Me and Beth Purser: Kitchi friends forever.

A weekly article I used to write for the newspaper in Nelson was entitled, “Wow! What a Week!” I loved the alliteration, and the sense of exhilaration that was invoked as I reviewed and announced the various events in the arts and culture scene. Last week, I found myself murmuring, “Wow. What a week,” but not in a good way. I had a pretty tough Sunday with Mother’s Day and found myself in and out of bed, lamenting the loss of Mum. Then just as I was starting to have a bit of spring in my step, I found out on Tuesday that a dear friend from camp, Graham Weber, had died in his home from smoke inhalation due to an accidental fire. The next couple of days were a blur, involving a rehearsal with the band that I barely remember. Thank goddess that the boys are so understanding and supportive and gently reminded me what key each song was in, or reminded me that we’d actually changed the arrangement the week before. They were so patient and professional; I can’t believe these tremendously talented dudes (Evan Ritchie, Paul White, Russ Boswell) play music with me. Thursday night was the big night: my live recording at Musideum here in Toronto. The show went off without a hitch thanks to my kindred sister Sandy who was with me all day; time managing me (I am time management challenged), and helping schlep gear into the car. The room was filled, and I mean filled as in they had to bring in more seats, with family, friends and fans (again, love that alliteration!) I only messed up a few tunes, and was once again saved by the professionals who just keep on keepin’ on. Gratitude was the theme of the evening for me:

*to be supported by so many loved ones

*to have a high caliber band play my tunes

*to have found Betsy Johnson gold and silver stilettos in Kelowna two years ago in the bargain bin for $6.00 and to finally have the chance to wear them

*a beautiful space and venue, including a grand piano, thus preventing me from schlepping my digital piano

*for my parents and the piano lessons from the time I was seven until sixteen

*for the courage to leave teaching and pursue what I truly love

*for the gift of life and time that I got to share with Graham while he was here

The list goes on, but these were at the forefront of my thoughts.


The next morning I packed my duffel bags for camp and headed up the highway to Barrie to carpool with an old school Camp Kitchikewana pal, Sarah Lamont. She met me at Dad’s and we drove down Honey Harbour Road through the haze of the late afternoon’s sunset and nostalgia until we arrived at the Boat Club. There, we were greeted by Purser and Closson, fellow Kitchi campers, now living in BC. It was serendipitous that Graham passed away just before our alumni weekend; people had flown in from BC and Nova Scotia to be up at camp for the weekend on Beausoleil Island, but they didn’t know when they booked their flights that they’d also be attending a service for Graham. I must say, I told Graham that it was pretty good timing on his part. Not to sound flippant or glib, but he had a sense of humour and would have gotten a kick out of the sarcasm. He was, the king of sarcasm.

The weekend was bittersweet, mostly sweet, and the weather was more than co-operative. We had a chapel ceremony for him on the Saturday and got to connect with his parents and three kids and wife Colleen, who came up for the day; talk about strength! Kitchi spirit was in full bloom this spring and it helped with the healing of Graham’s family, and their presence, in turn, helped our hearts to heal.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon in Innisfil at the YMCA where there was a beautiful and simple celebration of life comprising of memories, stories and song: I sang “Lost Together” which Graham and I had sung together last year at one of my gigs in Barrie. I have such fond memories of Graham singing, and I cherish them immensely. I will continue to sing as music is really the universal language that has the ability to transform grief and pain into acceptance and joy. On that note (mind the pun), I’m going to do some of my vocal exercises that Amanda Mabro gave me months ago. I saw her sing last night with Chris Assad, and it was a re-affirmation that I am on the right path. The combination of his lyrics and messages, and the power of Amanda’s voice tells me to keep writing, keep singing, keep on.

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