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Wayson Choy: “utterly amazed and happy still”

I came back with Ben this afternoon from a visit to the playground and Riverdale Farm, when Anna, who’d stayed behind with Eli, greeted me at the door. Come into the kitchen with me, Mum, she said, and I knew something was wrong.

It says on Twitter that Wayson died last night, she said, opening her arms as I stood frozen in shock and then began to weep.

Impossible to believe. Not yet. Too soon.

I went over to his place Thursday, and we sat in the kitchen he shared with Karl and Marie. He wanted, as usual, to go out for lunch, but I did not, so we had tea. He was frail and his asthmatic lungs were wheezing, which is why he wasn’t supposed to leave the house. But as always, he was full of humour and kindness and wisdom. We hugged, as always, when I left, with promises to see each other soon. He usually came here for dinner on Sundays, but this Sunday, today, my grandkids were coming and I knew they’d be too much for him. He called yesterday, and we made a date for him to come for dinner Thursday.

In hindsight, I think of the call, how insistently he thanked me for everything. I wonder if he felt something coming. Of course, whatever I did for him was a pleasure, he was family; he was ours and we were his. My kids adored him and he them, and my grandsons gave him nearly as much pleasure as they do me. Anna and Sam are devastated too by this loss.

There is much to say about his life and his work, his legacy. My textbook True to Life: 50 steps to help you tell your story is a tribute to him; he is quoted on almost every page. He was an important mentor to many, none more so than I; he taught me so much both as a writer and as a teacher. And in return, I made sure he had a home cooked meal once a week, if possible. It was a good exchange.

I can’t believe he’s not there. He won’t be coming for dinner, we won’t be talking nearly every day. But at the same time, I am glad for him that it was a peaceful end and not protracted. He knew he had Alzheimer’s, he discussed it openly, though for now he was coping well. But that would not have lasted, and then it could have been terrible for him. It never was. He had it seems as beautiful a death as such a beautiful man deserves.

This was his last email to me, last week, after we’d exchanged words about what was happening to him.

Thank you again for being so understanding, Beth …  I’m somewhat enjoying the scary bumps on this ride, if it weren’t for the mental bruises that are leaving their mark and left me wondering –  but I’m not ever feeling alone or abandoned.   For example, you’re pushing ahead and going on and on … my hero!  
Keep writing – your life is crazy in the right proportions – crazy, yes, but as always crazy-smart and crazy-lucky!    Meanwhile, I’m just ‘crazy’ … and utterly amazed and happy still.  
x0 Wayson.

December 2017 – playing pirate boats with Eli

 Dinner here in February – his favourite, steak.

My last shot of my friend, in early April, helping put together a complicated light fixture neither of us could figure out. 
Already missed missed missed. 



8 Responses to “Wayson Choy: “utterly amazed and happy still””

  1. theresa says:

    I'm so sorry. But grateful for his books, his good and generous life.

  2. Julia Z says:

    I thought of you immediately when I read the news. When Wayson taught me at Humber (10 yrs ago!!) he often marvelled how fortunate and grateful he was so have friends who had become family to him. I feel lucky to have sat in his classroom for a week. Thinking of you and am so sorry for your loss. xoxo

  3. beth says:

    Yes, he was family. He had a grand life, and he enjoyed every minute. So we shouldn't mourn. But his loss will leave a huge hole in many lives.

  4. George H says:

    What a sad time for you and all of Wayson's friends and readers. Many of us knew and treasured him mainly through your blog, but you have made him part of our families too. Your photo tribute is a real essay in love. Thank you, Beth.

  5. Paula T says:

    I saw this sad news last night and had to come here to see that it is real. I am so sorry for your loss, Beth. Obviously, Wayson was quite an inpsiration to you, who you often quoted in class. I'll never forget your first Wayson quote in reference to writers inner critic "The devil will shut you up and shut you down". As a newbie, this was so helpful and freeing to hear. Wisdom past along. Wisdom that will remain.You were fortunate to have each other and your students are lucky to be imparted with his wisdom as shared by you.May you be comforted by many happy memories. A big hug to you.

  6. beth says:

    Yes – "the voice of the devil," he'd say, the voice that wants to silence you, tell you you have nothing to say. My book is a tribute to his wisdom and eloquence.

  7. Pat B says:

    Oh Beth…I just heard that Wayson had died on the 10 am CBC news. Thought of you immediately. How very sad for you and your family! I just took a moment to read your blog about his recent difficulties. You are so right in seeing his rapid death as a beautiful gift.

  8. beth says:

    Pat, it was a tranquil death – but unexpected, he called me that afternoon and we had plans for dinner this week. However, I'm glad for him. Sad for all of us. Very sad for me. He was a huge part of my life and my family's, here for every family event. We will all miss him terribly.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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