During one of Eric’s visits, a FedEx truck delivered a letter from columnist Barbara Amiel. She’d sent her condolences for my loss. Eric didn’t say much, but when he returned to the newsroom where we both worked, he faxed off a thank you to Amiel.
Eric was never known for being short on words. But during his visits, he always let me do the talking, and it gave me moments of peace as I worked through my grief. Now, as I sat across from him in that café, I realized it was my turn to return the favour.
I listened as he talked about how he didn’t want to be a burden on his family and friends, how he didn’t want to die a slow and painful death, and why he felt his decision was being forced on him: Canada’s Criminal Code prohibited physician-assisted dying. (The Supreme Court has since struck down that law.)
I gave him a small Guatemalan worry doll and told him to tuck it under his pillow at night to take away his worries. I hoped it offered some comfort.
On our last visit, we sat in a booth at the Mulberry Street Coffeehouse and chatted for three hours. He asked about my two daughters, whom I’d adopted from China after my son died, and he brought tears to my eyes when he told me he would miss not being able to watch them grow up.
When I shared a funny story about a woman we both knew, he let out a hearty laugh. It is the moment I cherish most. A few weeks after our visit, Eric boarded a plane for Switzerland and ended his life. He was 69.
My last few visits with him taught me that in a world where we so often search for connections through words and actions, sometimes the best thing we can give someone is our silence.
Denise Davy is a journalist in Hamilton.
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