How strange is death. That was a statement, not a question. No
letters correcting my punctuation, please.
It’s the grand finale we’re all working towards but no one’s
looking forward to or, in many cases, even talking about. It’s the last great
mystery of life and, arguably, the only real excuse for the longevity of
religious beliefs. It’s our final chance to do something well but very few of
us give much thought to, or even take an active hand in, how and when and with
what flair we do it.
When death comes, even to those long suffering in its final
throes, it is said to come suddenly. Death can come no other way. As you
breathe your last breath, you’re alive. When you fail to inhale again, you’re
Some of us believe we’ll go to heaven even though we can’t
really describe what it might be like unless we are a Muslim martyr dreamin’ of
72 virgins. Some of us believe in hell and are pretty sure we’ve had more than
a few experiences close enough to the real thing to have a better understanding
of that option. Some of us expect to make our way through the increasingly
exquisite levels of enlightenment or, if we’re wrong, be reincarnated as a
cockroach. Some of believe when we’re dead, we’re just dead meat and all the
nonsense about the transcendent human spirit is just a psychic nightlight to
keep the boogieman away. Me? I want to come back as my dog if he’s willing to
share the job with me.
Death brings me back to the little prairie town of Winkler,
Manitoba. Winkler is a town of roughly seven thousand souls, several of whom I
am related to by marriage. Truth be told, I have more relatives in and around
Winkler than anywhere else in the world. That probably says something about the
weirdness of marriage but that’s for another column.
Winkler is a lot like Whistler, which is totally inexplicable
since I couldn’t imagine two places more dissimilar. Both have about the same
population, both rely on people who live outside of town to make the town work
and to ensure its prosperity. Both towns are economic oases in areas more prone
to the ups and downs of a global economy. Both celebrate Canada Day.
But where Whistler is all about vertical, Winkler is all about
horizontal. Where Winkies are all about hard work and harvesting the bounty of
the land, Whistleratics are all about hard play — which, to be fair, we
consider work — and harvest the bounty of anyone who stumbles into town.
If what happens in Whistler stays in Whistler, what happens in Winkler is known
by just about everyone in town… as soon as it happens.