Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed out

The important things



The battle over the budget fades into obscurity. The debate about Canada’s role in Afghanistan seems temporarily irrelevant. The U.S. election, a pas de deux on a darkened stage.

There’s nothing like a death in the family to reduce your focus to… well, to nothingness, to the dark hole left in your psyche when the grim reality of mortality is thrust once again into the burning centre of your consciousness. Grief is best described in tortured metaphors because grief tortures the soul and reduces rational thought to the irrational cries of anguish that only grow silent with the passage of time.

It’s too early in the process for words of comfort, even if I had any idea what those words might be. There’s no sense to be made from Kathy Barnett’s death in New Zealand, no comfort to be found musing about how she was enjoying a holiday she and Bob had been looking forward to for a long time. Death wasn’t part of the package and there’s no solace in its sneaking in uninvited while she was engaged in something she loved doing.

The pointlessness of her death — a mismatched battle between car and bike — can’t diminish the rich contribution of her life. And while it’s infuriating and presumptuous when people in the throes of grief begin sentences with, “She would have wanted…” there is one thing of which I am certain. Kathy Barnett was a pragmatist to her soul. Through the pain and hurt, she’d have been the quiet, determined voice that said, “Life goes on. We’ve got work to do.”

Part of the work we have to do is to celebrate her life, comfort those most hurt by her death and be very, very grateful our worlds overlapped hers for as long as they did. This town will be reduced by her loss but it would have been far, far poorer for her never having been here.

It took fierce determination and a deep pool of belief for Kathy and Bob to quit their publisher and editor roles at The Question and start Pique 13 years ago. The half-life of Whistler papers — most of whose names I can’t even recall — seemed to be about four erratically-spaced issues. As an outside observer, there was no reason to believe Pique would be any different.

But there were invisible differences. Better writing and better reporting were easy to see and, behind them, the passion of a guiding hand that believed even a small local paper could aspire to better writing and better reporting. There were investors who believed in the vision and, more importantly, believed in the skill, professionalism and business sense Kathy brought to the management side of publishing and Bob brought to the editorial task.

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