Thursday, August 25, 2011

Death At A Funeral (You Didn’t Know Jack)

The people who mourn seldom say anything.

It’s hard to “un-notice” – but many don’t talk about it to instead honour the one who passed away.

Until I saw it firsthand, I never knew this behavior even existed: There’s a class of no class who attack the dead (who can’t reply) or the mourning (who can only grieve).

While others pray, they prey.

It’s bad energy to focus on the bad during a time that is precious to honour the dead. We prefer hearing about the good instead, as a reflection of who we are (who we want to be) or who someone else was. How we wish things are remembered or lived.

"love is better than anger" - Jack Layton, who lived until 61.

Meanwhile, the creepy just keep creeping without anything to stop it. There's no posthumous letter or journal replying like you see ending Cruel Intentions.

I got reminded of it recently when columnist Christie Blatchford in a national newspaper chose to attack Jack Layton’s last words within 24 hours of his death.

"Jack" had just lost his battle to cancer. And as if without a thought, Ms. Blatchford chose to critique him nationally after his loved ones had just watched their loved one pass away. She chose to make a “public spectacle” of it—adding a few choice words for those who mourned him in “public.”

To be sure, there’s worse in this class of no class.

After legendary NHL coach Pat Burns lost a valiant battle to cancer, thieves waited for his widow to mourn him at his memorial. They took that opportunity to break into her car and stole memorabilia slated to benefit cancer. I soon learned theft at a funeral/memorial isn’t uncommon. But what is a widow to do? Chase after thieves or honour a loved one?

As NHL coach of the year (3 teams), Pat Burns, who lived until 58, was respected for taking no non-sense.

In some countries like Syria, many widows don’t even honour their loved ones publicly in fear of reprisals. They prefer private unmarked graves. Who you associate with determines if you’ll be attacked.

Closer to home, a Westboro Baptist Church group was about to picket a 9 year old girl’s funeral. The 9 year old was randomly murdered while attending Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s public event to learn about public service.

"I hope you jump in rain puddles." ~ Christina Taylor Green, born on 9/11, who lived until 9.

Opportunistically (of course), the church group called off the protest in exchange for air time in Toronto and Arizona:

Some people will do anything for attention at any time. Those wanting the most attention want to make everything about them. Their only context is their opinion. Your life won't matter.

Irish teen Phoebe Prince was bullied to death (she hung herself after being relentlessly bullied for months by her American classmates). After she died from bullycide, bullies then preyed on her friends who mourned or defended her (especially if they spoke to the media).

One girl was beaten up after she talked to the press about Phoebe's life at school.

As if bullying her in life was not enough, after Phoebe Prince died, bullies publicly posted vulgar items on her Facebook tribute page:
Phoebe Prince lived until 15

This also happened to a teen posthumously in British Columbia. Vulgar items posted were beyond shocking. Details you’d never read about in the news:

Laura Szendrei lived until 15. A teenager has been arrested for her murder (in a park in broad daylight, near many people).

Bullying after death is common in a world where CNN reports 20% of our kids are bullies.

* * *

2002 photo I took of Nicole Vienneau at Vancouver's Wreck Beach who disappeared 5 years later at age 32: Her last word in a 2007 diary after a sunset was: "Content."

After my friend Nicole Vienneau disappeared, some commentators, who didn’t know Nicole, publicly wrote she deserved it for going to the Middle East. She can’t even have a memorial/funeral, she is still #Missing.

Her late father lost his battle to pancreatic cancer after moderating Canada’s national elections debate.

Nicole's dad David Vienneau moderated the 2004 Canadian elections debate on Global TV. David lost his battle to cancer that year. Jack Layton lost his battle to cancer 7 years later.

Nicole's mom to this day still looks for her. A mother cannot stop looking for her child. What did these people do to you, who say she deserved it?

You one-off opinionators are long-gone now after getting your attention for the day. But everyday, we still look for Nicole:

Nicole was not the only Canadian in peril for whom national newspaper commentators have said, “she deserved it.” I've seen these comments for hostages who were kidnapped--still kidnapped. Some folks just believe their opinion matters at any time and seek attention for it at any time. They are masters of evoking hostility.

The common denominator is they seem to think if others are not like them, they can freely attack them, whenever they want.

* * *

I became interested in stories like these to learn how grieving victims were able to heal from this. These morbid stories left me speechless, asking, "Who died?"

After my brother lost his battle to cancer, some disgruntled people I once knew were trying to provoke me by exploiting photos of my dead brother commercially. Weeks of emails demanding them to stop were denied. I cited a DCMA takedown notice (copyright notice) for the first and only time ever. It was not until a lawyer for a former US Vice President made a request that they ceased. There were no apologies.

My brother's last photo post was a Black Tile. He wanted to leave Earth at age 29 image-less.

Before the photo exploitation incident, one of them had already publicly disrupted my late brother’s memorial planning session. Brazenly, this bully was trying to pick a fight before many witnesses. Out loud, he made up a story: “Stop posting those penis shots online.” I kid you not. There were many witnesses. In one week, earlier, four friends I had just seen (separately) told me how this bully had approached them immediately after I met them, making up stories about me (with no details when probed). I was actually being followed. Another friend heard the bully planning to "ambush" me in public. The bully eventually found me at my brother's memorial planning session. The bully was so oblivious to everyone around - no crowd around me dissuaded the bullying.

I’d been a dissenting board director at the bully’s company – they refused to have board meetings or provide mandated financial reports to directors. They’ve since taken off and refused to disclose where they put company assets/records as investors chased them. But before this, they invited people to attack me, and appeared to some folks as being truthful. Meanwhile, I did nothing for months to honor my brother. After a while, I discovered I was not the only victim. No one had said anything.

We honour what we treasure most. We say little about what we disdain.

But I often ask myself what is harder – having watched my brother die on our mother’s birthday—his last words were, “happy birthday mom” (hope that’s okay Ms. Blatchford) -- or watching bullies attack right after (for months). I haven’t been able to tell myself an answer. To be honest, I don’t even know if I grieved. I spent most of my bereavement time with lawyers dealing with defamation, extortion and intimidation. It made recovering from this a lot harder. Their dishonourable acts will forever be associated with my brother’s death. He can only die once and they can't take what they did back.

Selfish folks decided this was their time to attack.

I could have ended this blog on that line. But the truth is, there are a lot of good people, decent people, who know this is the time for someone else. People who don’t make every waking moment about themselves. People who make it happen for other people. These are people who truly “make things better.”

Ed Note – It took me 3+ years to say this. I scrapped so many versions. For this topic, it was hard to focus beyond my brother who passed away. RIP.

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