One of my good friends from High School, Rod Jackson, was supposed to turn 48 today and it was his goal to be alive for one last birthday. He didn't make it missing it by just five days; he had esophogeal cancer and died on September 13th. It's been on my mind since I learned of his passing and I feel compelled to write.
I went for a walk this morning (September 18) with Rod on my mind. It was a glorious fall day with brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds catching the suns rays reminding me that yet another season was passing. As is my custom when walking alone; I said a few prayers, but this time thinking of Rod. It occurred to me that it was Rod's birthday when I observed something roughly a kilometre in front of me cross the road but I lost sight of it on the side. This distracted me from my thoughts and I continued forward keeping my eyes on the place ahead in case the animal could be a threat to my dog. I finally saw the animal move off into the trees and relaxed a little. By now I was less than half a kilometre from the spot and the animal re-appeared, but now I was close enough to see that it was a coyote. The coyote came out of the ditch and turned and looked at me for what felt like a long time even though it could see I was approaching. Finally, it started to go back the direction it had come from stopped, turned and with a final look at me went the other way. The rest of my walk was spent looking to see if my coyote companion would return.
I didn't think too much about the coyote until I started to tell my wife about it. My wife is a strong believer in signs; she just thinks we need to be open to them. She tells about grieving for lost family members and little things that happened that she connects to them. She told me about two angels, one orange and the other purple, she found in a store one day after she had fallen into sadness remembering the passing of her cousin, Lucy, and than her cousin's youngest child, Erica. These were the only 2 in the store and it just so happens that orange was Lucy's favourite colour and purple was Erica's. Some would call it a coincidence; my wife believes it was a message to her from them, and it helped her come out of her grief.
Anyway as I told her the story of the coyote, it occurred to me that I had never seen a coyote here before despite the fact I've lived here for over 24 years and I remembered that just before I saw the coyote I had remembered that it was supposed to have been Rod's birthday. Maybe it is a coincidence, but I know Rod had wanted another visit together so I wonder was his spirit at work, was this his good-bye? I will never know for sure, but in my heart I know it was!
Rod was a good friend through high school and, though as adults we were not in contact much, whenever I did see him or whenever I talked to him it was like the time that separated us melted away and I was with my buddy! The mind is a terrible thing though as I have trouble remembering details; my memories of Rod are more like a collage! I remember a friend we teased because he couldn't put his knees together, I remember a friend in the late 70's very concerned about his mother's health, and I remember he used to repeat things a lot almost annoyingly so. For example, whenever one of us would say "Deadly" Rod would reply, "Deadly Dudley" and give a grin. He always grinned! I remember camping trips on the Queen Charlottes with Rod the summer after we graduated and I remember we worked together with school district #50 in Masset one summer. That summer Rod was working on reframing a wall at Tahaygen Elementary School and was being tormented by horse flies. We all know horse flies can drive you mad and Rod evidently lost it that day because when he reached the breaking point he lined up his hammer on a horse fly that had landed on his knee - it was time to strike back. Rod slammed the hammer into his knee while the horse fly fled the scene! I believe this was the summer Rod started smoking and when I questioned him why? He explained it was okay to take a break for a smoke, but if you weren't smoking you had to keep going.
In 1980, we graduated from High School and made plans to go to school. Rod was off to SFU to study criminology and I was off to Victoria for Arts and Science. We left the island together that summer and it was then he told me a story that I still laugh about. There we were on a 737 flying towards Vancouver and he told me about his first experience with a girl on a beach near the Sangan River and how the next morning his mother was complaining about all the sand in his clothes! That was a grin I tell you!!! I don't know if he ever told her the truth about that.
The Rod I want to remember always made me smile. He was a person who trusted his friends, a person who shared stories, but most of all a person who loved life and loved to laugh. Rest in peace Rod. I hope we meet again!