On this date – Sept. 11 – the world was rocked by the attacks on the twin towers in New York and on the Pentagon. An attack on Washington failed, thanks to the courageous actions of passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 . It is to our generation much the same as the attacks on Pearl Harbour during the Second World War was to previous generations. September 11th is a date that will continue to be equated with senseless killing. But, it is also marked by the heroic efforts of fire fighters and first responders as well as ordinary citizens. Today I will hold in my heart all the families affected by these heinous acts, and celebrate anew all the helpers that came forward.
But today is also the day in 2012 when my nephew died. He was a young man and father to two daughters. Todd was a very quiet man. His mother tells stories of how he never complained; stories about his stoic acceptance; stories of his hopes; stories of a life ended much too soon.
Todd came to visit us the month before he died. I had invited his cousins to come for a family dinner. We all knew how serious his illness was. He had cancer of the esophagus, which made it very difficult for him to eat. I had consulted him about what kind of foods to prepare, but when it came time to eat he could not. As this hateful disease progressed he would have good days and bad days – days he simply could not eat anything. As it turned out the family dinner fell on one of the bad days. I remember him sitting quietly in the living room, a mere few feet away from where we gathered around the table. I remember how every mouthful I swallowed went down like lead. Food did not taste good and it just felt so wrong to be eating when he could not.
I also remember his smile and the way he joked with all of us after dinner. It actually turned out to be a fun evening, despite the awkward dinner – awkward for the rest of us, Todd seemed fine, waving away my sorrow that he could not partake. Except for the fact we all knew how seriously ill he really was it could have been just another ordinary day. I think that was the blessing Todd left us all. He smiled through the pain and met with courage all the challenges of this dreaded disease. So rest in peace my beloved nephew, you will live on in our memories and in our hearts. And thank you for showing the rest of us how to face adversity: with grace, courage, and indomitable humour.