Monday, September 14, 2009

Death of Private Patrick Lormand

Statement by the Minister of National Defence - September 14, 2009

OTTAWA –The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, issued the following statement today on the death of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan:

“On behalf of the Defence community and our brave men and women in uniform I extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Private Patrick Lormand.

This courageous soldier died when an improvised explosive device detonated near the vehicle in which he was travelling. This event occurred while on patrol in an area west of Kandahar. Our thoughts and prayers go to the loved ones of the four valiant soldiers who were also wounded by this cowardly act.

Canada is in Afghanistan at the request of the democratically elected Afghan government and as part of an UN-mandated, NATO-led mission. Canada’s government continues to show international leadership, to help the Afghan nation achieve peace and stability in order to rebuild their country towards a safe future for its people.

As a Canadian, Private Larmond deserves the gratitude and respect of his nation. As a soldier his steadfast strength and commitment will be remembered as an example to us all.”

Friday, October 24, 2008

Oh Canada!

Most of the time I think of myself as an Internationalist rather than a Nationalist. It's true that I'm proud of Canada in that, Oh so Canadian modest way, I'd never actually admit that I love the old country.... but then that wouldn't be really too Canadian, eh?

But this week I've found myself actually tearing up, several times actually, over things so truly Canadian that I'm almost ashamed of myself for being so boosterish... if that's actually a word these days.

The first time was when the World Economic Forum said that Canada had the best banks in the world. Hmmm... and I thought all along that our banks were too conservative, and without glamour at all. None of those fancy derivatives for our banks, oh no! Canadians should have known better all along, and it turns out we did. Boring is good, which means that Canada is REALLY GOOD!

So much for the serious stuff.

On Sunday I watched Paul Gross' Passchendale, a movie about one of the pivotal battles in the First World War. People who think that the Canadian military tradition is about peacemaking rather than about war should watch this movie. Canadians kicked ass over there, even while feeling ambigious about the whole damn thing, and being sympathetic to our enemies. We never could RAH RAH very well, but we should can fucking fight! The German invented the words Storm Trooper to describe our forces.

And talk about amazing movies. This is the best movie I've seen in years. And I love the fact you don't get to see one damn Yankee in the whole thing.

Then on Tuesday I went to hear and see Celine Dion sing at GM Place in Vancouver. She's a national treasure the likes of which no other nation can claim. With pipes like hers who needs anything else? Even more amazing she's still like a real person who shows signs of fatigue, yet soldiers on and delivers song after brilliant song. Holy shit. Another Canadian superstar! For real. OMG.

Which got me thinking about being Canadian and all that.... Maybe we should allow ourselves, just once in a while, to be unabashed about just how great a country this is, and just how great so many Canadians are.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dinner at the kids

Katherine and I had dinner with Ashleah and Jen at their condo in Vancouver, with Donald Jr. eventually joining us for what was all in all a fun evening with the kids. I must say that I find it strange still to see my kids as grown ups, despite the fact that they have been all grown up for quite a long time.

I can even say that I find it disconcerting from time to time, as I don't feel old enough to have children older than I feel. In my dreams I find myself still a child sometimes, with the wisdom and experience of a child. I see things that I don't understand at all, and mostly, with childlike grace and sagacity, don't care that I don't understand what I'm seeing. It's sort of like losing my critical capacities altogether when I dream, and I drift from one completely idiotic place to another without so much as a by-your-leave.

Back to dinner. It was Academy Awards night so we watched the awards ceremony while we ate and kind of chatted around them. It was too bad that the Canadian teen star didn't win and that her movie didn't either. (On the other hand, I heard from Tina, my assistant, that the movie was actually terrible and didn't deserve to win anyway.) By the time the awards were over it must have been time to leave as I found myself being shushed out the door by my son who wanted to clean up and do something else other than entertain his family. I can't understand it, we were only there for four hours.... what's four hours in the life of your family?

Oh well, I sort of remember feeling the same thing when my parents came over for dinner, and how relieved I was when they finally left after an evening. Still, I hate being put in the position of feeling like I have overstayed my welcome, despite the fact that I was being completely oblivious to more subtle signals given to me by Katherine.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Valentines Day

IMG_8994 Katherine


Here's my Valentine.  I realize that we moved in together on November 28, 1982 - twenty-five years ago!  We've been watching out for each other's backs, looking  to help each other have a good day, and loving each other no matter what ever since.

Congratulations to both of us!

Here's to another 25 years!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Discovery of Faith

I’ve been meditating on sharing some of my experiences with you, especially those that touch on the darkest days of my life. While thoughts of suicide have not been my constant companion over the years, I frequently have had days that are so dark that I wonder if I’ll ever experience the joyful light of day again. And indeed, there have been days so dark in the course of my life that I have begged God to let me die. And cursed him for not granting me the courage to end it all.

What could bring a man like me to such a cursed state? As you have said to the choir in asking for these thoughts, the details of the story itself aren’t that important to the sharing of the experience that helped me, and helps me to this day, to reach out for the light rather than hide in the darkness.

In my very darkest hour, when my belief in my value as a human being was at its lowest ebb, it was the love I felt for my children that persuaded me that there had to be something in me worth saving. Not for my sake, for I truly believed I was condemned to suffer the pangs of guilt and self loathing for the rest of my days, and into eternity, if indeed there is such a thing as life after death. But no, because although I felt as low and worthless as I could ever imagine feeling, I believed that my suicide would be the worst thing I could possibly do to my kids. The example of Earnest Hemingway stared me in the face. The thought of my children learning of my fate, and possibly being influenced to take their own lives in their own despair at some point, bolstered my need to survive.

I clung to small glimmers of purpose, in the absence of hope - to provide my children with an example of a man, their father, who was willing to acknowledge his total worthlessness as a human being, but who had sufficient courage to continue to strive for the best interests of his children. No matter how badly depressed I was, no matter how dark my soul – this could not be my gift to them.

When I stared out the window from the institution where I was being treated, during a winter on the West Coast more than 25 years ago, it was if the very landscape and weather conspired against hope, a constant greyness laid upon gloomy rainstorms and incessant winds. It echoed how I felt about my future and myself. I was alone in the world because I felt unworthy of the love of anyone.

My life was totally distrurbing and humiliating to me, and I suffered a sense of loss, guilt beyond remorse, and beyond redemption. I did my very best to drive away anyone who loved me. So I sat, miserable and lonely, medicated with powerful drugs, and with no faith in God, or God’s compassion or forgiveness.

But I could not turn my back on my children, no matter how strongly I believed that they were better off with me out of their lives.

Later I would discover the power of the love of and for my wife and life partner, and indeed learned that I did have some genuine gifts to share with those around me. But the darkness of those days is still with me, in a small corner of my soul, and what keeps it at bay, in my darkest hours today is the love that I feel for others in my life, beginning with my children and my wife, and extending out from them to a joyful embrace of humanity in all of its generous forms and shapes and sizes.

The greatest revelations of faith, for me, is my journey of discovery of faith in God through my love for a little child, two of them actually. My own children. From that simple realisation came everything else of value in my life. It is not so much the love that others had or have for me, but the discovery that I truly have the capacity to love others, and I do, and as a result am thereby so greatly rewarded.

Today I feel blessed in my life, no matter what happens in the future, for I have had the greatest experience of life, to love and to be loved, fully and without reservation. In learning to give and accept love, I discovered the existence and surety of my present faith in God compassion and generosity. I know that I am not alone, and that God loves me, just as I loved (and love) my little children.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Japanese Hokkaido Tour

Japan's Northern Island

Katherine and I headed over to Sapporo, Hakkaido in Japan, arriving last Saturday on September 22, 2007, after leaving Vancouver at 1:00. Osaka airport was very international and I felt like I could have been in any international airport around the world. That's good, I guess, but it kinda warned me that the Japan I was visiting is a very different place than the place I visited in 1970 with my sister Judith.

Back then, Judith and I wandered the streets and Expo 70 as amazed by everything Japanese as they seemed amazed at us, two young Gaijin. Then I was the tallest man in the room most of the time I was here. Now, the young Japanese tower over me. Things change in only thirty seven years I guess. Also, note to myself..."I'm not young any more." Thirty seven years ago I was already a young adult! Fuck!

As we rode the train into Sapporo from Chisoka airport, with our huge travel bags and an extra bag full of stuff for Alexander, I note that the train system here is still vastly superior to Vancouver's system. Here it is not because of the large population, since Sapporo is only slightly larger than Vancouver. Clearly rapid transit is a priority in a country that imports virtually all of its gasoline from outside. Canada's oil wealth means the we actually do stupid things with our pump it into the air in the form of pollution and CO2.

We were intending to visit Tokyo and Osaka on this trip but now will not go to the southern part of Japan. Our tickets can't be changed with Air Canada, and if we were to go south, we would have to return all the way North again. Stupid airline rules. I wonder it there rules are in response to their right-of-way agreement with Japan. We have similar rules in Canada regarding foreign airlines, but it still pisses me off that there is no flexibility on this score. We probably would have been better off if we had flown with JAL or ANA all of the way, sincere there would not have been the same restrictions as there are on foreign airlines.

But I am not in despair. Hakkaido looks pretty interesting as it is, and spending two weeks here is not a hardship. We spent the first week mostly in and around Sapporo itself, with a couple of short out of town trips, once by bus to a smallist village on the ocean, and the other into the mountains to see the world famous hot springs in Jazenkei.

Sapporo is an amazingly large city, considering that its population is only about the same as Vancouver. The downtown is full of large office towers with an extremely various architectural design. It's like there no zoning, as tiny little tin buildings are next door to 40 story high rises. The only thing they seem to do in common is the subway system. Everything seems idiosyncratic.

Walking about in the north of the city one day it occured to me that my sense of Japanese society needs some alteration. The buildings show a society with a complete disregard for the aesthetic in architecture.

Unlike in Vancouver, where building design is controlled by zoning through city hall, in Japan, people seem to build whatever they want, design controlled by utility not by aesthetic, except on an exceptional basis. Individuality reigns suppreme unlike Vancouver, where zoning is used to maintain districts and areas, both as to function, and as to aesthetic.

In this Japanese seem more individualistic than Canadians, a contrast to my expectations based on my reading. Clearly Japanese poeple here are also more polite. There is a lot of socially correct behavior in public... with bowing very common for even the littlest courtesy. Also people are very friendly when approached with a smile and a happy greeting.

Until next time....