Dear Alston

Dear Alston,

It took only a few minutes after you died yesterday for the news to make it through your circle of friends, with the expected ripples around blogs and social networks. There has been quite a few tributes published in the last 24 hours and I’m sure they’ll keep coming during the next days. I’ve been wanting to add my voice to the group of people who cared very much for you, yet I sit here in front of my computer… and I do not know what to say.

I cried when I found out the news yesterday, shortly after 3pm. I couldn’t concentrate on work, or on anything else for that matter, so I decided to go sit outside, stare at the reddening maple trees in the yard, with the silly idea of “offering” you this view of a gorgeous Fall day. But even that simple intention could not materialize without a hitch: this was the time that my neighbor decided to mow his lawn and the moment was broken. I could imagine you yelling at him, telling him to shut off that fucking noise making machine because Martine was trying to have a quiet moment. Hearing your voice in my head made me smile.

We knew you were going to leave us. We’d known for months. But knowing doesn’t seem to make it that much easier. When a group of us last saw you in August, you were so frail that we were all in shock, tiptoeing around you, trying to give our potluck session some kind of normalcy. It made me nervous because I figured that, with your personality, so frank, sometimes even blunt, you probably hated the idea of people tiptoeing around you. But I think you were in that energy conservation mode you had talked about on your blog, so I don’t know that you were present enough with us on that day to realize that we were so nervous. It’s not a big deal, really, but I hope you weren’t too conscious of it. I hope the only thing you felt was all the caring and the love.

I gave you a hug outside of the car that day when Ed and I drove you back home. I felt privileged to have that extra time in your company on this short drive to Old Montreal. My arms could get around your entire body without any difficulty because you had gotten so thin. I got back in the car with tears in my eyes, and told Ed that I had a feeling this was going to be the last time we see you.

It was.

So what is left to say? Like everyone else, I want to say that I appreciated LOVED your dry sense of humor and that contagious laugh of yours. With your energy and vivacity, you could turn a boring gathering into a wild evening of drinking, laughing and loud, crazy talking. But one of the things that I admired the most about you was your ability to express yourself in writing. It was always there on your blog – you were quite the opinionated guy! – but it became more apparent after you got your cancer diagnosis three and a half years ago. The stuff you published then was powerful, naked and devoid of sentimentality, yet it was beautiful and well put together.

So instead of insisting on finding something special to say about you, I will let your words do the work. This is from a blog post you wrote on May 4th of 2010, on the 3rd anniversary of your diagnosis.

The past three years have been the most difficult of my life and the most rewarding. I wonder if that’s the rule. I hope it is. It makes hard times bearable if you have something to show for those hard times. I certainly do; it’s obvious. I may have lost my health and career, but I gained and strengthened friendships, published books, starred in movies, went on adventures, and changed my perspective. None of these things could have happened without these hard and trying ordeals. And I know that…let’s put it this way: I know that I will continue to receive benefits.
Now I take it one day at a time. It’s almost all that is left to me; the long-term is too nebulous. I sometimes feel as though I am going away on a trip somewhere at some point, and won’t be able to enjoy certain things. For example, the entertainment centre that they are building in the Quartier des Spectacles in Montreal. They talk about this new Centre 2-22 (I think that’s what they are calling it), and how it will have a new bistro and cultural groups with their HQs there, but I won’t be able to see these things, because I won’t be here. I’m going away. Elsewhere. Right now it just feels like some other city. Maybe a job transfer. No more Montreal. Maybe Helsinki? But as time wears on, I know it will feel…different.
I don’t normally feel this way, and I certainly don’t put it in these pages, but once in a while, especially on my anniversary, some candour is due. I hope I can stick around Montreal for a while. I do like it here.

Wherever you are, sweetheart, I hope you like it there.

With much love,

Your friend Martine

Alston Adams, November 8 1974 – October 4, 2010

Note:
A memorial service will be held for Alston on Friday October 8th, 2010 beginning at 3 pm. The service will be followed by a small reception. Kane & Fetterly Funeral Home, 5301 Decarie Boulevard H3W 3C4 (Metro Snowdon, Tel: 514.481.5301).

  1. vanou left a comment on October 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    That’s a very nice letter… And I too see him yelling at your neighbour, and it makes me smile.

  2. Markus left a comment on October 5, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    One of the smartest guys I know. Melanie & I got to spend an afternoon with him May 1st & it was great to see my friend. It had been 7 years since I last saw him & I was touched that he took time out to visit with me as sick as he was. He was telling stories about Brockville, some of which I had never heard before. We had a great time making Melanie laugh with stories about us in our 20s.

    I will miss his sense of humour, his writing, “The Look” with those expressive eyes of his & most of all his laugh.

    See you on the other side my friend & thanks in advance for watching over me.

  3. the milliner left a comment on October 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    *tears*

    The ironic thing about that get together in August is that the very person that could have cut through all of that nervousness with just one quip was the one who precisely needed to conserve his energy for other more important matters like keeping his mind and body running, and I hope, trying to enjoy a few moments with some friends.

    Alston, I hope that it’s nice in your other-world Helsinki. They are lucky to have you.

  4. MJ left a comment on October 5, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Je ne connaissais pas Alston, mais j’ai découvert son blog grâce à toi. Puissant. Riche. Direct au coeur.
    C’est une très belle lettre que tu lui as écrit. Et je crois profondément que les êtres qui nous ont marqué restent en nous. Et que parfois, parfois, ils sourient à travers nos larmes. Permets-moi de t’offrir un câlin pour adoucir un peu ton chagrin.

  5. Jessica Gore left a comment on October 6, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    I did not know him as personally as most, but I had the pleasure of inviting him to my house for a game of cards… I think the game was called Magic… He was a customer at a coffee shop I used to work at many years ago when I first moved to Canada. He gave me great laughs.. And although I did not know him as well as most I too can hear him yelling at the guy mowing the lawn…. He was an all round good guy.. I am lucky that I did get to catch up with him on facebook again.. He put up a good fight… What you have written here is just great.. A very lovely letter…

  6. beth left a comment on October 7, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Martine, this is a beautiful letter to a clearly beautiful man. I’m sorry you and Ed have lost your friend – for now anyway! Who knows, I hope he is smiling somewhere and that you can cherish all the good times and the lessons you must have learned from him. Thank you for sharing him with us.

  7. Adams family – Fagstein left a comment on October 9, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    […] Martine Pagé […]

  8. Martine left a comment on October 17, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Thanks everyone for the good words. Il va beaucoup nous manquer.

  9. Frank left a comment on November 4, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Beautifully written, Martine. When I first read this, I kept thinking what he would think about your thoughts regarding the lawn mower. Even now a month later, I keep finding myself thinking occasionally about what his opinion would be on assorted items that arise. He is missed.

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