Story-lovers got some bad news last week. One of our treasures passed away. He was ill. I think we all thought he'd get better. It was somewhat of a shock.
I'd heard of Stuart McLean throughout my childhood, but my family weren't big CBC Radio listeners. I'd heard about Dave Cooks the Turkey, but had never actually heard the story, and I'd listened to people talk about this storyteller here and there, but never really gave him much thought.
We "discovered" him a few years ago, during a long, long drive down to Utah on a holiday. It was during one of those long days of driving that I turned on the radio and happened upon The Vinyl Cafe. I can't remember what we listened to, or if we even heard the whole story, but we were entranced. After that, we subscribed to podcasts, and we would listen while I sat on the floor with my yoga mat and did my stretches and the hubby laid back and listened.
A couple of years later, I asked for tickets to his Christmas show in Calgary for my birthday. I was excited, but I was not prepared for how magical the experience would be. It was transformative... a show with music and laughter and twinkling lights and stories... I was entranced and delighted. I'd never dreamed that a huge hall of people of all ages could sit in silence while we listened to a man on a stool at a microphone with a music stand in front of him read his stories.
It still amazes me that, in this day of YouTube videos, high-action movies, and the latest-and-greatest in entertainment gear, this person could make a living being just what he was: a storyteller: a person who had the words to all of the things the rest of us long to express, and who expressed them for us, freely, and with great accuracy of emotion. It was never melodramatic, nor was it preachy or sanctimonious.
It was always what we needed to hear.
I mourn him. I am sad to know he's gone. I feel like one of the precious few people I treasured in my life has gone and left a hole.
But, when the news of his death broke, I was heartened by the people who left comments and tributes... and I felt a kinship with each and every one of them. I've felt really isolated and lonely recently, but I felt better knowing there were others like me out there.
There are other people in the world that get lost in the world of stories.
I start most of my blogposts with a quote, but this time, I'll end with one that has been repeated over and over out there by Stuart's fans over the last few days. It's from his story, "Le Mort d'Arthur," which was a story about the death of a family pet. I cried when I heard it, I re-listened to it when I lost my Rascal, and I've treasured it ever since. It says everything my aching heart wanted to say.
Thank you, Story Man. You've given the world more than you could ever know.
“We do this thing. We open our hearts to the world around us. And the more we do that, the more we allow ourselves to love, the more we are bound to find ourselves one day - like Dave, and Morley, and Sam, and Stephanie - standing in the kitchen of our live, surrounded by the ones we love, and feeling empty, and alone, and sad, and lost for words, because one of our loved ones, who should be there, is missing. Mother or father, brother or sister, wife or husband, or a dog or cat. It doesn't really matter. After a while, each death feels like all the deaths, and you stand there like everyone else has stood there before you, while the big wind of sadness blows around and through you.
"He was a great dog," said Dave.
"Yes," said Morley. "He was a great dog.”
― Stuart McLean