02 July 2007


My favourite places, and when to take me there

The other day in the car, my wife asked me if there were any places in the world I'd still like to visit. While yes, there are—it would be nice to see Paris, or New Zealand, or Istanbul—the question got me thinking more about my favourite places, the ones I've already been to where I'd like to return.

The ones that leaped to mind were all relatively close by, beautiful places in our Pacific Northwest neighbourhood of "Cascadia," wild places with water and evergreen trees, and each one reminds me of the people I shared them with:

  1. Crater LakeCrater Lake, Oregon, for my parents - I stayed at the rimside lodge at Crater Lake National Park several times with my parents when I was a kid, starting in 1976. The last time I was there was a day visit in 1993. I still want to go back, to see the bluest water I've ever encountered (yes, it's really that colour), the darkest and most star-filled night skies I've ever seen, and the clear evidence of our volcanic part of the world—the lake formed a few thousand years ago when the former Mount Mazama erupted so violently that it collapsed in on itself, and the resulting caldera filled with rain and snowmelt.

  2. Schooner CoveSchooner Cove, Long Beach, B.C., for my friends - In the late '80s and the early '90s, my nerd friends and I (sometimes several dozen of us) made an annual car trip across Georgia Straight and the spine of Vancouver Island to Pacific Rim National Park, more specifically to the beachside campground at Schooner Cove south of Tofino. It took a bit of a hike through primeval rainforest and a slog along the sand to get there, which was part of the fun. We pitched tents and drank and sang around the fire over the May or July long weekend. Once we picked a bad spot and nearly got flooded out by high tide in the middle of the night, so we were smarter in subsequent years. Another time, a juvenile elephant seal was molting on the beach right near camp, and pretty much ignored us even when we were mere feet away. The beach is closed to camping now, which makes the memories even better.

  3. Cannon BeachCannon Beach, Oregon, for my wife and daughters - I'd never been to Cannon Beach before my wife took me there in 1997, when she was pregnant for the first time. We've gone back several times since with both our daughters, in 2000, 2004, 2005, and 2006. It's an expensive tourist town in a spectacular location, which is one reason we like it so much: we can stay in a top-flight resort hotel steps away from the sand, and return from roasting marshmallows at sunset to a room with two bathtubs and a full kitchen. (As our fridge magnet says, "I love not camping.") We have had tremendous fun there each time, and I'm sad that my cancer treatment means we can't go back this summer, even though we were getting a little tired of it by last year.

Don't get me wrong. I love deserts and the tropics and mountains and other places too, but these three spots mean the most to me. So, inevitably, as we talked about them, the question came up: what if I don't make it back there? I do have metastatic cancer, after all, and there is even a small but non-trivial chance that I could die in surgery this week, something that's always a risk with an operation.

Here's what I told my wife. If I die, donate anything donatable: any organs or other parts, corneas, hair, whatever is useful to someone. If the rest of my body can be used to train medical students or get turned into a classroom skeleton or something, great, do that too. If there's anything left that no one can make use of, cremate that. Have a party, but not any kind of religious or spiritual ceremony—I don't believe in any of that stuff, so please don't pretend I did. If you can get together a band, have them play some fun songs, plus "Four Seasons in One Day" by Crowded House.

Then, when all that's done, split up the batch of my ashes and take them to Crater Lake, and Schooner Cove, and Cannon Beach, and put them in the water. Then enjoy those places as I did.

Labels: , , , , , ,


I think it's good to lay out how you want your funeral, etc. to go. Though I've gone to ones where the minister was told "no preaching" and so he'd start each topic with "I was told not to preach, but...". And I'm guessing my friend Ed didn't have any requests, or if he did, his family ignored them. His funeral was so depressing and so unlike him; and I don't think he would've wanted his friends to suffer having to walk right up to the open casket on their way out of the chapel, or that all the speakers talked about was how good a student he had been and how good he was to his family. He was so much more than that. Oh well, we celebrated him later.

But, like, whatever. I just went to your birthday party, I don't really want to go to another pro-Derek event anytime soon. I'm just waiting for you to do something crazy so I can say that you've jumped the shark.
After reading that, I was tempted to say 'Amen!'.. but then thought it was kinda, well, wrong :)

Glad to hear you're having those conversations.. I think they are things that EVERYONE should discuss at some point with their family (particularly those NOT on the brink of surgery, in the midst of tumours, or running a downhill slope in their later years) 'cause sudden death is shocking and startling and anything we can do NOW to make that time period easier on our families and loved ones is a good thing. (not trying to say that known-possible-death is easy, 'cause it just ain't... but it is a different set of pains)

Me, I'm going the same route of organ donation/medical/science use... and now you have me thinking about meaningful places.... mm.. Scout Island (man-made) in Williams Lake, the Capilano River just up from Park Royal, the 30m pool at Lynn Canyon, and a pinch to go in Slide Rock Park in Arizona.

I need to go check my blog now, to see what I said about this a year or two ago when I was posting my list of 'when I die..' requests. :)
Wow, that lake looks awesome. I remember Schooner Cove fondly. The tide flooding incident was funny and memorable. That was where I first met you as 1 of the 3 members of the Love Bugs were walking down the beach and I thought "that would be cool to be a member of that band".
This would make the places you've visited seem lame, but I happened to go to Paris for the first time ever last Feburary, and you can find some of the photos here.

Thanks and take care.
I want to be cremated too. I've always thought Van Morrison's "Burning Ground" would be an excellent tune to accompany the process.

You write well.

You are in my prayers as you go into surgery. I've read some of your other posts, and I know it's all been said.

Just put one foot in front of the other ... and trudge on. It makes all the difference in the world to know that those who love you are with you every step of the way.

I'm certain that you have that, so see you at your 90th!!!
Here's my favouriteParis photo.
Funny- I have identical instructions wrt to my remains and wake.

I hope this doesn't come across as morbid and completely inappropriate, but I found this really neat book (called "Stiff") that is all about ways cadavers have "contributed to the collective knowledge of mankind throughout history" and continue to save lives... Being non-religious myself I found it interesting to learn about all the ways I could help people after I had died.

(I also looked into plastination, which I find fascinating, but it would be a big pain for my family to ship me, and there is no guarantee I would get used... Still cool tho!)
I want you to Jump the Fucking Shark.
Make us look back and think all this morbid blogging was just a phase of your life.

Remember, if you are at all Gay/Bi, now is the time to come out of the closet. Right? I won't mind.

Or, if you want to move to go to Paris, I'm right there with you, babe. I'll even pay for your ticket.

Or if you wanna make a run for the border, and go to Cannon Beach tomorrow, I'm there for you. I don't mind driving fast back to Canada if you need to see a doctor. I can drive very fast.
I think all of us at some point have had flippant, hypothetical "what do you want done with your body" and "where do you want to go before you die" conversations with people. But there's always a clear line drawn that says "well, hopefully you won't have to worry about that for a while, ha ha ha".

It's pretty surreal to read this somehow and know that you mean it seriously. There's a part of me that wants to say "Oh, well, hopefully you won't have to worry about that, ha ha ha!" but it'd be putting the blinkers on to pretend that it can't happen. Like Christa and Gillian said, it's good that you're talking about it.

I'd definitely want to be immersed in nature somehow, not locked up in a fancy box underground. Your plan sounds lovely.
Thanks. And of course I'd prefer if I can get back to those places under my own power -- the nice thing is that none of them is unrealistic. I'm not wanting to climb Mt. Everest or anything.
Last weekend I was at the cemetary in Pekin, ND where several generations of my family are buried. We were there to bury my step-father's ashes. My mother has her headstone ready. All that is needed is to fill in the death year. I'm thinking of getting one for me. You know, reserving my spot, picking out what I want, so when the time comes, my urn can be buried next to my parents and grand parents. I think that's neat. I'm also signed up for organ donation. My mother also has her service planned and her obituary written. She's very organized, in good health, and from a long-lived family.

On another topic, I remember a tide incident at Schooner Cove. We seemed to go just shy of the full moon, so camping by an island perhaps wasn't the wisest, but stayed mostly dry.

Best of luck with the surgery. I'm sure you will be fine. I have to ask, tho--can one fart with a colostomy bag, or is that dependent on having a colon? Yes, I do wonder about things like that these days.
I remember going to Schooner Cove on Long Beach for a romantic camping trip. It rained the entire time we were there. We had to stay in the tent most of the time, hmmn, perhaps we didn't mind:)
I share your fond memories of Long Beach. It was a great unique experience year after year as the group morphed. The late night high tide / tent flooding that you mention, the year that someone, I think Steve, brought killer hard disk frisbees, the annual newbie big beer cooler haul through the woods and across the beach...

Regarding organ donation. I strongly encourage everyone reading this to seriously consider becoming organ donors. In BC this is quite easy. It just takes a minute to register. https://www.transplant.bc.ca/onlinereg/bcts.asp
Harminder, I recall there was also a year we had to check you into a nearby B&B because you came down with a nasty virus and had been sleeping in the car rather than trying the trek down the trail. Too bad on that one.

As for farting with the colostomy bag, I hear that it Just Happens, but as long as you keep the bag well sealed you can avoid noise and smell until you get yourself to a bathroom. I guess I'll find out!
LOL.. is this another audio file in the making? (grin)
Hi Derek! It's cool to realize that I've actually been to two of those places with you, and now you're making me want to go to Cannon Beach with Morgan - before I'm big as a house! Kick some major cancer ass (oh dear, no pun intended) on Friday, and let's talk more about this in the future.
love, Tara
That B&B was a lifesave. I was extremely green on the hilly drive into Tofino.
Another year Dave and I decided we were going to minimize our gear by bringing tin foil and 2 for 1 pizza for our meals. We toughed out eating soggy pizza for three days. Couldn't stand the sight of it anymore. Then on the fourth day drive home...we were feeling a bit hungry and there were a couple of soggy slices in the cooler. We were both sick as dogs for a few days after getting home.
Best of luck this Friday. Be nice to the nurses!
Hey, I have a proposal for you :

- You don't die during surgery, or any time next year.

- You come to Paris with your wife to visit us, so we can share over a nice drink, and you try to climb Notre-Dame to take a panoramic picture of your own from the roof.

- Then, maybe, you will find yourself having a fourth favorite place, and you will ask us to take a bit of your ashes to some metro station... assuming, of course, we will still be there to do that !

How's that ?
Derek, watching my Dad battle his metastatic cancer has really made me realize that everything needs to be communicated... Nothing should be left out. Thanks for sharing this post with all of us in the blogosphere. Your strength and courage to share your journey is nothing short of astonishing to me, and I know if the fight was based solely on your strength, it'd be a cakewalk.

Here's hoping your surgery goes very well -- I'll be thinking about you.

Keep smiling!