Saturday, July 22, 2017

And, All Well and Good, I Aim to Bow Out in the Same Manner

This has been quite a week, a veritable rollercoaster of emotions with euphoric highs and crushingly sad lows.  Of the latter state of being we experienced another death this week, that of a beloved customer of my workplace.  There is little more I can say about it other than what you can read below.  Offering to post a tribute on the store's Facebook page, I have been attempting since Tuesday to compose something in my head, and set about the task today when I could have quiet, uninterrupted time to do so.  All I can hope is that it serves this lovely man well.
"Hello everyone.  We have something we wish to share with you all, so thanks for taking a few minutes out of your day to read this.

This has been a sad week in the music world with a number of notable deaths:  Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington; Streetheart’s Kenny Shields; Christopher Wong Won (Fresh Kid Ice) of 2 Live Crew; Tuxedomoon’s Peter “Principle” Dachert; South African musician Ray Phiri; Canadian reggae artist Wayne McGhie and the French singer Barbara Weldens have all left us in the last few days.

However, we have also experienced a significant loss at the store with the passing of a popular long-term customer.  He was such a lovely man, so we feel compelled to share a little of his story by way of a tribute, but particularly concerning the remarkable and inspiring way he faced death, and lived his final months.

For over 25 years DAVID HALL shopped at Fascinating Rhythm.  A self-confessed music (and comic books/graphic novels) nerd, David’s taste was very wide, so as a weekly customer he amassed an enormous CD collection from us alone over that quarter-century.  He really knew his stuff, too, and in particular was a real authority on African music.  Since we started stocking them in depth David must have bought hundreds of CDs in this genre, as well as mountains of other international sounds, soul, rock, blues, folk and…well, you get the picture.  He was, by any measure, a music fanatic, and as is the case with certain customers we could order esoteric titles in so-called specialist genres with full confidence that David would either buy or investigate them!

As you will read later, of poignant significance to this story is that David was an avid concert and music festival attendee.  We would often see him out and about, checking out bands or artists that he either already knew and liked, but also those that simply piqued his interest or we had recommended, then buying CDs at the show or picking them up from us at a later date.

A couple of years ago, noticing a dramatic weight loss in him, we inquired as to David’s health, and he informed us that he was battling an aggressive cancer.  We were obviously shocked and concerned, wishing him every strength for his fight, and asked him to keep us as updated as possible, if he could.  Several months later he told us he had been declared cancer-free, which naturally delighted us and came as a huge relief.  However, as cancer can and unfortunately so frequently does, it returned with a vengeance.  Not yet aware of this, upon inquiring how he was feeling when he paid us a visit one day, he informed us it had returned, but that this time other than very risky surgery there was nothing any doctor could do to help him.  This was somewhere around the turn of the year. 

Incredibly, David delivered this news as if he were discussing the weather.  Casually, making no great deal of it, he said simply that we all have to go sometime, and as he now knew his time was on the horizon he had starting laying plans for everything he wanted to do with the rest of his life, however long that turned out to be.  Most important, he said, was to return to his favourite place on earth, New Orleans, to once again attend the Jazz & Heritage Festival, taking place this year between April 28th and May 7th.  And so off he went to that spectacular event, to witness performances by such as Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Alabama Shakes and many more.

As his health grew considerably more fragile, David’s attitude became ‘a day at a time,’ but without a single ounce of self-pity.  It was seemingly more about what he could achieve in any given day than looking down the line with dread to what was coming.

And then, get this, after just the week prior having been given 24 hours to live, David somehow summoned the strength to head to the Comox Valley with a good pal to attend all three days of the Vancouver Island MusicFest last weekend, one avowed intention being to see one of his all-time favourites, Emmylou Harris, one last time.  Back from the festival, presumably having checked everything off his list, David quietly slipped away on Tuesday.

Store owner Steve and I (Dave) visited David at his Ladysmith home during his last three weeks on earth, drawing incredible inspiration from the matter-of-fact, Zen-like way he was, at least outwardly, facing the end.  He was sat under a parasol on his terrace at the edge of a pretty forest, listening to his favourite music, reading graphic novels, just chilling in the sunshine, all peaceful and full of smiles.  We knew he loved his beer, so my wife Susan and I took him over a couple of bottles of our favourite IPA (Fat Tug, if you’re curious) to share with David; it transpired he had not tasted that one before, and loved it.  We had such a good time, chatting about music and life and all manner of things that organically arose in conversation.  He wanted to know more about my own cancer history (I’m a three-time survivor) and his eyes filled with tears as I related my tale.  I have no words for how moved and humbled I was, and remain, that a man in David’s situation should cry for me like that.  As we left, Susan - who had met David at gigs, but barely knew him – was beside herself, saying, “Wow.  What an incredible man.”
We had planned to pay him a visit again this weekend, but alas.

We have so many wonderful customers, and down the two-and-a-half decades he shopped with us David was one of those that Steve and, in my ten years at the store, I, also, grew very fond of.  He was a highly intelligent, gentle, sweet, private man, full of wit, wisdom and knowledge from a life well-lived, including time spent teaching in West Africa and Northern China.  We will miss him a great deal, and I personally will miss how he liked to push my buttons with banter about The Black Keys and Dan Auerbach; he was a big fan, but I’m not so struck!

So, that’s David Hall, part of the store’s little world for 25 years, and claimed by cancer at just 62.  Thank you for reading about him.  We hope, like us, you can draw something of inspiration to you from his story.  As Susan said, he really was an incredible man.

R.I.P. David."