Posts Tagged ‘Mark Dickson’

Honouring, that’s a short title. It’s a simple process, too.

My friend, Taewon, lost his first friend this summer. Tae is a warm, friendly guy, I liked him the moment we met. He’s a young man who has made some serious decisions about his life, forging forward, taking risks, putting himself  “out there”. For a sensitive person, for an immigrant, for a person with mobility challenges, I admire his attitude all the more. new-handicap-sign_sq-b776123d4caffce16afc752c82caf50c6309eb02-s3-c85

The friend who died was especially close to Taewon, as I understand, because this was the first person to really see Taewon as a regular guy; he didn’t notice disability. He looked him in the eye, talked to him like he talked to everyone, included him in everything. And being regular, being just one of the gang is really the aspiration of almost everyone, with or without a disability.  Losing this someone who epitomized the word “friend” was seemingly too much to bear.

As the weeks went on and the grieving continued, I told Taewon about my way of handling those who have passed on in my life, and they are myriad. I honour them.

I honour them by embedding their names in my passwords, some of them are thought of several times a day as I type and retype their names. It’s private, it’s personal, it’s tiny… but a tribute nonetheless. Each person (and DOG) also has a specific memory or association. For example, in the BLOGPOST previous to this one, my recipe for RICE SALAD has a tribute to Gevin who first sent me Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. I use it a lot. I buy it for others and give it as a gift. I tell people the “Story of Gevin” and how he came to mail me a box of goodies from Louisiana. I think of Gev when I cook. His memory is wholly embedded in my kitchen.  Larry is Single Malt Scotch. Mark is Chess….on and on it goes.

I explained this to Tae. Despite his wounded state, his comprehension was immediate. He smiled through misty eyes. “Beer,” he said. “I will remember him every time I have a beer because we drank beer together at SFU.”

“Perfect,” said I.

As the weeks passed, he still mentioned his friend a few times during our conversations. The panic was gone. He told me about the planned memorial, but gradually the focus of the conversations shifted away from his loss. Honour beer seems to be working.

I teased Tae by telling him I would honour him with a BLOGPOST. “I’m not dead yet!” He flashed me the grin that everyone is always pleased to see on the murderball court….but that’s another story.

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Vancouver marked International Day for Persons with Disabilities with a ceremony celebrating their contributions to society. I marked it remembering…

Actually, the remembering was triggered by meeting Paul Caune in person last week on a very, very cold day. Paul is a man with focus. Focus is definitely what is needed to achieve goals. But Paul had something else, besides a wheelchair, which reminded me very much of my friend, Dr. Mark Dickson, who passed on, too suddenly, April 7, 2007.

Paul exuded a rare intelligence, combined with patience, and a genuine interest in others. I need to find a new vocabulary to describe these qualities which I saw in both Paul and Mark. I know that I would have taken great pleasure in introducing Mark and Paul…do I only pretend to live in the now? Wistfully I look backwards, because not only would Paul have enjoyed our very silly, intellectual games from Mark’s “Book of Difficult Words”, but the desperately needed social change for which Paul is advocating would not just resonate with Mark, it would have helped him; because even Dr. Dickson (BAMAPHD) was disempowered greatly by a system, that in the end reduced him to what was his body and NOT his mind.

The main reason for today’s post – to honour memories by taking action. Those people who have touched us in any way, small or large, become part of us, literally as we breathe in their air, and figuratively as we share their thoughts…

Mark’s eulogy, as spoken at his funeral… (thanks FIONA for still having it on your computer)

Mark Dickson…

Friend…philosopher…friend…..person with Friedreich’s Ataxia…friend….chess player….friend….gentleman…friend….DOCTOR….friend….mentor…
friend….son…friend… brother….friend…uncle….friend….friend….friend…friend…..

And so ran the theme of my thoughts about Mark…always a good friend…

Mark was very tolerant and modeled tolerance for me. When I spent time with him, I knew more what kind of a person I wanted to be,

This quote from Joseph Addison reminds me much of Mark’s demeanor:

It is only imperfection
That complains of what is imperfect.
The more perfect we are
The more gentle and quiet we become
Towards the defects of others.

I was proud of our friendship and as I thought about it I realize I had introduced many of MY FRIENDS and relatives to MARK.. the special ones..the ones who deserved to know him..because Mark was special and dear and kind and warm and thoughtful…and yes as our mutual friend Wendy said…very different in person than in his writing. Mark was NOT perfect but to me he was a perfect friend and I wish I had a chance to be a more perfect friend to him for a longer period of time as he was snatched from life before I had a chance to finish all the conversations and dreams I had for our friendship.

I was always fascinated by Mark’s ability with chess. Not so much that he could beat me as I am a mediocre chess player but I remember answering the phone at his house one day and someone saying into the phone Queen’s Knight to King’s Bishop Three or some such thing and I repeated the information to Mark who was engaged in earnest conversation with someone else at a social gathering…we held them regularly at Mark’s house in the good old days… He calmly replied with some other chess move which I repeated into the phone and he carried on with his conversation. I asked him later about it and he said he carried on several chess games with people…..his pieces only in his head. The others would phone in their moves every few DAYS! WHAT A BRAIN! WHAT A MIND! What a privilege to have had MARK DICKSON as a friend.

I have so many stories about MARK, but Mark would always choose to be fair and let everyone have a chance to speak and not let any one person be the only one to speak on a subject, so as my role model would have it, I will let another speak through my eulogy.

So the next memory is from Wendy O’Rourke.. She was living near Boston at the time and wasn’t sure she wanted to meet Mark but I dragged her to his house for one of these famous social gatherings. Wendy writes “On a visit to Elaine’s, she announced I was going to meet Mark, face to face, and I would see how wrong I was about him. I resented taking any of my time to visit a man I perceived as severely stuck on himself. I was SO wrong. Face to face, Mark was a warm and sensitive, sweet man, who loved a good discussion, especially one with opposing views. I learned his pride in his education was based on the inspiration his mother had provided. He told us, with his voice breaking, and tears in his eyes, that she had told him his body might fail him, but his education could never be taken away from him. He apologized for getting so emotional. As he spoke of his mother, her love for him and his for her, Elaine and I exchanged glances and knew how much it would mean, to us, for even one of our children to say anything about us, along the lines of what he had said about his mother. We would know we had done our job well!”

In closing, I would like to echo Wendy’s thoughts that Mark was a sensitive man. He was also a kind and fair human being. I remember well that soon after Rawnie Dunn announced that she could no longer attend BC ATAXIA SOCIETY meetings that if Rawnie couldn’t get to the BCAS then the BCAS would come to RAWNIE and we began having meetings at RAWNIE’S house in BURNABY. What a lovely principle considering how difficult it was for Mark to actually get to Rawnie’s place himself….

And the ultimate honour for me…Rawnie emailed after receiving news of Mark’s passing to tell me that Mark considered me to be one of his very dearest friends.

He is a perfect friend that will be dearly missed and fondly remembered….

So, for Mark, for myself, for the future and for what is right, I will work with Paul Caune to make Civil Rights Now!, his vision of political action. I will assist in the moving of disability rights from theory into practice, sooner and not later. Dr. Mark Dickson, BA, MA, PhD is with me still.

To learn more about CIVIL RIGHTS NOW!, read a speech delivered by Paul Caune on December 10th – click here.