Suzy Snapper
Monday, February 27, 2006

I'd like you to meet somebody. Somebody you would have really liked.

My cousin - well, technically my cousin's husband Rick.

He passed away of the insidious disease called ALS on February 17 just a few months short of his 60th birthday. I thought I had accepted his cruel fate, but attending the funeral Saturday brought it back 10 fold. No one ever truly accepts the loss of a loved one.

Rick married my cousin, Sandi in 1970. I was merely a year old and don't remember the festivities but at the same time, I don't remember a time when Rick was not a part of our lives. He was vivacious, funny and the life of the party.

He was the king of one-liners, the best at trivia and always had the latest toys or greatest idea to make money. Sometimes they worked, sometimes - like the time he tried to renovate his house without any DIY knowledge at all, not so much. But he never stopped smiling.

They had two boys. Trav is now just about 30 and has already seen too many funerals and loved ones gone in his brief life. He lost his best friend by a drunk driver in 1998 and his fiance in a tragic accident two years ago. As he stood up on the podium on Saturday though, I realized how proud his parents must be of him. Even through his grief, he had us laughing at his Dad's exploits. 'I'm going to write a book one day', he promised. And I hope he does.

Ty, the younger of the two, shares my birthday. He wasn't able to get up in front of the 500+ people who packed the service to say goodbye, but we all knew his grief. We could see it etched in his face. No one should have to bury their parents before they finish their first quarter century.

Sandi, always the epitome of grace and dignity said a few words. Knowing how nervous she was, but not seeing it at all as she stood up to tell us of their last years together. They had a bond that few ever experience, yet my family seems to have been blessed to see several times over. Soulmates. 8 years ago, Sandi was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. However, she has taken her treatments with a smile and until recently, continued to work in the medical field. She made it look easy, yet we all knew it has not been.

5 years ago, Rick and I had a conversation about it and he said he could never live without her and seeing her suffer was the hardest thing he'd ever had to deal with. 'It's her strength that helps me though', he smiled, 'She teaches ME how to do this'. It was a rare moment in time when he was very serious and I was touched deeply. It was 6 months later that he was diagnosed with ALS, a moto-neuron disease that robs one of all muscle use. The mind stays perfectly clear while the body dies piece by piece.

He tried everything he could, and yesterday, I found a lot of posts in forums for ALS written by him that detailed his struggle towards a cure. It's a disease that does not get the funding that is required, yet 11 people die of it every hour in North America. To hear his voice in those forums get increasingly frantic was hard to bear, and I know beyond anything that he fought a good fight.

Even through all this, he kept his humour. His son told us a story on Saturday of him coming out of a restaurant last summer, just before he lost use of his legs and was very unstable. His left leg began having tremors and he was struggling with each step. A young couple was walking into the restaurant and he turned to them and said 'Watch out for the clams. I think they're off tonight'. Always there for a smile, that was Rick.

His brother told us of times in the hospital that they set up his voice computer to shout rude comments out as people stopped by. The nurses had come to expect a taunt from a monotone voice, while a paralysed Rick with gleaming eyes laid close by.

When my cousin got up to the podium to eulogize, a soft hush came over the crowd. This was as much her eulogy as it was his. We knew it. She has held herself together to nurse her husband in his final days and now her illness will take forefront. There was not a dry eye in the house when she sat down, but knowing her I'm sure that would have bothered her more. This was about him, not her.

500 people were there. 500 family and friends. It was an amazing scene, and one I was proud to say was my family. We met people we knew from the local stores, the neighbourhood and just around that we had no idea knew Rick. The world is a small place, especially when such a giant of a man walks with us.

McD _ Rick passed away peacefully on February 17, 2006, surrounded by his devoted family and friends. He is best remembered for his love of family and friends, his love of sports, his love and knowledge of 1960's music and old movies, and his quick wit and sense of humour. When ALS took away his ability to participate in the activities he loved (tennis, squash, jogging, travel) he managed to maintain his courage, optimism and, always, his sense of humour. People loved to be around Rick, and his passing will leave a huge void in the lives of all those who loved him so dearly.

A guestbook has been opened in his memory.

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer trapped in a corporate buyer's body. Steel shopping by day, and freeflowing prose by night. One day I hope to have the nights become my days, but am intimidated by the sheer amount of people who share my dream. So I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.
This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from cdnsue. Make your own badge here.