Farewell to The Last Little Girl

She was the smallest of my second cousins.

But what she lacked in physical strength, she made up for in personality and, from what I hear, a sharp mind.

And yesterday afternoon at work, I found out my cousin, Adonia, died.

She had sickle cell anemia, which – to probably oversimplify things – is a disorder that affects the properties and number of red blood cells in the body, which can clog blood vessels and deprive the body’s organs and tissue from getting the oxygen they need.

This, in turn, means she was more prone to getting infections and becoming ill quite easily.

The last time I met her, she was a tiny baby, barely a toddler.

But from what I’ve heard from my mom, who saw her last summer, she was extremely bright.

To say her mother is beside herself with grief is probably the understatement of the year, and perhaps even insensitive. She’s a teacher in the Jamaican school system, which is often tough and insensitive to the needs of teachers. So when Adonia fell ill, she couldn’t drop everything to see to her in hospital.

By the time she did manage to get there, she was too late. From the sounds of it, her last little girl had died in pain and alone.

And I can only imagine what her older brother and two sisters – thousands of kilometres away in the U.K. – must be thinking and feeling right now.

It just feels strange. Just thinking about it, it’s like my brain can’t process what’s happening and has separated itself. It’s like looking at myself through a pair of binoculars, or one of those cardboard tubes, the way you might as a kid after the toilet paper was finished.

Her mom – my first cousin – is a teacher … she won a trip to come up to Canada this spring. And I was finally going to meet her after almost 15 years. Now I’ll never get the chance.

My mom says that she’s probably better off now because she’s no longer suffering.

Is she right?

A President, An Entertainer and A Dictator

This has been a bit of a crazy week for check-outs in the world of the well-known.

First, James Brown – the Hardest Working Man in America – decided to stop working and on Monday, he and his dancing shoes took their rest in Atlanta.

(Leave it to the Godfather of Soul to try and upstage Jesus. *Shrug*)

But you had to hand it to the man – he certainly had an arrival and “lying in state” at the Apollo yesterday that could rival any member of any royal family, anywhere. And now word is circulating that cocky R & B entertainer Usher – who considered Brown his mentor, and probably considers himself heir apparent to the Hardest Working Throne – is interested in playing his idol in a biopic, should one ever come to pass.

Then former U.S. President Gerald Ford took his leave on Tuesday. His funeral was today, the beginning of six days of mourning, with all the trappings a former head of state is no doubt entitled to.

And just over an hour and 20 minutes ago, Saddam Hussein got his membership card with the Human Race revoked via a nice, thick piece of rope.

I’m still trying to (a) process the words “Saddam” and “executed” and (b) consider, given the man had another trial that was running concurrently when he got his sentence last month, if that was really the right thing for the authorities to do.

Ah, well – doesn’t matter now, does it? That videotape will probably hit YouTube faster than you can say “Suleymaniyah”, anyway.

Goodbye, Ed

So yesterday’s glee was quickly doused by news this afternoon that a journalistic giant, Ed Bradley, had passed away.

I was taken aback, to be honest. I’d no idea he was even sick. It turns out, he’d kept his illness – leukemia – quiet. It was part of his nature not to complain, his colleagues said.

It’s funny. As soon as I was old enough to comprehend, I knew who he was. I’d remember my mom watching 60 Minutes most Sunday nights when I was younger; me sometimes leaving the room because I didn’t have the patience to sit through an entire news show. For many years, I think I’d merely taken him and his contributions for granted. I recently learned my brother loved him, had been watching 60 Minutes for a while and looked forward to seeing him in the opening credits.

Later, when I was in school and really started comprehending the kind of work he did, I thought, there’s no way in this world I could EVER be like him. He was investigative. Cool. Knew how to ask tough questions and get his answers. I remember being in my graduating year, looking at all the internship postings and seeing a posting for a scholarship in his name, for visible minorities. I glanced at it, glanced again, and talked myself out right out of applying – I didn’t think I had a chance.

But I think it was only today that I finally, really, got snatches of insight into what this guy did, and who he was.

The man had been to Vietnam, covering one of the most important stories of the last century. And he almost didn’t make it out alive.

He’d done countless stories and garnered many of well-deserved awards for them. This man was journalism personified. He worked hard. And he made sure that his stories were presented the way he intended: fairly and honestly.

But there was another side to him, the side a lot of people outside the industry seem to forget when they’re too busy cussing out the media for inaccuracy and apparent heartlessness. The man was human. He was a jazz aficianado. He loved food. And, as some of his friends and colleagues recalled tonight, a man with style, no matter what he wore.

But his passing today touched a lot of people, and brought out the human side in his friends in the business. This afternoon, one of the hosts of the network I worked at interviewed one of our senior correspondents in Washington – a big bear of a man – who, as it turned out, knew Bradley for 30 years, and was in (and also trying to get out of) Vietnam during the war with him. I watched and listened to him recall what he was like, what kind of person he was like.

And then, with about 30 seconds left in the interview, I saw it, the most touching scene. The stoic facade, the composure he had maintained for the whole interview, started to crack. His chin wobbled, and his face fought not to pull and crumple into that expression we all make, just as we start to cry. I’m sure he knew he lost one of his best friends before he sat down in the chair. But I think at that moment, suddenly, he really knew, and realization of him no longer behing around hit him all at once. That’s the kind of impression he made.

This evening, I was just thinking about the day, and for some reason, I remembered that one time I had to write an essay as part of my application package to a school here in Toronto. I don’t quite remember the details, but I do remember writing that I wanted to be a messenger of truth – something overdramatic and cliche to that effect.

It turns out a messenger of truth’s been in our midst this whole time. Except today, he was called to deliver his message elsewhere. It was good while it lasted. He’ll be missed.

A sad end to summer

I was going to post about how sad it is that it’s the end of August and summer.

But today, I received a shock and a real reason for a sombre mood.

My friend’s father – who was admitted to hospital almost two weeks ago becuase of difficulties breathing – passed away yesterday. She is part of a tight-knit family, so this is understandably an unbearably difficult time for them.

My deepest sympathies go out to her and her family at this time.

I will also be out of town this Labour Day weekend – which is also threatening to be miserable – so hopefully I’ll have things to post about when I return.

Pluto, 1930 – 2006. Kinda.

Pluto, we hardly knew ye!

The little wannabe astrono-nerd in me couldn’t help but blink and choke up a little when I read this this afternoon. (Well, maybe just clear my throat a bit.)

Talk about undoing some 20 years of learning and memorization!

But, for real. Despite the runty, ice-cold exterior and wobbly, weird orbit, you must’ve known it was only a matter of time before us big eggheads punted you over to the dwarf planet table.

Imagine – if you didn’t have all those other particles floatin’ around, you might’ve had, what, another five, 10 years or so?

Kinda sucks for your discoverer’s widow, too.

It was a good run, though. Have fun with the other dwarf planets. And remember – in this big interplanetary space park, you’re the big dog now. Play nice! Hugs.

Death of a colleague

My early afternoon started off with a bit of a shock, and a reminder of how short life is.

My mother said she’d overheard on the news segment on a local talk-radio station that a former co-worker had died in a snorkelling accident in Thailand.

I honestly didn’t believe her, until I saw it for myself on TV. It makes tears spring to my eyes, but I still can’t quite process that it’s happened.

While I didn’t really know him that well, I had worked with him on a number of occasions. The impression I’ve always had of him was one of a consummate professional who loved what he did (probably the one thing I want for myself).

Even more than that, I got the sense he was someone who, despite this crazy business we’re in, kept his good soul intact. And that’s probably what has affected me the most.

My deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.

If you wish, you can read about him here.