I took Em and the dogs to Killarney, for a week. You always wanted to visit that park again, but never got the chance to do so. Twice, during the Killarney trip, Em and I sat on the shore of then-deserted George Lake and called out to you... shouted that we loved you and that we hoped you were okay. It was also on that trip, twenty months after your death, that I first realized Em and I were going to be okay.

One time, when you were very ill, and we didn't know whether you would make it, you told me that you didn't want to be my last relationship... that, in fact, after you died, you wanted me to remarry. During the first twenty-one months after your death, I couldn't even conceive of ever being with another man. But then, in June, I met another Wilderness Soul Mate. He is a friend of a friend, and his name is Paul. You would love this guy, Gordie! Like you and I, Paul is a child-of-the-earth/nature lover, canoe-tripper, camper, hiker, cyclist, writer and photographer. He is also a High School Teacher, kayaker, sailor and climber, who lived in the Arctic for fourteen years. When Paul and I first made contact via e-mail and phone, we found ourselves relating on an amazing number of levels. Many of our initial phone calls ran five hours or longer. I have been seeing Paul, in person, for the past two months and I've come to care very deeply for him. Paul has also taken to Em and the dogs... and they are crazy about him. The only glitch is that Paul lives a two-hour drive from our home, so we won't get to see him much during the school year.

In the Spring, I created a memorial camp-sponsorship fund. My family, friends, a handful of strangers and I donated enough money to send sixteen underprivileged children to day camp at a local wildlife centre, for a week this summer, in your memory. I hope that, through the camp experience, some of those youngsters discovered the kind of solace you and I found/find in the arms of Mother Nature.

In early July, I was offered a full time "long term occasional" assignment, as a Grade One teacher, from this September through mid-May 2005 (filling in for a teacher who is on maternity leave from a school about twenty minutes from home). I'm really excited about the job, although, as the school year approaches, I'm becoming a little nervous about teaching a class of my own for the first time.

Emily was two months shy of her second birthday when you died. She is now three and a half, and will be starting Junior Kindergarten in a couple weeks. I wish you could be here, to walk her to school on her first day... but then, maybe you will be, at least "in spirit." Emily is talkative, funny, affectionate and a camper/hiker/nature lover... just like her Mom and Dad. (She is also somewhat obstinate, at times, choosing to wait until age three to go through her "terrible twos"!)

We chose our day care provider very well, Gordie. Pam has been a tremendous support, throughout the past two years, and has become like Emily's other parent. This year, Em will attend school all day, every other day. Pam will take Em to school and pick her up, on the days she attends, and care for Em all day, on the days she does not attend school.

We still have the dogs. Casey and Scratch will be nine this fall. They don't seem any different than when you knew them. They still love camping, Case still swims like a fish and Scratch still plays soccer and "trees" squirrels that dare to venture into our backyard. Both dogs have been wonderfully patient and forgiving with Em, who often loves her doggies just a little too much.

Last year, I sanded and re-stained the front and back deck, in time for your birthday. This June, our next-door neighbour and I primed the exterior of the house... working on days when I had no supply teaching assignment and Emily was with Pam. I lined-up the painter who did our ceilings to finish the job for me. He pencilled us in for October. Then, earlier this week, the painter had a day available in between larger projects so he brought his crew over to apply the finish coat. I had them paint the exterior white, the way you always wanted it... and, as an added bonus, the job was completed in time for your birthday! It looks nice. I think you'd be pleased.

I guess I'll sign off now, Gordie. Know that I still think of you often... and that memories of our life together rarely make me cry, any more... most of the time they now bring a smile to my face. Sometimes I also fantasize about where you are now. I like to imagine you, healthy and at peace, enjoying the solitude as you solo-paddle through a remote, wilderness portion of heaven, in an old cedar strip canoe, with Buddy the cat perched on your shoulder, like he used to do when you were both with us here on earth. I hope that is your reality, for that truly would be "heaven" for you...