Those of you who know me well know that I’m not much for melodrama, but somewhere here there’s a lesson to all of us, so I thought I’d share it. It’s also a bit of catharsis because I’m feeling blue.
Two days ago, a friend of mine named Albert Temple committed suicide. In March of 1998 he was injured while playing beer league ice hockey in Burnaby, and became a paraplegic. The few times I was able to visit him, since I don’t live in Vancouver anymore, I came to realize how much something as simple as a game can mean to us — to Albert, it was everything. And without his passion he was lost, depressed, and feeling a tremendous amount of pain.
I wrote the tribute below to summarize how I felt, to explain to myself how this could have happened, and to express my belief that Albert should not to be frowned upon for the choices he made.
I’m sorry if it’s a little too personal and a little too trite.. I hate getting stuff like this in email too.
>Date: Tue, 5 Dec 2000 17:13:47 -0800
>From: Ian Andrew Bell
>Subject: Re: Albert Temple
>At the risk of sounding cold-hearted I must say that I’m not nearly
>so heartbroken to hear of this as I was to hear of his permanent
>injury. For a few years I spent a lot of my time on or near ice
>hockey rinks with Albert and I know what that game meant to him.
>In playing hockey Albert found something that rewarded him for every
>ounce of effort he could put into it — and he had something that
>helped to define him in this world which, for many of us, can seem
>so cold and without inspiration. Albert found comradery and
>friendship, as well as challenge and achievement, in the game that
>he had a hard time finding elsewhere.
>I remember his joy and pride at helping the team he managed and
>created to win the league championship in its first year. I
>remember the obsessiveness with which jerseys would be washed, by
>Albert, for every player and hung behind their usual roosts in the
>dressing room. Most of all I remember laughing to breathlessness as
>I watched him celebrate after scoring goals, impersonating the
>hockey heroes of our youths.
>Yes it’s just an idle after-work pastime but for many of us these
>games are the fruits of life and are a big part of what makes days
>It is so ironic and painful to know that his love of playing hockey
>led to his injury; to the game being taken away from him; and
>ultimately to his death.
>I empathized strongly with him when we realized he wouldn’t walk or
>skate again. At the time, I reflected on what effect losing my
>mobility would have on me and, I’m afraid, I could muster no better
>answer than Albert eventually did.
>What I admire of Albert was his bravery in trying to overcome his
>disability and in fighting towards recovery. His hope was not
>limitless, but instead represented pragmatism with dedication. He
>tried. He focused his efforts, let his therapy run its course, and
>he measured the results. But he could not face a future without
>…Nor could any of us. Fortunately most of us are not required to
>make this choice — if we did, would we really fare better?
>Albert teaches us a lesson, as do all of our fallen friends and
>family, that life is what you make it. Make it beautiful, make it
>fun, make it challenging, and most of all make it for yourself.
>Live in today, and not in yesterday or tomorrow. Happiness is so
>fleeting and momentary, but our daily challenge is to perpetuate it.
>The loss of Albert is ours to bear but our hope and joy can be found
>in celebrating his newfound world, where he is doing what pleases
>him most. His spirit has lived in all of us since we’ve known him,
>and will continue to do so unabated.
>If every death opens a thousand doors to life then I know that
>Albert has opened one of those doors and has found his next Today
>and it is in a place where he can, once again, make it whatever he
>wants it to be.
>The best we can do is to honor him, to remember him, and to be glad
>to have known him all this time.
>Thanks for reading…
>-Ian / December 5, 2000.