Monday, June 15, 2015

Some of the Old Days...

It's June, halfway through, already. The birds are singing and the Sun is in the sky all the time these days.
It has been quite a time, with you dying.
I mean, it's been devastating. Even, surprisingly so.

When I first got the call, telling me of your passing, I did not know how to feel. People say this all the time and you think they are stunted but then you find yourself there and you are shocked that you simply cannot react. I guess you are reacting by not reacting.

I immediately thought about how you would have reacted if you had received the same phone call. Who knows? You were always more demonstrative than I was. Except anger. That always comes easy for me. In fact, I almost reacted in anger that day, when Ian called me to give me the news. I thought you would go on living forever, you seemed to always have more than 9 lives. I think you used up your 9th life when you were like, 12. Probably before I even met you.

Shayne and me, circa 1994, at 1667 Brooke Crescent.

We probably used up a few lives together, whether it was the time we rolled my truck end over end, climbed 3 stories up the exterior walls of the Chateau lake Louise, nose dived the Grumman Goose into that wave trying to leave Scott Cove, the trip that turned into a terrifying storm aboard the MV Texada, going from Princess Royal Island to Port Hardy. The 110 foot old girl was just pounding her way across the Sound that night. And the two Russians, Oleg and Slava, who, we were convinced, were Mobsters of some sort, were just standing in the galley, watching all the pots and pans spread on the floor, bash into each other on every dive the boat took. It was like a scene out of a Kubrick film.

There are many, many more, my friend, the Dodge Colt 100 km/h e-brakes, all the motorcycle close calls, getting lost in the fog in the 206 from Call Inlet and having to find a place to touch down, all those insane trips down the mountain in the blue crummy, with the amphetamine fuelled Fleet at the wheel, ending with me kicking in the window with my caulk boots.

The following summer we had our own contract, where we took over the camp and wreaked havoc with our playing and singing and drinking and carrying on. The loggers thought we were hippies and we thought they were assholes and that's the way it was.

Dave, from Echo Bay, Shayne, Dorian, at Gilford Island.

Everything was a "Hal-sel", which is what you named after Hal, the company forester that was on the job. We rolled that huge boulder down the mountain, it was the size of a van, it just crushed a massive swath all the way down the hill. We could hear it busting trees like 1000 feet down. We thought that Hal must have heard it or discovered it because he didn't really talk to us after that. That and our nightly partying and general misbehaving drove a wedge. The John Henry birthday volleyball game may have been one of the last straws, too.

You will remember that when that contract was done, on the way home the crummy broke down in Woss and Iain came and picked us up in the big Ford orange van. We then went to the J-Bar and closed it down somewhere.

The 206 taking off from camp in Call Inlet

I think the thing that makes me so sad is that, besides my wife, you knew me better than anyone else in the world. We went through puberty together and discovered the world in a curious way, climbing water towers and riding dirt bikes on logging roads. And man, did we miss a lot of school together.
The Courtenay days at Vanier, driving Rob's Civic up to Mt. Washington and skiing for free. You could get away with it in those days and we did.
Or we would just hike up and build jumps.
That time when I lost my keys and we got into the car with a ski pole, through the back window, as I had a spare key in the ashtray for some reason? The keys were mailed to me with the Spring thaw, when some employee found them and saw that they had one of those TB Vets tags on them.

Chris Morgan, Shayne, Me, John Henry, aboard the ill-fated Texada, during the storm.

It's funny how we just go through the memories when someone we love dies. I guess they are all we have, it's all so fucking final. If you believe in an afterlife, you can have peace in knowing that you will see them again. But, even if we do believe in something other than this, this is all we have for now and it just hurts that they are gone.

Besides the memories, lies what was instilled in you, implanted in you, by them. By you.
And that is the thing that is the legacy. More than the memories.

The reason I try to take in all of my surroundings and be present in the moment, is because of you. when we were young, you always had a way of slowing things down and making me enjoy things more holistically. That sounds like a lot and it is. But those years we spent hitch hiking up and down the island, and hanging out on boats and wharfs, smoking, talking and watching the Sun go down or come up, taught me to see the beauty in the World, to not be so negative and judgemental.
You treated every person you met with the same reverance and trust.

The picture of you playing the harmonica on the dock at Deep Cove, is a favourite of mine. It really captures your essence, in a way that you were. That was September 19,1992 and I cannot believe it was that long ago. Those are the places now, that will have a magic and a sadness, the kind of place one pulls up to years from now and the son says, "Dad, why are you crying?"
And how does one explain the sheer madness, the power of friendship and the memories? Well, it can't be done. But you don't need to. It exists anyway.

Of course, I have regrets and guilt, like any normal person would. Like, why didn't I call more? Actually, that's really the only one. But it rests heavy upon me. You were always the better friend at staying in touch and I thank you for that. Because of you, there are many more memories. Like the Alberta trip in '96. I didn't want to go but you talked me into it. And we both got our criminal records there on that trip.

Pat Smith and Shayne on the beach at Tsawwassen, returning from the Alberta debacle 

It started as a trip to Oregon but they wouldn't let us across the border. You had no proper ID and there was another issue and it ended up us driving to Calgary instead. While there, we crashed that hotel, bought the room next door, and threw a party in both rooms! It was crazy. This is where we met Chris, the Scottish dude from the RAF, who coined "Cheers, there, ya little Beech Nut!"
Later the police came and you tried to bribe them and this was almost comic in its ridiculousness. You were in a cast and on crutches at the time, which made it all the more surreal.
When the Judge asked us if we had anything to say for ourselves, you pointed at your crutches, so I got up and apologised for being such delinquent little assholes. Our punishment was a $100 fine, which you paid before we left. You had a lot of money in your pocket, from a halibut trip you had just returned from.

Money never meant much to you, it seemed to slip through your hands. It's okay, it slips through mine, too. I think it does for most people.

You left me with a sense of wonder, a quest for knowledge and a thirst for life. I'll try to keep it top of mind and pass it on to my child.

Shayne, at Ian and Brandi's house, 2013.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A celebration of the life of the magnanimous and curious Shayne Becherer

What do you say about a guy who was larger than life? A guy who leapt from cliffs, bridges and even a waterfall that left him breathless and needing CPR?
A guy who mined for gold, worked on boats from here to Alaska and back, did mineral exploration in the mountains by foot and by helicopter?
A guy who danced in the flames of many a fire, crashed his motorcycles into many a thing, including a deer. A guy who dressed in bones and bird feathers, this is not a man who words themselves seem worthy of.

I met Shayne in 1987. Of course, I had already heard of him and seen him in passing, I had a paper route that included his house, which was intriguing already because they had a flock of pigeons that Eric and Steve kept. They would fly in circles around the house.

Shayne was definitely the class clown, never really shutting up, ever, if I remember correctly. I worked at the Mohawk in Cambellton and he worked at the brake and muffler place next door. He would come over to the Mohawk on his lunch break and I’d get in trouble for talking to him while I was supposed to be working. We became fast friends from then on and got in a few automobile accidents together.

He wore his fucking heart on his sleeve and he had a thirst for life that I had never seen. He had such immense knowledge, even at that age, of many aspects of nature. Rocks and minerals were always a passion, his father, Mike was a geologist and Shayne picked that up at a young age. Shayne always had a display of his latest geological formations, wherever he was calling home.
There were always gold flecks and bits of crystal or rock coring that he would lick to show the rock in all its splendour.
Many of the rocks were just kept in plastic bags, labels on the outside, and could only be taken out on very special occasions.

Animals were another love. He knew every species of local animal and its habits and habitat. Hunting was always a passion of Shayne’s from childhood. Whether it was the time he bagged his first deer, when he was a boy, to the time he somehow shot a deer that was grazing in a yard, late at night.
He dragged the deer into the cab of his pick-up because the box was filled with firewood or something, and drove off.
Down the road, the deer came back to life and started kicking Shayne while he was trying to drive.
He ended up fighting off the deer somehow and he got it home and dressed it.
The moose hunts up north, with his brothers and his Dad, were epic and Shayne had some incredible tales that I’m sure most of you have heard.
There was, of course, the time he slipped the truck off the bank and high centred it.
It was 20 below and he had to walk out 2 days to the nearest road. He abandoned the truck there, with hopes of picking it up with the spring thaw.
I think that truck might still be there.
He always had great respect for the animals he hunted and he always expressed that. His room was like a taxidermist’s paradise, with all the skulls, furs, feathers, bones, talons, etc.

Speaking of hunting, I gotta tell you about the time that he visited me on the return trip from a hunt in the interior. I was living in the West End, right downtown and Shayne drops by in his pick-up. I go out and meet him.
He’s pulling all his stuff out of the truck that he’ll need for the night, along with cigarettes, pieces of paper, feathers, shells, bandanas, rocks, a pay-as-you-go cellphone, near-beers, harmonicas, and a fairly protracted story with each item.
Then he goes behind the seat, reaches down and starts pulling his rifles out.
I’m like, “What the hell are you doing?”
He’s like,” My window is broken, I can’t leave them in the truck.”
I notice there are some people right behind us in a car and they are wide eyed. I went up to the window and told them, he’s on a hunting trip, you know, he’s from a small town, and all that, please don’t dial 911.
I told Shayne we should wrap them up for the walk back to my place.

Shayne was a great lover of the sea. It was in his bones. In February 93, I talked him into coming up to Port Hardy to give it a go as a deckhand on a live cod boat. He had not yet tried his hand as a seafarer. He obviously liked it because he kept doing it on and off for the next 20 years.
The first night on the boat, as we baited the hooks, Shayne was smoking pipe tobacco out of a huge, old man pipe, like an old sea dog. It was like he belonged there. And he kind of did.

In the summer of that year, we worked aboard different boats and we crossed paths in Robson Bight in August. By crazy coincidence, both of our boats ended up tied to the wharf in Alert Bay that night and we met Shayne and my brother, Ian, in the local watering hole.
Shayne was in great pain because earlier that day, he had ripped a tooth out with vice grips on the boat. The tooth had been bothering him forever and that was the final outcome.
I don’t know if he had a distrust of the medical system but he never sought medical help when he should have.
There were a few years there when he always seemed be in a cast or on crutches, or his ribs were bruised or broken or some kind of physical ailment brought on by a fight with gravity. It was like being friends with a clumsy stuntman.

Shayne was a Dad. A good Dad. And you can see by Ember, that she has inherited Shayne’s smarts and empathy and love of life. Ember was always talked about in incredibly high regards by Shayne, even when she was a baby. He loved talking about her. And he talked about her like someone talks about their best friend, not just their kid. There’s a difference.
I saw him and Denise up in Vernon, shortly after Ember was born and he looked like a natural with the baby in his arms. Denise did, too but women are better with babies. Men are just sometimes, not that good. Some are good. Shayne was good.
I am glad that Shayne became a parent because he got to share his love unconditionally with his child and there’s nothing in this life better than that. It was just too short.

Shayne would say that he crammed 80 years into 40 and he would be right. Some people take up a book club. Shayne took up skydiving. And cliff jumping. And diving naked into McIvor Lake when other people are just standing on the shore, trying to have a beer and hang out.

To stand here and try to put into words, try to tell everyone in this room about all the incredible things Shayne did in his life, all the people he touched along the way, all the people he inspired, all the fucking insane memories that he left us all with, seems almost trivial. But the fact that all of us are here, all of us have travelled from wherever we were, to be here today to say that we cared about Shayne and he moved each and every one of us, that means a lot. That means everything. I would even go so far as to say that is the meaning of life. Which, I think we all know, is Love.

I told myself I wasn’t going to take too much time talking about Shayne, I didn’t want to ramble, I am sure there are many people who have many things to say about Shayne, so I just want to close by thanking Shayne for being the best friend I could have ever had, as a teenager and as an adult. We shared some incredible memories that I will hold onto forever.
In almost 30 years of friendship, he and I never had a falling out. There were long periods of time when we didn’t speak but when we did, it was like a day had hardly passed.

I wanted to speak to all of you about Shayne because I wanted to make sure it was known that Shayne wasn’t just the Beach Nut, the crazy guy that danced in fires and played his harmonica. Shayne was a highly intelligent, complex, deeply caring person, who was a son, a father, a brother and a friend.

I will miss him for the rest of my life.

"Who we really are, does not come and go, is not born and will never 
die.  Who we really are is Truth itself, love of the highest form, 
unlimited and unending joy, supreme bliss that is the knowledge of our 
ultimate existence.

Your friends have given you happiness and fond memories and now these 
dear souls, through their departure from this world, give you the 
opportunity to find real peace, the source from where they, we and all 
forms come.  Cherish this last gift they can offer to you."